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Hill Country Living

Well, that was something. If you are like me and you live in Water Valley every day and not just last weekend, maybe you noticed a sudden human being tidal wave hit town around 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon. The surge was sudden. This people tsunami grew and grew, hitting its ultimate peak around noon on Saturday. Then, like tidal waves do, it suddenly pulled back leaving all of us townspeople standing there soaked to the bone ( in this case because of sweat), scratching our heads and saying,”Um…what was that?!” 

Except, let’s be honest. We know what that was. That was a culmination of years of hard work, persistence, growing pains, baby-steps, thoughtful sacrifice, chances taken, odd-couple friends made, natural enemies made and then forgiven and then becoming odd-couple friends, plugging away at something despite every single solitary financial and sensible factor being against you leaving nothing but your own gumption, determination, and weird obsession (which is never financially sensible), things tried and failed but ultimately laying the groundwork so that the next time it succeeds, and so on in that way. 

I have never seen so many people in Water Valley in the 14 years I’ve lived here. So, congratulations to the Chamber of Commerce on an incredibly successful Watermelon Carnival and congratulations as well to all the downtown businesses who make this town special. 

Speaking as a downtowner, on Friday night we had live music in Pocket Park, a couple of art openings, the BTC was open and cooking, the brewery/arcade/coffee shop was doing their thing, as well as Trusty, Hometown, El Charrito, and Crawdad Hole. That’s a lot of choices, y’all. I’m sure there was other stuff happening on Main Street that I left out but I wasn’t able to leave my gallery for very long because there were so many people!

In terms of Saturday, it was same situation at my store. I had a constant stream of tidal-wave people in my fabric shop. Now, when you own a niche business like selling vintage fabric, it’s saying a lot to get even three customers a day – much less most of the people who live in North Mississippi and beyond. 

Here is my only critique and it’s not even a critique so much as it’s a “Hey, could we try this?” 

Expand the food. So, I love a funnel cake. And my relationship with curly fries and barbecue nachos could be depicted on the cover of romance novel. And the fancy wavy flags and pictures of corndogs printed on the trucks and the shellacked alligator head…it’s irresistible. I want to be clear that I love that stuff and there is a place for it and who doesn’t love drinking a gallon of lemonade from a fat bendy straw like you’ll never get lemonade again in your life so go big or go home, right? 

But, I also like non-fair food. There’s a lot of good restaurants around here. 

“Well, go eat on Main Street!” you might say. 

Good point! Yes! Definitely eat on Main Street! 

But, and the restaurant owners may disagree with me, the carnival might be a bit to big for our current restaurant britches. And I say this because I heard non-locals talk about being hungry and having to wait too long for food downtown and not wanting to walk the three-fourths of a mile up to City Park where they had just been. I even heard one woman say,” Let’s just go to Batesville to eat. We could be there in less than 30 minutes.” 

And then I saw them get in their car and drive to Batesville! Nooooo! 

The problem is NOT our restaurants. As a restaurant veteran who has worked football games on the square for 17 years, I know what it is. It’s just a matter of numbers. Too many, too much, too fast. So, here is my solution: offer a very limited number of food booth/truck spaces on Main Street for local-ish restaurants. Like, say, five spots. They could set up in the Farmer’s Market area in front of the Garden Club Pavilion. 

This would take that little edge of pressure off our restaurants downtown, ensure that the food vendors in City Park, who have been showing up at Carnival for years keep their hold down there, and it would keep people from driving to Batesville! 

My favorite meal of the entire weekend was sitting in the grass in Pocket Park eating food that came from a tent with nothing in it but a dude, a folding table and a handwritten paper sign that said “Rebel Barn Tamales.” New Water Valley transplant Sox Richardson and Missie Burnie, who has been here a while, both happened to wander up. We ate tamales. A long-time Water Vallian – a sophomore Water Vallian, a newbie Water Vallian and Burney. It was really nice and the tamales were good.

After tamales on Saturday afternoon I went to party on the porch of my friend, Katherine Montague, on Main
Street. As we were standing in front of her freezer alternately grabbing for ice to put in our glasses I said,”Can you believe this weekend? All the people. That was wild.” 

Katherine said,”Yeah. You know that thing that everyone says is gonna happen to Water Valley? This is it. It’s happening.”

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