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December CONTENTS 2017 • VOLUME 14 • NO. 12


Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

46 Awakening a Creole Tradition New Orleans Reveillon Dinners

60 Highlighting History With Two New Museums

54 A Little Boy’s Legacy – The Forrest Spence Fund

departments 14 Living Well Safe Toys & Gifts

42 On the Road Again Lafayette, LA

18 Notables “Santa” Richard Jamison

44 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown Hanging by a Thread Towels

22 Exploring Art Dollhouses & Diamonds

70 Southern Gentleman Dressing Sharply

26 Exploring Books Do Tell! Southern Porch Tales

74 Southern Harmony Andrew Bryant

30 Into the Wild Targeting Traditions in Panola County

76 In Good Spirits Holiday Punches

34 Table Talk Sweet Somethings Bakery

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Christmas Town U.S.A.


80 Reflections The Not-So-Perfect “Perfect” Tree



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editor’s note } december Always Believe I recently read about Jolabokaflod, a national tradition in Iceland where everyone exchanges books on Christmas Eve and then spends the rest of the night reading – and eating chocolate. Known as the “Christmas Book Flood,” Jolabokaflod sounds relaxing as the December calendar gets filled. Some down time before a hectic Christmas morning could be good for the soul. The best holiday memories are often the ones that are different although traditions are hard to break – like bringing you our annual holiday issue. We couldn’t resist chatting with Santa – aka Richard Jamison – a fixture at Memphis-area Christmas events, including parties at St. Jude’s Target House for children. “Always believe,” he said to us as we scrambled to get just the right cover photo. We did, and we are delighted with the result. Andrea Brown Ross has an inspiring story about this year’s Forrest Spence Fund, which assists families with critically ill or chronically ill children. The Spence family turned their tragedy into a holiday service project that touches thousands of lives each year. December is also an exciting time for Mississippians as the State opens two brand-new museums in Jackson. Cheré Coen gives us a sneak peek inside the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. And if you are looking for something different this holiday season, head to New Orleans where writer Patti

DECEMBER 2017 • Vol. 14 No.12


Nickell visited the Crescent City’s most venerable establishments for the annual Reveillon feasts, a tradition from 18th and 19th century Creole aristocracies. You don’t have to be an aristocrat, however, to enjoy these wonderful dinners. Whether you decide to stay in and read books, give back to your community, try some new menus, or have a traditional Dickens-style Christmas, we hope your December will be filled with joy. Merry Christmas from our families to yours,

Mary Ann on the cover It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Meet Richard Jamison, A.K.A Santa Rick. Santa Rick is the Santa Clause to Memphis and the Mid-South and he takes his job very seriously. “Always believe. I know it gets hard sometimes, but always believe. I tell the older ones, it doesn’t matter if you believe in me, Santa believes in you. I believe you will do good things with your life.” Santa Rick Cover photo by Amie Austein

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Cathey Frei Jason Frye Verna Gates Jill Gleeson Patti Nickell Charlene Oldham Karen Ott Mayer Andrea Brown Ross Karon Warren Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Get social with us!

©2017 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein to be reproduced in any manner. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties i n t e re s t e d i n a d v e r t i s i n g s h o u l d email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well } toy safety

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Staying Safe with Toys By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Consumer Product Matters and Riverview Health

As the holidays approach, stores are filled with shoppers searching for the “perfect” toy for Christmas morning. And while it’s easy to find plenty of lists touting the “must have” or “hottest” toys of the season, the real priority for shoppers should be toy safety. Age is more than a number when it comes to toys. When searching for toys that are age-appropriate, look for products that match the child’s developmental abilities. “For example, if you are shopping for a child who is under 6 months old, you should look for toys that stimulate the senses, like mobiles, crib gyms and musical chime toys,” said Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs for The Toy Association in New York and Washington, D.C. “As children get older and their abilities evolve, look for toys that are more engaging. For example, a toddler between the ages of 2 and 3 would really benefit from role-play items or dress-up clothes that foster imaginative play.” To find safe toys suitable for the child’s developmental

abilities, always purchase toys geared to the child’s age by checking the age label on the package. “The age label is based upon safety requirements and testing and not how smart a child is,” Lawrence said. “You should avoid products with labels that do not match the age of your child.” She warns adults to keep all toys labeled for children age 3 and older away from children younger than 3-years-old, because many of these toys include small parts that could be a choking hazard. For more ideas, The Toy Association maintains an age-by-age toy buying guide based on child development research available on its website. DeSoto 17

Where You Shop Matters Oftentimes, shoppers want a reputable brand-name toy but cannot always afford a brand-name price. Or they think it’s OK to buy secondhand toys from garage sales or at thrift stores. “We always tell consumers to shop at a retailer they know and trust,” Lawrence said. “Store staff at established businesses will be knowledgeable about age-appropriate toys. On the other hand, garage sales, secondhand stores or temporary retailers may not know about the latest safety information and certified products and may not be around should an issue arise with the toy later on.” When shopping for toys, Lawrence recommends picking up a toy and checking to see how sturdy it is. Children, regardless of age, can be very hard on toys, and those toys need to stand up to rigorous play. This is especially important at discount stores that have bargain-priced toys. Many of these toys may fall apart the moment a child pulls on or drops them. Do Some Research It might be easy to grab a toy off the shelf because the age label works for your child, but it’s important to look beyond that number to the instructions and details of the toy. “I can’t overstress how important it is to check and follow age guidance and other safety information on toy packaging,” Lawrence said. “Remember, the age-grading isn’t about how smart your child is; it’s safety guidance based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age and the specific features of a toy.” Also, before purchasing any toy, check to see if there 18 DeSoto

are any recalled products at Although stores and online retailers should be removing items as soon as a recall is issued, this is not always the case. Shoppers also can keep checking the website in case a recall is issued after they purchase a particular toy. If a recall is issued, follow the instructions provided on the website to remedy the situation. After the Purchase Keeping tabs on toy safety after toys are brought home presents new challenges, especially when there are multiple children of varying ages in the home. To maintain toy safety for children of all ages, Lawrence highly recommends adult participation and supervision. “Get on the floor and play with your kids!” she said. “Demonstrating the correct way to use a toy or game is the best way to make sure your child understands how to properly and safely use and enjoy it.” To keep younger siblings safe around older siblings’ toys, get the older siblings involved. “We always tell parents to enlist the help of older children in keeping their toys away from the younger kids in the house,” Lawrence said. “They love the responsibility and the fact that they have toys they can call their own.” Likewise, make sure each child properly stores his or her toys in separate bins or areas to keep little hands from getting into the big kids’ toys. For more tips and information about toy and play safety, visit

