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Weekend festival enjoyed

A sea of color that resembled beautiful flowers filled North Lamar Avenue Saturday morning as hundreds of runners participated in the Double Decker Spring Run, an event that was part of festival activities.

Quitman native Gerald Waltman, 25, a third-year law student at the University of Mississippi, was one of the runners.

“I had a friend in law school who inspired me to get into running last year,” he said. “Double Decker was my first race last year, so I’m celebrating a year of being more physically active.”

Waltman said his first race could be described as “happiness through pain.”

“I was so out of shape, but I made it,” he said. “My goal was to cross the finish line upright, and I did that, and I was so happy I was able to do it.

“This year, I had a great race the entire time. I enjoyed it. I ran it with a couple of friends from high school, and we had a great time doing it. I hope to make this a regular thing, and I hope to make it back to Double Decker next year.”

Later, some runners headed back up the street to the Square, where vendors were putting the finishing touches on booths of merchandise for sale at the festival.

North Carolina native Janet Barnes, 76, has lived in Oxford for the past 28 years, and she’s been involved with the Double Decker festival almost every year, except one when she was hospitalized.

“Usually noon, it’s wall to wall,” said Barnes, sitting under a tent. “There are potters, jewelers, painters, leather works, basket-making, a little bit of everything.”

Oxford resident Ed Tropp makes items out of leather, including bags, bracelets and earrings. He was found Saturday putting the finishing touches on his street kiosk.

“It’s my original designs,” he said. “It’s hand-cut, hand-stitched, and dyed using different kinds of leather. I try to make each piece according to what the leather says.”

Tropp said he was inspired to work with leather by a cousin who lived in Colorado.

“We used to go out and spend the summers with him,” he said. “He was a teacher, and in the summers, he had a leather and a woodworking shop. So I would go down and tinker with him and make some stuff.

“When I left the corporate life and moved back to Oxford, I opened up a shop on the Square that was there for 13 years. I did custom work for people all over the country, from Key West to Alaska to New York.”

Oxford resident Pam Locke, 59, was on the Square Saturday morning selling her paintings. The Texas native is a watercolor artist who creates paintings with elements of photo realism.

“I paint memories,” she said. “I’m a graphic artist. That’s what I did for the majority of my career, and I did illustrate some through my job. When my oldest one graduated and went to college, that’s when I started doing watercolor painting.”

Chattanooga native Eddie Powell, 50, had a booth with art that he describes as “heavy texture, all acrylic on a wood panel.”

“I have been doing it a decade now, and I have certain things that I’m known for,” he said. “I have the Tree of Life series with all the greens and the blues, a tree by the water. From there, I’ve moved into the white tree, which has powder blues and a little bit of light turquoise. I also have a spiritual line, and I’ve been doing these bikes with flowers on the basket a few years.”

Powell said he’s currently working with a limited, soothing color palette.

“I also try to keep it kind of peaceful and positive, opposed to what you typically hear about in the art world,” he said.

Bartlett, Tennessee, native Lester Jones, 61, displayed art shaped like guitars and faces.

“This is primarily made out of clay,” he said. “It’s raku fired, and it’s a multimedia experience using wire, copper, found objects. I have a combination of things to appeal to a vast audience. I’ve been coming to Double Decker for the last 15 years, maybe longer. It’s a really fantastic one-day show.”

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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