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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI)- Rett Russell and Jill Kozer are in town for the weekend. Russell, a Starkville native, says he continues to watch his hometown change and grow.

“Compared to the early days, there just weren’t that many people, the stadium was small, it wasn’t the event that it was now. There were tailgate parties but on a much smaller scale. Not it’s amazingly huge,” said Russell.

“We were just talking about how this is just good for the economy, it’s a great sight to see people walking around, I’ve noticed that the sororities are involved somehow, which is a great thing. So, I think it’s great for the students and also the people who live here,” said Kozer.

What started as an idea, took off in 2010. That’s the year “New South Weekends,” added an extra spin for tourists coming to town for football games. Jennifer Gregory, CEO for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership says she never imagined that the program would be this successful.

“It was a shot in the dark, we didn’t know how it was going to work, but we’ve seen tremendous numbers as a result from that. We’ve seen tourism spending increase over 30% and that takes into account sales tax, food and beverage tax, hotel, fuel, all kinds of things visitors do when they’re here,” said Gregory.

“It’s really easy now to be able to buy Maroon at market. Burgundy has become a huge fashion color and so it’s easy for all of us to have our whole stores almost completely full of Maroon right now. Football season is huge for retail,” said Tabb.

As for Jill and Rett, bulldog country is about football, family and fun rolled into one weekend.

Jill: Making it into a holiday is the nicest!

Rett: It’s an event! Things are no longer just a football game, it’s an event!

Jill: Yeah!

Gregory says football weekends bring in around 60,000 visitors, especially during major home games.

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