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notables } richard “santa rick� jamison

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The Magic is in Believing By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of Santa Rick

A magical transformation from computer consultant to Santa Rick brings joy to children around Memphis. The important thing is to always believe. Even as Richard Jamison pulls on his red suit and transforms into Santa Rick, he believes. For 10 months of the year, Jamison works as a computer program consultant. From November through Christmas, he begins his real mission: to spread Christmas joy. When Santa Rick was a child, his father started playing Christmas music in October. The family was far from wealthy, but they were rich in love and holiday spirit. He recalls “a blessed childhood.” At the age of 30, he plopped a Santa hat on his head

and proclaimed his hope for a new job to his wife. He bought a couple of suits. But his dream went beyond their two children and two grandchildren. “She called it my delusion. Now, she is Mrs. Claus,” said Jamison. Today, if you haven’t called by July, it is unlikely that this popular man in red will have an open date. Based in Memphis, he travels the Mid-South to events ranging from corporate to private to schools. At age 60, he hit his stride with a beard that turned white, and a retirement granting time to build up a client base. He still works as a consultant, mostly to DeSoto 21

Santa Rick throwing out the first pitch at a Memphis Redbirds game

dodge a “honey-do” list at home. He takes his job seriously. His beard and suits reflect a well-groomed elf. Between the suit and the boots, each outfit runs about $1,000. Most importantly, he must maintain a cool quotient regarding toys. Last year, he got caught off guard by a child who asked for a stinky garbage truck. Tonka Toys launched a new Matchbox vehicle named Stinky the Garbage Truck. It asks the proverbial question, “I’m stinky, are you?” along with 89 other sounds and phrases sure to delight little boys. “Santa is supposed to know what it is,” explained Jamison. While most children light up when they see the biggest provider of toys and joy at Christmas, some remain 22 DeSoto

unconvinced. The biggest dilemma for a professional Santa is crying. A big stranger in a red suit can terrify small children. Santa Rick has developed a strategy. He will back them into the lap. Sometimes, he puts the white glove over their eyes so they can’t see the lap coming. Or, he will act like he is crying with them. Small talk also works. Nothing a hair ribbon or new shoes can often bring them around so the child “cottons to you.” If not, he can smile and if the parent moves fast, the sought-after photo can be snapped. One boy took three years to finally accept Santa Rick. The first year, he screamed from the line, afraid to even look at Santa. The second year, he looked, then screamed. The third year, his grandmother, a friend of Jamison’s, sat him down

in front of Santa. While he looked at books, Santa Rick asked about a patch on his jacket and spoke softly. The magic worked and he made it to the lap. While most of the children ask for toys, some ask for sad things, like for a deceased grandmother to come back. Or to cure their dad’s cancer. One little girl asked Santa Rick to bring her mother back. She had left for the store one day and never came back. Another child asked him to tell her parents to stop arguing. A little girl —, one in shabby clothes and a bit “odorous” — asked for a new shirt, which Jamison figures is all she could expect. When he fields these requests, he explains that Santa’s magic can’t handle these issues and offers to pray with and for the children and their families. The adults generally want Jaguars, a million dollars, or on occasion, peace on earth. Mostly, everyone wants a good picture. Children aren’t the only cry babies. Santa Rick wondered if he could handle visiting the children at Target House, St. Jude’s long-term facility for sick children and their families. Most of the children are receiving chemo and are washed out by the end of the day. They don’t feel well, but are “sweet as honey and all smiles.” Once the picture is taken, they generally get back in bed. “It is a blessing to go and visit with those little ones. I take some time with them. Sometimes there are tubes and you have to try to cover them up for the photo. I wonder if it could be the last Christmas for them. It is bittersweet,” said Santa Rick. The spirit of the holidays still fill Santa Rick with wonder. He loves the hustle and bustle of the shopping. The way people get nicer as Christmas draws near. The music that sings of a savior. “Always believe. I know it gets hard sometimes, but always believe. I tell the older ones, it doesn’t matter if you believe in me, Santa believes in you. I believe you will do good things with your life.”

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exploring art } headley-whitney museum

Bird Cage

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Diamonds &Dollhouses By Patti Nickell | Photography courtesy of the Headley-Whitney Museum of Art

Dazzling jewels and ornate dollhouses are often every girl’s dream at Christmas, but they become real during a visit to Lexington’s Headley-Whitney Museum. During the holiday season, females’ fantasies often turn to jewels, and in the case of their younger counterparts, elaborate dollhouses. At the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky, those fantasies become reality. Jewelry designer George Headley, who once bejeweled the likes of Hollywood screen icons Joan Crawford, Judy Garland and Mae West at his boutique in Los Angeles’s Bel-Air Hotel, returned to his family home amidst the rolling hills of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region in 1949. Shortly afterward, Headley, a one-time student at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where he hung around with the likes of Alexander Calder and Salvador Dali, began fashioning one-of-a-kind bibelots using precious and semi-precious stones.

