Bright colors, exciting artwork, and surprising circus characters have arrived in the Main Street Park in downtown Yazoo City, all part of beautification efforts from the Yazoo Convention and Visitors Bureau and local merchants.
Yazoo City native Peyton Carlton is the up and coming artist who created the new circus murals, flowers, and window art in and around Main Street Park.
Carlton has been interested in art since she was three years old, and her talent has gotten a lot of attention locally.
While working at Tom's on Main, she showed the owner, Tom Johnson some of her sketches, and he asked her if she would be interested in doing some murals around Yazoo City, starting with the park on Main Street.
Peyton had never painted anything on such a large scale before, but she was up for the challenge. Her first project was the flowers on the building overlooking the park.
Next came the eye-catching cartoon characters in the windows above Main Street. Peyton's most recent additions to the park are the large 4 feet by 8 feet circus panels, and a carousel at the entrance.
"It's been a very positive experience," said Johnson, "People are commenting on it all the time."
Johnson added that pictures of the completed project have been seen by over 11,000 people on social media, which he believes has a positive impact on tourism for Yazoo City.
The beautification idea of painting murals around Yazoo City came about at a Board Meeting at the Yazoo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Members of the board, including Johnson, had seen murals like these in other towns across Mississippi, such as Moss Point and Crystal Springs. Johnson said that most of these murals often depict scenes from a town's local history or show something that has made the town famous over the years.
Since Main Street in Yazoo City has already made a name for itself with its colorful buildings, Johnson said that they wanted to continue the whimsical theme in the park with circus characters for local children to enjoy.
This recent project took place over the 2016 - 2017 fiscal year with a budget of $10,000 from the CVB. Within that amount included landscaping work, a new park bench, paint, supplies, and payment for Peyton's artwork.
Johnson and other CVB Board Members are discussing expanding the mural project beyond Main Street to include the walls of other buildings in Yazoo City, and potentially welcome signs at both entrances of town.
The funding for the 2017-2018 mural and beautification projects will potentially be up to $25,000 from the CVB budget, which is gathered from the 2 percent tax on local restaurants and hotels.
The Yazoo CVB invests thousands of dollars every year in local attractions, festivals, and other events that draw tourists to Yazoo City. Recently, the CVB contributed another $25,000 of their budget to make much needed repairs to the Triangle Cultural Center, which houses the Sam Olden Museum and other tourism events throughout the year.
"The board is interested in doing long-term projects in things that will last," said Johnson, "We can justify the money for the Triangle because it’s a tourist attraction built in 1904. We'd like to do something that will be there for years to come."
Local business owner Jo Ann Adams, who along with her husband Paul is responsible for many of the colorful buildings downtown, said that they have been renovating the second Block of Main Street since 2006.
Adams said she loves the paintings done by Peyton on Main Street, and wants to add a mural to a wall on one of her properties, the Ingram building.
"I've just heard good things about them," said Adams said. "They look really good, and I think it helps. It's something to help pull the community together, and it adds beauty to our town."
Lately the Adams' have been giving some of their buildings a face-lift, removing dilapidated signs and awnings from store-fronts, and adding fresh new paint and sheet metal to give them a more unique look.
The ground floor of most of these properties are rented out to retail businesses or are used for storage, while the second floor houses many of the rooms and suites of the Main Street Hotel. Soon the Adams' hope to add handicap accessible rooms on a bottom story of a new part of the hotel, as well as making a parking lot for guests to use.
JoAnn and her family have invested a great deal in Yazoo City and on Main Street because they love the town and the memories they have made here. She hopes that more projects, like repairing the sidewalks, will come in the future.