Published on June 13th, 2023 | by TLV News1
The Snack Down: Leadership Lafayette Team Launches Community Event to Support Food and Beverage Entrepreneurs in Oxford, Mississippi
Leadership Lafayette’s class of 2023 has embarked on a project to impact local food and beverage entrepreneurs and stimulate the local economy. Through a one-night culinary event (dubbed The Snack Down), customers will sample products from cottage foods producers, home chefs, bakers, restaurant startups, mixologists, caterers, food trucks, and more.
The event is now seeking applications from vendors interested in participating in the event, and sponsors to support the event and its mission, and applications can be accessed at OxfordArts.com/SnackDown. The deadline to apply is Monday, July 10, 2023 at 11:59 pm. Selected vendors will be contacted about two weeks after.
Located at The Powerhouse (operated by Yoknapatawpha Arts Council), The Snack Down will occur at 6 pm on Thursday, August 17. The event will feature bite-sized offerings from Oxford and Lafayette county food makers, restaurateurs, food trucks, mixologists, and more. With sponsorships from Cathead Distillery and the mixology talents of Joe Stinchcomb of Bar Muse, a cocktail will be included in the ticket price for all guests.
“It is important to have a commissary kitchen for the community to elevate businesses from being a hobby to being an actual business,” says Joe Stinchcomb. “This will help smaller operations grow and in turn will help the community have more small businesses which is what you need in a thriving small town like Oxford.”
The Leadership Lafayette team was inspired to create a Food and Wine festival-style event, but decided to keep it small and one-night only for the first event. The team is one of four teams in this year’s Leadership Lafayette class. The team producing the event is comprised of Mike Burks (Oxford Police Department), Mason Chapin (Thompson CAT), Cassie DiMauro (formerly with Roberts Wilson, P.A.), Elizabeth Tettleton Mason (University of Mississippi and The Local Voice), Amelia Miller Ott (Oxford Newsmedia), and Eathen Rainey (BankPlus).
“Writers and restaurateurs like John Currence, Vishwesh Bhatt, Joel Miller, and John T. Edge have solidified Oxford’s place in the country for fine dining and ‘southern food,’ but that doesn’t tell the whole story of our community,” says Elizabeth Tettleton Mason, member of the Leadership Lafayette 2023 cohort. “The new businesses aren’t being seen on a national or state-wide scale, and often are struggling to survive past their first year of business. COVID was not helpful to that either.”
Often coming from historically minoritized groups and are often first-generation business owners, the LOU Community has entrepreneurs wanting to launch businesses in Oxford or to scale their operations to the next level, but they need resources—everything from how to apply for Small Business Development Loans to finding kitchen space that meets MSDH regulations.
“The creative economy is a key driver of jobs, small business growth, and tourism in Lafayette County,” says Wayne Andrews, Executive Director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, who is co-hosting the event. “Events such as this demonstrate the thriving small business community and the need for resources to support small businesses.”
The Yoknapatawpha Arts Councils (YAC) has established many networking events and programs to aid entrepreneurs in Oxford, and they recognize that space is limited in Oxford for these businesses to begin. YAC has a plan in place for a creative work-share space, adjacent to The Powerhouse – the new Humanities Hub (OxfordArts.com/hub), or “The Hub” for short.
“Our planned Humanities Hub will be a space where business and art intersect. By providing space to creative business owners, such as food entrepreneurs, we create new businesses and have diverse cultural representation that is accessible to the community,” says Wayne Andrews.
The Snack Down event was fashioned with a few goals in mind: showcase small F&B business talent in Oxford, generate funds for The Hub’s creation and needed equipment, connect F&B small business with resources and networks, and grow community through food, fun and fundraising in Oxford.
“I can see this growing into an event that brings people to Oxford from across the country,” says Tettleton Mason. “Our state doesn’t not have a mainstay ‘food and wine festival’—a few have popped up for a year or two, but not been solidified. I’d love for Oxford to be the ones to create the next ‘Atlanta’ or ‘Charleston’ Food & Wine Festival that brings people from all over the country to our state each year.”
There is a limit of 200 tickets, available to persons 18 years or older. Tickets go on sale June 12 at $25 per ticket, and $20 for guests who have active membership with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council or Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and can be purchased until 5 pm on August 17, 2023. If tickets are remaining, they may be available at the door. A cash bar will be available with proceeds going to the fundraising efforts.
If you would like to participate as a vendor or purchase tickets, please visit OxfordArts.com/SnackDown.
To become a sponsor, email SnackDownOxford@gmail.com or contact a Leadership Lafayette team member on this project.
Leadership Lafayette, which began in 1989, is a program of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce. The eight-month program is a series of training sessions and activities designed for emerging community leaders intended to assure the continuity of leadership in Lafayette-Oxford-University community and assist already established community leaders, who are seeking more effective ways to contribute to the community. In addition to the monthly sessions, class members also participate in a community based project.