The Headley-Whitney’s collection of 29 bibelots are lavishly displayed in an intimate setting, all the better for showcasing these impressive decorative ornaments, often described as having no functional purpose. There’s a jaunty terra cotta pigeon that Headley found at a flea market in Paris. It would resemble its human counterparts flocking around the Place de la Concorde were it not for its feet of pink gold, ruby eyes, and the gold pendent hanging around its neck from which is suspended a ‘pigeon’s blood’ ruby teardrop. Not to be outdone, a pair of seashell turtles with gold underbellies, carved pale pink and orange coral limbs, tails and heads, and diamonds for eyes, languidly pose on a base of stony DeSoto 25

Dollhouse dining room

fire coral and shells. Nearby, a mask of Bacchus, Roman god of wine, is fashioned of delicate coral and backed with a tangle of grapevines in gold, mounted on coral branches resting on an onyx and gold base. One of the most unusual bibelots, titled Fish in Cave, depicts a mudfish swimming through a cave-like opening of volcanic rock. Adorned with gold whiskers set with diamonds, the mudfish dangles a large black cultured pearl from its jaw. Seven gold starfish with square-cut green tourmaline bodies rest on the rock that is supported by mother-of-pearl panels embellished with gold, peridots and green enamel. The focal point of the collection is titled “Bird Cage” and features the figure of a Chinese woman intricately carved of Persian turquoise sitting on a cushion of lapis lazuli. The cage which surrounds the figure is a delicate design of gold, accented with diamonds on which Headley suspended three large pear-shaped sapphires. Displayed as it is – dangling from a thin cord – it appears to be floating in space. That George Headley was a jewelry design superstar is undeniable. Getting his inspiration from such diverse artists as Dali, Renaissance goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini and jeweler Peter Carl Faberge, his work was featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. But it was his sister-in-law, socialite and thoroughbred horse farm owner Marylou Whitney, who made the museum a must-see for younger girls – those who still have diamonds in their future. She is responsible for the museum’s collection of ornate dollhouses, works of art in themselves. In 1969, Whitney, at the request of her daughter Cornelia, began working with craftsmen on her Lexington horse farm to recreate the stunning white-columned antebellum mansion, Maple Hill, in miniature. Whitney and her team spent six years meticulously 26 DeSoto

replicating four separate areas – the main house, guest quarters, artist studio and pool house (the latter recreating Marylou’s famous Kentucky Derby party when she and her husband hosted Britain’s Princess Margaret.) Each was furnished as precisely and as closely to the original as possible. Marylou was said to have jokingly told her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, that the estate’s carpenter, Ernest Hughes, and his crew “didn’t have enough to do during rainy and snowy winter days.” So, during inclement weather, the men got busy using dental tools for work too delicate for thick fingers, and women expertly fashioned coat hangers out of paper clips. What started out as a project for a nine-year-old girl morphed into a display of skill and craftsmanship that has fascinated millions – both when the dollhouses went on a national tour to raise money for charity and now that they are back home at the HeadleyWhitney Museum. The petit point reproductions of Aubusson carpets, parquet flooring, dazzling chandeliers, and complete table settings would be reason enough to marvel. But when you really look, you see exquisite details such as a fully functional piano, miniature books in the library, tiny oil paintings that duplicate the originals in the Whitney home. There’s a bouquet of daisies on a coffee table, a miniature copy of National Geographic Magazine on the sun porch, and a diamond ring sitting on a bedroom dresser. The Headley-Whitney Museum is the perfect venue for holiday dreaming, but be forewarned. It just might start little girls longing for the day when they will sport a diamond and their moms waxing nostalgic for their dollhouse days. Want to go?

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exploring books} do tell! Mysterious Marble Slab Angel

When a story is passed down from generation-togeneration, it can get diluted.� Joel McRay

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Do Tell! Authors

Do Tell! Tales Told on Southern Porches By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography courtesy of Corey Crouse

As families gather for the holidays, stories and family legends will flow as easily as the Christmas gravy. The authors of “Do Tell!” recommend writing down those oral histories to preserve cherished memories. When Corey Crouse moved to small Greensboro, Georgia, in 1990 she was fascinated by the stories she heard from the local residents as she volunteered with the Greene County Historical Society. Before long, she and three other women were brainstorming a way to preserve those oral histories for future generations. Crouse and the others – Susan Erlandson, Tamie Moran, and Cynthia Smith – pooled together about $500 to publish “Do Tell! Tales Told on Southern Porches.” The book contains more than 30 homespun stories that capture the history and character of a unique rural Georgia community, not unlike many others throughout the South. She points out that every community has its own tales

to tell. “It just takes someone to pull it all together,” she said. Three of the authors grew up and lived in other states; only one – Cynthia Smith – was a Greene County native. “For this little town, it took outsiders to put the book together. We were fascinated by the stories we heard at the historical society. Cynthia kept everyone honest and made sure we told the truth,” Crouse said with a laugh. In addition to towns like Greensboro preserving their histories in writings, Crouse firmly believes families also need to take the time to record the stories that grandparents tell their children and grandchildren – especially at family gatherings. And often those tales are told on the front porch, a place that can be magical, say the authors. DeSoto 29

Micky Mantle

“You need to do this… write your history,” Crouse said. “If you don’t do it, it’s not going to get down and it will be lost forever.” The authors describe the book as “factual” stories, taken from people who lived during the time the stories happened or know someone who did. Some, including a 100-year-old who has since passed on, were videotaped as they shared their memories. “When a story is passed down from generationto-generation, it can get diluted,” said Joel McRay, Greene County’s official historian. “Stories tend to change from tellingto-telling, but when you interview a person who actually saw something happen, chances are it’s accurate.” One of Crouse’s favorite stories in the book actually took place in the building that now houses McRay’s florist shop but was once a bakery. “The Mysterious Marble Slab” recounts how a special-order marble slab disappeared from a young girl’s grave and ended up in the town’s bakery where it was used for candy making. When Charity Grimes, the girl’s mother, demanded to go into the baker’s secret underground chamber, she found the slab smooth and polished. “They say ‘Aunt Charity’ engaged in some conversation that her name did not imply, and the baker did not misunderstand her meaning… the marble slab was returned to its rightful place where it remains today,” according to the published tale. In another more recent favorite story, baseball legend Mickey Mantle stopped at the Greensboro Herald Journal asking for directions to Ty Cobb’s grave, and the editor, Carey Williams Jr., took him to nearby Royston, Georgia, which is also home to the Ty Cobb Museum. The story “Mickey Mantle and the Loudest Introduction” describes how Mantle and the editor stopped at a bar called “The Flats,” and the owner 30 DeSoto

thought they were “revenuers.” When the bartender wanted to introduce Mantle to his noisy clientele, he pulled a shotgun down from behind the bar and fired into the air. “It was quiet as a funeral after that,” Williams said in the book. Mantle added to the story: “I’ve been introduced at Yankee Stadium and all over the country, but the loudest introduction I ever had was at a bar in Royston.” Mantle and Williams became friends, and Mantle even lived and played golf in Greene County. Williams said Mantle could have lunch in downtown or shop at the local grocery store and go “pretty much unnoticed.” In addition to the historical photographs and illustrations – the work of John Crouse, Corey’s husband – the book also contains bonus features in the back, including a map of frontier forts on the nearby Oconee River and a handbill from the 1917 movie, “The Flaming Omen.” “That was Tamie’s idea to include those,” added Crouse. “This book was born out of the historical society, which was long on history but short on artifacts.” The project was a team effort with all of the women collecting stories and photos. Erlandson did most of the writing while Crouse designed the layout. Now in its fifth printing, “Do Tell!” has more than recouped the initial money the women spent to get it printed. They’ve used the sales from the book, which sells for $22, for subsequent printings. They are also thinking about a second volume. “When people read it, they tell us they have even better stories to share,” Crouse said with a laugh.

