The 14th annual Delta Arts Festival will be held this Friday (June 2) and Saturday in Newport, but there will be significant changes this year, Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission, told Talk Business & Politics. There will be about 200 artists at the show along with 20-25 authors, he said.
What will be different is that digital artists and musicians will not be there this year, he said. Artists in those realms had been added in recent years, but they’ve decided to change course and have an event with them later in the summer, he added.
About 4,000 people attended the event last year which was a return to pre-pandemic numbers. Organizers hope to have at least that number or more this year.
Quantifying the economic impacts of the Festival are hard to gauge in totality, Chadwell said. Millions of dollars of economic activity is generated by attendees who spend money on hotels, food, gasoline and other items. An estimated $250,000 is spent on the artwork at the show based on the sales tax receipts that are submitted each year, he added.
The first year, the show had 17 artists and 180 visitors attended. Local leaders were pleased with the turnout. Little did they know the show would double the number of artists and visitors each year until the last couple of years, Chadwell said. Most of the drop was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers have rebounded in recent years.
Jackson County, like many other counties in the Delta, has struggled to maintain its population and grow its tax base in recent years. The county has a population of about 16,600, a 1% drop since 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Median income in the county is more than $39,000 which outpaces many other counties in the Delta, but still lags behind state and national averages. The county has a jobless rate of 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Beyond the economic impacts, there is a perception impact that helps Newport and Jackson County when it comes to long-term economic growth. The city and county are widely associated with the Arts Festival.
“We’ve become a place where people think of the arts. When people around the state think about the arts, they think about us,” he added.