Despite heat, Up in Smoke fest deemed success

Published 2:52 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Organizers say few tweaks needed, working on next year’s event

Batesville’s inaugural Up in Smoke Food & Music Festival dodged rainstorms over the weekend, and despite a hot Saturday afternoon, organizers were pleased to see good attendance for a first-year event.

“We definitely have some things to tweak, but overall everything was really good,” said Mamie Avery, director of the Main Street Program that puts on the spring festival. 

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This year’s Steak Cook-Off competition and the absence of carnival rides were the major changes. “I wish we would have had more local participation in the competition, but the steak people were very pleased and booked the festival on their calendar for next year.”

Avery said several ideas for attracting more local cooking teams were suggested, and will be considered. “A team from DeSoto County volunteered to maybe come back later and hold demonstrations about how to compete in these events, and I think that will increase our local interest.”

In the steak competition, Marty Plute of Collinsville, Ill., was the Friday night winner. Taking first place trophies in the Saturday cook-offs were Bryan Sweet, also from Collinsville, Ill., and Carrie Green of Junction City, Ark. 

Panola County’s lone winner came in the Best Dessert competition, where Baker Patton took third place.

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Local businessman Josh Hawkins, who competes on the Steak Cook-Off circuit, helped plan this year’s event with Main Street. He reported that visiting teams were impressed with Batesville, especially knowing it was an inaugural competition, and many are planning to return next year.

“What a great weekend in Batesville, MS. Y’all hosted a wonderful contest in an awesome setting/venue. Thank You!” read one of several social media post by visiting cooking teams.

The children’s Color Run, also new this year, was a hit with families and will probably be divided into two waves next year because of the interest.

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Once again, the entertainment lineup for this year’s festival was well received, and by Saturday evening when Mustache The Band took the stage, the Square was filled with music fans. Avery said the bands and acts booked for the weekend took notice, with many commenting about the crowd’s energy and enthusiasm.

Avery said organizers will use this week to evaluate the festival and begin thinking about next year’s event. “We need to come up with something for the middle of the day on Saturday,” she said. “The music was good all day and people enjoyed that, but there was a lull there that we will need to fill with some activity in future festivals.”

Avery said Main Street will “never bring back the full carnival,” but some have already suggested that “kiddie rides” would be a good addition.

“There was just so much going on between the Dog Tag tournament and graduation and Mother’s Day weekend that some people who wanted to be at the festival just couldn’t get here,” she said. “That happens sometimes, but we won’t let that stop us from trying to plan a better festival every year. Overall the community gave us good support.”

Mayor Hal Ferrell agreed with Avery’s assessment of the attendance.

“The Partnership did a wonderful job with the festival, but the multiple events throughout the county and the state hampered us a bit,” he said. “The entertainment was well organized and was very good, everything was good about it.”

Asked about the disturbance near the end of Friday evening’s activities that saw one man seriously injured with a knife and another arrested, Ferrell said it was unfortunate, but had nothing to do with the event.

“It seems like in the society we live in that people are quick to attack, and it’s not good,” he said. “But we are lucky that we are in a good community and we are blessed with the very minimum of that kind of activity.”