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into the wild } mcIvor creek shooting facility

Range Master, Gary Holcomb

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Targeting Traditions By Karen Ott Mayer | Photgraphy by Karen Ott Mayer

Mississippi’s largest outdoor shooting range to open in Panola County in 2018.

Driving down Davis Chapel Road just west of Sardis, Mississippi, the rural road would appear to lead to another road, town or landscape. In this case, however, the road ends at a set of double gates. Unbeknownst to many, what lies behind the gates is one of the state’s newest and most significant projects that promises increased tourism, recreation and a nod to Mississippi’s longstanding firearms tradition. With the 2018 planned opening of the McIvor Creek Shooting Facility at Charles Ray Nix Wildlife Management Area, sports enthusiasts who enjoy sport shooting activities like skeet, clay, pistol and rifle will soon have a world-class facility right in their North Mississippi backyard. The new all-outdoor range, one of three in the state built in the last 10 years, will be the biggest range in the state. “We’re about to have a world-class state-of-the-art shooting facility right here in Panola County. There is nothing

like it around here, and quite possibly, not anything like it in the Southeast,” said Joe Azar, director of economic development for the Panola Partnership. In August 2016, state leaders including Governor Phil Bryant, attended a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, a 300-acre parcel sponsored by Winchester Ammunition which has a local manufacturing facility in Oxford and is owned by Olin Corporation. The entire wildlife management area totals 4,000 acres. The $3 million dollar project results from the collaborative works of The Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Winchester Ammunition and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “We secured federal dollars through the PittmanRobertson Act and partnered with Winchester for the matching funds, so the state didn’t finance this project,” said Jones. In 1937, Congress passed the act, now known as DeSoto 33

the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, which places a tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition. In return, those funds help conservation efforts, hunter education programs and archery/shooting operations across the country. The shooting facility will include a 15-station sporting clay range, two skeet ranges with a trap range overlaid in each, a five-stand range, a pistol range, 100-yard and 300-yard rifle ranges, and a 3D archery range. “The land is diverse with a mixture of dense woods and open clearings,” said Captain Scottie Jones, the shooting range coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. “This will be the third and largest range in the state.” Turcotte was the first shooting range built near Canton in 2006 while McHenry followed in 2013 near Perkinston in south Mississippi. Jones says sport shooting is growing in the state and that each facility welcomes approximately 15,000 visitors each year. The Sardis range will be able to accommodate 200 visitors at the same time, depending on the chosen activity. Visitors, children and adults, can look forward to other educational opportunities like handgun classes and shotgun instruction. “Our programs are focused on adults and children. We hope to encourage more kids to get outside and learn to enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting,” said Jones. The Mississippi Scholastic Shooting Program (MSSP) is a youth development program that uses the shotgun sports to instill life skills such as discipline, safety, teamwork, ethics, self-confidence, and other life values. Azar agrees that Mississippians still value outdoor sporting and hunting and that the facility is already having a local influence. “We started a shooting team at North Delta Academy and had a great first year,” he said. In addition, the expected influx of tourists and visitors has led Azar and his team to create a tourism position especially to help the Sardis area with the anticipated activity. “This gives people a safe place to shoot and we’re excited about getting the word out to as many people as we can,” said Azar. Another strong benefit to locals and visitors is the reasonable costs, making it a highly-accessible destination for families. “I believe the base fee per person is $5.50 per hour.” Jones says that anyone under 21 must be with an adult and encourages all visitors to read and understand all the range rules---which are available online. Because it can be almost a mile from one point to another, golf carts will be available as well. At the entrance, a new pro-shop and registration building serves as the primary gathering point for visitors. Range-master Gary Holcomb who has been shooting his entire life will lead instruction at the site. A recent graduate of Mississippi State University, Holcomb traveled the country in shooting tournaments. “This range is really great for this part of the state.” While the opening date has yet to be set, Jones says all the construction should be complete by spring 2018 depending on the weather with the facility opening to the public by summer or fall 2018. A Mississippi native himself, Jones receives many calls from people in north Mississippi asking about a shooting facility. Soon, he can send them to the biggest shooting range in the state, helping to carry on a Mississippi tradition. To learn about the great outdoors in Mississippi, including shooting ranges, visit

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table talk } sweet somethings bakery Owners, Jamie Suggs and Joseph Watkins

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Sticky Delights By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtsy of Robby Scruggs of Studio5Fifty. Holiday photos courtesy of Joseph Watkins

Sweet Somethings Bakery is Laurel’s go-to place to satisfy sweet-tooth cravings, especially for old-fashioned cinnamon rolls and holiday treats. Early in the morning, cinnamon aromas emanate from Sweet Somethings Bakery in downtown Laurel. Since opening a year and half ago, the Central Avenue bakery has attracted folks from all over the state who want to try the signature items: old-fashioned cinnamon rolls and sticky buns that often sell-out before the morning is over. Those cinnamon buns were the beginning of a dreamcome-true for owners Jamie Suggs and Joseph Watkins. “One day I wanted some of my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls. Mine didn’t even come close to hers,” said Suggs. “I talked to her to get the recipe and then we played with it some.” After Jamie perfected her own cinnamon creations, she began making them for church functions. Business people asked for them to take to their employees; others wanted them for their own parties. Cookies soon followed and before they knew it, Suggs and Watkins had a delivery-only bakery business.

