There are few things as delightful as strolling through the picturesque streets of downtown Ocean Springs during the Peter Anderson Festival. It is one of the best loved events in South Mississippi year after year, and people flock to it in record numbers. The city rolls out the red carpet, and plays host to some of the most talented craftsmen and artisans anywhere. Throughout downtown, they display their wares and happily chat with everyone that stops by for a look. You never know what special treasure you might find at the Peter Anderson Festival for yourself or someone you love. There are literally thousands of beautiful and unique items, as well as one-of-a-kind pieces of art that would be the ultimate focal point for your home or garden.
The Peter Anderson Festival is one of the Southeast’s premiere arts and crafts festivals, that encompasses over 350 booths. This huge event grew from very humble beginnings thirty years ago. A few local artists and art lovers decided to get together to share their passion for all things created by hand and through imagination. They displayed their work on card tables and swapped ideas with one another out in the sunshine. Word quickly spread about the fun, and more and more people wanted to participate. Fifty six booths proudly stood in a row in the chamber’s old cinder block parking lot the first year. The idea was to have local artists introduce their work and offer it for sale. It was a quite a success!
In the beginning, local shop owners were unsure of the festival’s impact on their businesses. They feared that the artists would take customers away, but the opposite happened and all concerns were unfounded. Business actually increased! The shops were full of people milling about as they were getting to know each little store and restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs. The second year was even more successful, and 80 booths were added to the line up. Now the participants were located in Marshall Park, across the street as well. A jury committee was initiated to select vendors, and particular attention was given to improve the quality and variation of food and crafts that would be available.
Margaret Anderson, Peter Anderson’s daughter-in-law, was the guiding force for the first 26 years of the festival. Thanks to the vision of Ocean Springs artist, Kiara Koock, and Betty Goodwin-Walker, who was the director of the chamber of commerce at the time, the festival was off and running in 1978. Ann Allen served as president of the chamber, and thoroughly supported the project as well. In 1984, the official name of the event became The Peter Anderson Festival to celebrate the man’s life and his remarkable contribution to the world of art.
The Peter Anderson Festival brought in more than 100,000 people for the two day total last year. More than 13 million dollars was generated in the county for the weekend as well. Visitors from all over the world make it a point to vacation in South Mississippi, building their stay around this one event. The economic impact on the city, county and Coast are tremendous. This event is a favorite for holiday shoppers because they know they will find gifts that are extra special and like no other. Ocean Springs boasts more than 150 locally owned restaurants and shops, all in easy walking distance. When you combine the friendliness, charm and grace of this little city, with the excitement and fun of the festival…you have an extraordinary way to spend a fall weekend.
Hundreds of thousands of applications are received each year from artists and vendors everywhere. Only 350 are excepted, and juried in. The Peter Anderson Festival is regarded as one of the Top festivals in art circles, and everyone wants to be a part of it. Many vendors return year after year because they love the event and love the city. Long time friendships have grown through the festival which is another wonderful plus. The Ocean Springs business community welcomes the vendors with open arms. They look forward to seeing the same familiar faces who have become a staple at the festival, as well as getting to know any “new kids” on the block.
The artists and craftsmen come to Ocean Springs from all over the world, as far away as Africa and Puerto Rico! The vendors hail from all over America, including Minnesota and California. Of course many of the participants are from the Magnolia state, and they are always the first to sign up. The coveted spaces go very quickly and brand new artists clamor for a spot among the regulars in an effort to display their wares. The Peter Anderson Festival is made possible by the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street Tourism Bureau. And a special recognition is given to all the devoted partners, sponsors, Board and volunteers.
The logo for the Peter Anderson Festival was inspired by Shearwater Pottery. The original logo was created after the Shearwater Bird. The family of master potter, Peter Anderson, continues his legacy through their own special talents and artistic endeavors at Shearwater. Chris Stebly, who is the grandson of Walter Anderson, creates a new design for the prized collectible t-shirts each year. The 2011 design depicts the three Anderson brothers; Walter, Peter, and James “Mac” Anderson. The shirts will be exclusively sold at Shearwater Pottery, Hillyer House, and Poppy’s on Porter Avenue. Posters are another sought after treasure to commemorate the festival. The poster artwork will be an exact replica of what is found on the t-shirt.
It takes several months of round the clock work to put together this event. It is the largest fine arts festival in the entire state of Mississippi. The task begins before the summer starts, around April and May. Recruiting goes throughout the year, in the hopes of finding new, as well as repeat exhibitors who are the perfect fit. The exploration of ways to expand the festival and bring more growth is also on the drawing board 24 / 7. Through a partnership in 2010 with F.E.B. Distributing Company/Blue Moon, the Blue Moon Art Project was founded. It gives Mississippi artists the opportunity to compete for cash prizes and they also receive great exposure for their work. The following year the winning art is used for promotional materials.
On Saturday night, a concert will be held near the Mary C, featuring country music star, Chuck Wicks! As the festivities draw to a close when evening falls, everyone can stroll on down Government Street and enjoy an extra special surprise. Then you can pop into any one of the wonderful restaurants on Government for dinner after the show.
The Ocean Springs Police and Fire Department, as well as the local Ambulance Service are prepared for any emergency that might arise. Police will be patrolling the streets, should you need assistance. Dogs are welcome guests as long as they are walked on leashes and are extremely well behaved. Please note the designated dog areas, there will be signs posted throughout downtown. In addition, help keep the beautiful little city of Ocean Springs clean and neat during your visit to the Peter Anderson Festival by disposing of trash in the many receptacles along the route. The volunteers through the City Public Works take over when the festival ends and work tirelessly through the night to clean downtown OS from top to bottom. In the morning, the city shines without even a hint of the massive crowds and activities of the two days before.
So remember to mark your calendar and don’t be late for a spectacular family fun weekend! See you at the Peter Anderson Festival on November 5th and 6th.