“Jamie would take the orders, and I delivered them Thursday through Sunday,” said Watkins. “That’s how we built our clientele.” In addition to his position as a plant facilities manager at Howard Industries and as head taste tester for the bakery, Watkins is also an entrepreneur. He is currently partnering with a Quitman restaurateur to open Mimmo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria a little farther down on Central Avenue. “Developing downtown Laurel is something I’ve wanted to do in my heart more than anything,” he said. “Jamie had her heart set on Ellisville, but God had a plan and put us in Laurel.” The couple opened a storefront in a 1923 building that first housed the Ross Grocer and then law offices in later years. The charming façade was designed by Erin Napier, host of HGTV’s Home Town renovation show. “Sweet Somethings was the first time Erin saw one DeSoto 37

of her drawings come to life as a building,” said Watkins, a personal friend of the Napiers. “Ben built the bread table for us out of red cedar we found in the attic of this building.” With those connections, it’s not surprising to see Sweet Somethings Bakery in background scenes for the popular television series. Those scenes are the mental pictures Suggs had in her mind when she first thought about opening a bakery. “The first week after we opened, we had surgeons, doctors, and businesspeople sitting in the dining area with their coffee and cinnamon rolls,” she remembered. “I cried when I saw them. I was overwhelmed to see folks enjoying what we did.” Watkins, who is a skilled carpenter, built much of the bakery’s interior, including the staircase that leads to four loftstyle suites that he owns and rents out through AirBnB. The couple also used the original paint colors of the building to keep its historic integrity. Suggs continues to bake large quantities of cinnamon rolls and sticky buns – about eight pans of each – every morning, but she has also expanded her repertoire of goodies. She bakes brownies using Watkins’s grandmother’s recipe. Her father’s carrot cake recipe remains one of her favorites as do her own grandmother’s recipes for pies and cakes. 38 DeSoto

She is behind the scenes, often baking by 3 a.m. Getting out front to greet “the people who made us” is a treat, she said. “I’m just a mom who turned into a baker, a Southern one who uses lots of butter and sugar and likes talking to people.” With seven children ranging in ages from 13 to 32 between them, the couple has built-in taste testers. “My sons are quick to tell me when something doesn’t taste right,” she said with a laugh. Now they can’t get enough of her cookies, especially her popular chocolate chip ones. “My son in West Virginia called recently to remind me that it had been 59 days since he had tasted my chocolate chip cookies. I immediately went to the post office to ship some to him,” she said. Desserts are plentiful for the family’s holiday gatherings, especially the pies, just as they are with customers. Watkins, though, is partial to the bread pudding, which he says “goes as fast as Jamie can make it.” Sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and petit fours are the most popular sellers around the holidays. Cheese straws, sausage balls, candy boxes, and pepper jelly are also big hits. After the holidays, Suggs plans to pursue her next goal: establishing baking classes. She hopes to encourage more young people to pursue culinary arts. She is especially proud

of former employee Addison Holland, who is now studying culinary arts at Mississippi University for Women and will return home to help during holidays. “Working at the bakery was the only job I ever wanted,” said Holland. “I was there over a year, and I learned so much.” Suggs added, “We need more like her.” She also has a word of advice for home bakers who are trying to perfect their own skills: “Don’t get discouraged. If a recipe doesn’t work, try, try again… and again until you get what you like. We’ve adapted our recipes to our tastes, and we’re lucky that other folks have liked them, too.” Want to know more?

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exploring destinations } mcadenville, n.c.

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Christmas Town USA By Jill Gleeson | Photography courtsy of Steve Rankin

The local Yuletide spirit warms even the coldest Grinch in this small North Carolina town of only 700 people. There’s no place like McAdenville, North Carolina, for the holidays. Sure, there are towns that boast big snowfalls in December, or splashier, flashier displays, or more over-thetop events, but this little burb located about 20 miles from Charlotte has got ‘em all beat. Because McAdenville offers a rare experience in our increasingly corporatized, commodified and all-toocynical world: A Yuletide celebration with heart, presented by townsfolk with nothing to gain financially, who are simply looking to share and spread the spirit of the season. And it’s earned McAdenville the cherished nickname “Christmas Town USA.”

“We have real people that decorate real homes at their own expense and there is never a charge to view our lights,” notes Steve Rankin, a member of the Christmas Town committee, who has lived in McAdenville his whole life. “Our residents spend lots of money decorating each year and get nothing in return except the joy they see in the faces of children, and adults, too, as they drive through town.” McAdenville may be a small town, but the holiday displays aren’t small time. Within a 1.3-mile-long stretch, some 375 trees, ranging in size from 6-to-90 feet, are strung with 500,000 red, green and white lights. Some of the bigger trees feature 5,000 lights. And then there are the town’s other DeSoto 41

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Christmas touches: the life-sized traditional Nativity scene, which graces the lawn of the Baptist church; the 46-foot lighted image of Old Man Winter blowing snowflakes over the lake, which features a 75-foot multi-colored fountain in its center; the holiday songs broadcast throughout the town from the decorated Mill Tower, built in 1881; and the old-timey carolers singing sweetly at the library. The lights begin glowing this year on Dec.1 at 6 p.m., with a tree lighting ceremony at DuPont Plaza attended by Santa. They will be relit Monday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and weekends from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., through the 26th. Go early if you can, and on weekdays – thanks to feature stories about McAdenville by everyone from Charles Kuralt to “Good Morning, America,” the word is out about Christmas Town, USA. Some 600,000 people now journey to see the wonderland for themselves throughout the month of December, and traffic can get a little “thick.” Meanwhile, The Yule Log Parade and Ceremony, which dates back to 1949 and was the first public Christmas event in McAdenville, just might have even more of a Norman Rockwell flavor than the tree lighting event. “On a nice evening 1,000 to 2,000 people might attend the parade,” says Christy Gliddon, Executive Vice President, Human Resources at Pharr, a textile company that has sponsored the Christmas activities in McAdenville since they began. “We gather at the Pharr Yarn corporate office and listen to the elementary chorus sing, and then the Ashbrook High School Band leads us in the parade up the street to Legacy Park. The children pull the Yule Log on a sled. When it gets to the open fireplace it’s lifted off the sled and ignited.” This kicks off the Christmas Town Festival, which includes a visit from Santa, free refreshments, and seasonal music performed by area church and school choirs. The Yule Log Parade will be held this year on Dec. 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Like all Christmas activities in McAdenville, there is no charge to attend and visitors are welcomed with open arms. Speaking of visitors, with a population of around 700, there isn’t an inn available in town for people wishing to spend the night after a long drive although Gastonia is close and provides plenty of lodging options. Still, McAdenville Mayor Jim Robinette can happily suggest a few other businesses out-of-towners shouldn’t miss investigating. “The town has a lovely historic district that is home to the Christmastown Thomas Kinkade Gallery and McAdenville Table & Market, a hip farm-to-table restaurant. See Jane Bake (a local bakery) offers divine desserts, and 115 Main Gifts & Provisions offers unique items from local designers.” Now in its 62nd year, the seasonal festivities in McAdenville – Christmas Town, USA, that is – are, according to Rankin, like no place else. “If you live here, you really don’t have any choice but to get involved with it,” he says, smiling. “But really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We love Christmas in McAdenville. There’s nothing else like it in the world.” Want to know more?

“Our residents spend lots of money decorating each year and get nothing in return except the joy they see in the faces of children, and adults, too, as they drive through town.” DeSoto 43

on the road again } lafayette, louisiana

, e t t e y Lafa a n a i s i u o L

9:00 Rusted Rooster in downtown Lafayette is the perfect way to start the day. Enjoy traditional breakfast favorite cooked with their touch of Southern flair. A menu favorite is Bootsie’s biscuits, a recipe from chef Al’s grandmother. They come plain or piled with delicious and unique toppings, like the Curious George with bananas and homemade pecan-praline glaze. Breakfast is served weekdays from 7-to-10:30am. 10:00 After breakfast stroll through the museum “loop” downtown. Start with the Acadiana Center for the Arts and make your way to the Alexandre Mouton House, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Children’s Museum of Acadiana, Cité des Arts and the Lafayette Science Museum & Planetarium. 1:00 While in Louisiana you must have a Po’boy, and Pop’s is the place. Not only do they offer the classics with shrimp and oysters but they also make several with a twist. The Darlene is piled with meatballs, the Jack Special has turkey, ham, roast beef and gouda, and there is even one with red bean and chickpea fritters and cayenne tzatziki. 2:00 Before leaving downtown make sure to visit the Sans Souci Fine Crafts Gallery, which is home of the Louisiana Crafts Guild. Just browse or take home a beautiful treasure from a local artist. Closed Mondays. 3:00 Just 10 minutes from Downtown is Vermilionville, a living history museum and folklife park that lets visitors experience the culture of Acadian, Native American, and Creole people – from the time period 1765 to 1890. The park sits on 23-acres at the banks of the Bayou Vermilion. Explore the 19 attractions including seven restored original homes. Demonstrations by local artisans give a glimpse into the daily life of these early settlers. 6:00 Dinner at award-winning Charley G’s. Known for its grilled aged beef and Louisiana seafood over Southern hardwoods, Charley G’s has been a local favorite since 1985. The Southern-inspired menu changes with the season using the freshest produce and seafood. The smoked duck and andouille gumbo is a must. Other delicious menu items include pan-seared sea bass, filet Oscar and crispy duck. 44 DeSoto

To plan your visit: Lafayette, Louisiana, called the “Happiest City in America,” is in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole Country. Visitors can plan their trip around music, cuisine, festivals, history, culture, shopping, architecture, arts, outdoors, wildlife or all of it rolled into one. There truly is something for everyone. One of the highlights for locals and visitors to downtown Lafayette is the Festival International de Louisiane, the largest international music and arts festival in the U.S. The five-day festival emphasizes the connection between Acadiana and the Francophone worlds. Each April more than 300,000 festival goers flock to enjoy musical performances by artists from over 20 countries along with workshops, exhibits, visual art, theater and other forms of performance arts. Save the dates for the 2018 festival, April 25-29. For more information visit

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greater goods } stocking stuffers

stocking stuffers













1. Snoozies Slippers, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 2. Bath bombs, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 3. Multi-tools, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 4. Car charms, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Road #106, Hernando, MS 5. Lotions and Soaps, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Letter key chains, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 7. Sunglasses, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Finger Baby Monkeys, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 9. Necklaces, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 10. Amy Head lipsticks, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 11. Red Wine stain remover, Frank, 210 E Commerce Street #7, Hernando, MS 12. Compacts, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 13. Ronaldo Designer jewelry, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 14. Beekman triple milled soaps, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR

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greater goods } the holiday table

the holiday table











1. MudPie Lazy Susan, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 2. Etta B Pottery, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 3. McCarty Pottery, Cynthia’s Boutique, 300 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 4. Nora Fleming Napkin Holder with Snowflake attachment, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 5. Tag Napkins, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Deer plates and silverware, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 7. Holiday dishes by Casafina, Coton Colors and Rootworks, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 8. Arthur Court holiday serving pieces, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 9. Mudpie bar accessories, Frank, 210 E Commerce Street #7, Hernando, MS 10. Deer Friends by Casafina, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS

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Aw akening a

i l o H e l o e r C

The Creoles knew how to ring in the holidays, and their tradition of reveillon feasts continues today at restaurants throughout New Orleans. German Shorthaired Pointer bronze, Sportsmanship

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n o i t i d a r T y da By Patti Nickell | Photography Courtesy of Featured restaurants

Brennan’s Eggs Benedict

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Brennan’s turtle soup

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No one ever accused New Orleans’ 18th and 19th century Creole aristocracies of not following their own advice: Laissez les bons temps roulez – Let the good times roll. These folks could throw a party with the best of them. But they were also a pious lot – spending almost as much time at Mass as they did in their favorite eating and drinking establishments. During the Christmas holidays, the Creoles’ religious fervor and their love of entertaining came together in the traditional reveillon dinner, celebrated on two separate occasions during this holiest of seasons. The first had quasi-religious overtones as family and friends gathered after Midnight Mass every Christmas Eve to thank God for his bounty. How did they do it? In a bountiful manner over a multicourse feast accompanied by the host’s finest vintage wines. The second reveillon (French for awakening), held each New Year’s Eve, had little to do with religion and everything to do with celebration. Five courses stretched into seven; New Year’s Eve stretched into New Year’s Day, and the wine still flowed. The Creoles’ excesses are largely memory today, except for the tradition of reveillon. In December, visitors to New Orleans can feast like it was 1850 again, and the only religious connotation is in the devoutness of the gourmets flocking to restaurants dressing up their tables with elaborate presentations. Currently, some 50 restaurants offer special menus – both traditional and contemporary, and at prices ranging from $34 to $110. However, it is only fitting to look at a few of the Crescent City’s most venerable Creole establishments. BRENNAN’S For most of the year, the focus is on legendary breakfasts at Brennan’s, the candy-cane pink Royal Street restaurant. During the holidays, however, poinsettias line the entryway, candles reflect the glow of chandeliers and masses of greenery line the mantels in private dining rooms as thoughts of reveillon take over. Chef Slade Rushing’s ambitious four-course menu, priced at $85, proves anew why he is New Orleans’ current culinary maestro. You’ll start with a Brennan’s DeSoto 51

Galatoire’s Trout Amandine

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specialty, turtle soup with sherry, jazzed up with grated egg and brown butter spinach. Course two includes seared foie gras and lobster glazed root vegetables, and celery root. The third course features roasted young French chicken in its juice, with black truffles, mirliton (a Louisiana vegetable similar to squash) and oyster spoonbread. The meal will end with another Brennan’s specialty, Bananas Foster with vanilla bean ice cream. GALATOIRE’S Arguably New Orleans most famous restaurant, Galatoire’s, has been a Bourbon Street landmark since 1905. While it’s still nigh impossible to get a downstairs table at lunch on Fridays (they are booked by local regulars), strategic planning will ensure you don’t miss Galatoire’s reveillon. Ceiling fans whir above black and white tile floors echoing with the footsteps of tuxedo-clad waiters bearing trays laden with the restaurant’s signature dishes. This year’s reveillon menu features Louisiana delicacies from both land and water. Diners start with a choice of shrimp scampi risotto or crab maison salad with baby arugula and pickled carrots. The second course offers two Bayou State favorites – turtle soup with sherry, or a duck and andouille sausage gumbo, a specialty of the Cajun country west of New Orleans. For the mains, choose between petit Marchand de Vin with sautéed brussels sprouts or grilled pork roast with wilted spinach, dried cherries, Brabant potatoes and Creole mustard vinaigrette. If you have room for dessert, there’s a choice of sweet potato hot pie or chocolate creme brulee. The cost of Galatoire’s reveillon dinner depends on which entrée you select ($40 - $59); the ambiance of dining in one of the city’s most esteemed Creole restaurants is free. ARNAUD’S Like Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s is a classic French Quarter establishment and has been ever since Count Arnaud Cazenave first opened the doors in 1917. The restaurant goes all out with an extravagant holiday décor and an equally extravagant (although not in price at $49) reveillon menu. For an amuse, there is Daube glace, a traditional jellied stew made with beef and DeSoto 53

Commander’s Palace

veal stock molded into a form, and served with croutons. A first course offers a choice between Shrimp ravigote with fried green tomatoes and a butter lettuce salad with dill sugarcane vinaigrette, followed by a second course of Creole onion soup. For the third course, you can choose from three mains: Duck a L’Orange with roasted root vegetables, seared flank steak, or a Creole specialty, Courtbouillon, a Louisiana Gulf drum fish in tomato puree with Gulf shrimp and oysters served with Louisiana popcorn rice. To end the meal, there’s white chocolate peppermint mousse cake or sticky toffee pudding with praline mousse. If you really want to get into the reveillon spirit, channel your inner Creole aristocrat and order a café brulot, but don’t sit too close when the waiter comes to prepare it tableside as you might be in danger of losing your eyebrows. Brulot is French for highly seasoned – although here, the alternate meaning might be incendiary, as pyrotechnics play a part in preparation. A coffee drink which also includes brandy or cognac, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and an orange peel cut into a long, spiraling ribbon, the concoction is placed in a silver bowl and then set afire. The café brulot is robust and delicious; the presentation is pure theater and even more delicious. 54 DeSoto

COMMANDER’S PALACE Leave the French Quarter and take a streetcar ride past the festively decorated antebellum homes on St. Charles Avenue to the quintessential Garden District gem, Commander’s Palace. Commander’s, which gave the culinary world both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, remains one of the city’s most popular eateries for locals and tourists alike. Be forewarned: this is not the place to go for a quiet, contemplative evening. All of Commander’s various dining rooms – spread across two floors, ring with the sounds of the season and hum with activity. This year’s reveillon menu – a seven-course feast – is priced at $100 and should please even the most demanding gourmand. The dinner starts off with champagne brined and smoked redfish (a Gulf staple) with buttery warm black skillet grilled red pimentos, gin-soaked cucumber and salted winter lemon. Next up is lobster and grilled corn pudding, a black truffle infused golden grit pudding with sea salt, chervil and Cognac whipped butter. After that comes foie gras and Riesling pie, where the pecan-cake flour pie crust is slowly baked with foie gras custard and boozy white chocolate.

Don’t get complacent – you are only half way home (remember, the Creoles had a lot of stamina). There’s a Grand Isle flounder stew, a hearty French stew accompanied by crusty French bread; followed by a squab-stuffed Texas quail, served with grilled cabbage, preserved figs and warm whiskey jam. A tasting of artisanal French and American cheeses, accompanied by winter preserves, fire roasted nuts and warm bread, provides something of a respite. Finally, for those who have been nice – or since it’s New Orleans, more likely naughty – there’s a serving of Santa’s milk and cookies. A reveillon dinner is a unique way to celebrate a Crescent City holiday. Get a complete list of restaurants offering reveillon dinners from the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.nola. com) and book early. Les bons temps will definitely roulez. DeSoto 55

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The Spirit OF

CHristmAs By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Forrest Spence Fund

Empathy. Understanding. Hope.

These are words of compassion from a Memphis family whose journey through personal tragedy has endeared them to many others on a similar journey. For families with hospitalized children, feeling the holiday spirit can be difficult when a loved one is hurting and the burden of medical expenses is looming. For those in this situation, the Forrest Spence Fund assists with the non-medical needs of families with critically ill or chronically ill children. In 2009, the Spence family began visiting families in

the hospital on Christmas Day. They would disperse wrapped books to each family as they went from room-to-room. And what started as a family service project has evolved into an incredible amount of volunteer efforts touching the lives of thousands. Now on their fourth annual toy drive, the fund has already given thousands of gifts to patients, siblings, and DeSoto 57

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families in the Mid-South. To appreciate the significance of this organization, one must start with Forrest, himself. Bor n in September 2007, as Brittany and David Spence’s first child, Forrest developed complications. After being transferred to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, he lived for 55 days until his passing. Now with three other children, the Spence family continues to honor Forrest’s memory and the efforts of the hospital staff through the Forrest Spence Fund. While the FSF offers a myriad of year-round events from an annual 5K run and No Show Ball, the toy drive seems to be a favorite. Supplying gifts to area hospitals and community programs to help meet the needs of many children, volunteers are given a unique opportunity to serve at LeBonheur. The FSF sponsors an annual family dinner for LeBonheur patients, siblings, and the parents. Family members, including non-ill siblings, are invited into the “toy room” to receive a gift at the festive and fun event, which is scheduled for Dec. 22 this year. “Siblings and parents can sometimes feel forgotten. And the truth is everyone is hurting when dealing with a sick family member,” explained Brittany. “For our parents, we disperse gas cards until we run out, which has happened the last two years.” To m a k e t h e d i n n e r a n d distribution of toys a memorable event, planning and behind-the-scenes action begins weeks prior. Volunteers not only donate and collect the thousands of toys from various drop-off locations, but they also wrap toys according to gender and age appropriateness, create centerpieces for tables, and serve as “Santa’s elf ” in other volunteer capacities.. The toy drive is a favorite and is dear to the hearts of the participants, especially those who know the benefits firsthand. “I gladly participate in the toy drive for the Forrest Spence Fund each year, because I know from experience how much good the FSF does for children and their families,” explained Karan Burns, whose grandson, Hayden, was born with a very rare genetic disorder. “For the four and a half months that Hayden was in the hospital prior to his passing, representatives DeSoto 59

“The smile the new toy brought to JJ’s face brought so much joy to us. His smile meant a great deal to us during that time.” Angel Jones Hart from the FSF came by his room often. They lent support to his parents with a meal, a smoothie, and emotional support. They brought a sense of comfort to our family.” She added, “I love purchasing gifts for the toy drive, because I know what it means to the families of these children during a difficult time.“ Ellen Glosson echoed similar sentiments based on her experience more than 15 years ago. “My daughter was a patient in LeBonheur for 10 days during Christmas when she was two years old. She received a Christmas happy from a different organization. People have no idea how much a small happy can mean to not only the patients, but also to parents.” Now, Glosson pays it forward with the help of her high school art classes. Each month, they provide centerpieces and crafts for the family dinners sponsored by the FSF at LeBonheur. However, her greatest joy comes from personally serving during the holidays. “Several years ago, my friend and I were looking for a place our teenage daughters could serve and give back to others at the Christmas season. We were told about FSF and were able to pass out gifts that year with our daughters. We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love we experienced. From that year on, we look forward to signing up and being able to 60 DeSoto

serve together. It’s the highlight of our Christmas season!” Brittany admitted that when her family began giving back to families in the hospital on Christmas Day, they had no idea it would become the memorable event it is now. “No, I never knew it would come to this! It has grown more than our wildest dreams! We had no goals or expectations when we started. We just wanted to help,” she said. Brittany continues to help each Wednesday at LeBonheur serving as a mentor. After the hospital staff identifies a patient which may be hospitalized for an extended length of time, Brittany stops by to offer emotional support. The fund also provides other forms of support, such as counseling and financial assistance, as determined on a case-by-case basis. “Through my son and the Forrest Spence Fund, I have been able to walk this journey with other families. We were there, rocking our child while he fought for his life, and ultimately dying in our arms,” shared Brittany. And even though Brittany has worked with numerous families and time has passed since the loss of Forrest, she admitted it’s still difficult to see families hurt. “It’s been hard. I get close to a lot of kids and their families. It’s hard to watch parents lose their children. I don’t take it lightly that they allowed me to walk this journey with them, especially at the most vulnerable time for a family,” she

said. T h e Fo r r e s t S p e n c e F u n d has become recognized as a reputable organization assisting families year round and especially during the holiday season. In fact, area hospitals have approached them about expanding to their facilities. “On those hard, difficult days, I am reminded of why we are doing this. It’s been great!” said Brittany. Glosson agreed. “It is such a blessing to be able to share that outpouring of love we first experienced as volunteers with patients that we meet now during the holidays. We give presents, lots of hugs, and prayers. These are memories that will not be forgotten.  Every year on our way home from LeBonheur we are able to say, ‘That’s what Christmas is all about!’” Want to know how you can help? DeSoto 61

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New Museums Highlight Mississippi’s History

By CherĂŠ Coen | Photography courtesy of Mississippi Archives

Mississippi will add to its own illustrious history on Dec. 9 when not one, but two museums will open in Jackson this month after years of planning and fundraising. Here is a sneak peek inside the state-of-the-art galleries.

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Mississippi owns a long and complicated history, and at its center are the people who shaped the state. Both will be on exhibit at the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening Dec. 9 in Jackson. The 200,000-square-foot building under the umbrella of the Mississippi Department of Archives was a massive undertaking that began years ago and is the culmination of the state’s Bicentennial celebration. In addition to the two museums, the space includes an auditorium, temporary exhibit space, classrooms and café. Both museums share a lobby and visitors may opt to see one or both. Visitors should expect to spend at least an hour in each museum but can easily spend the day enjoying both thoroughly. Trip back in time Enter the Museum of Mississippi History and you’ll begin with a theatre orientation organizers designed to be akin to storytelling around a campfire, said Director Rachel Myers. Once inside the museum, visitors will discover 11 galleries in chronological order that begin with the state’s Native American history and end with present day. Along the way are hundreds of artifacts gleaned from the state’s archives, many of which have been in storage for years. Artifacts only tell half the story, however. The museum’s overlying theme, “One Mississippi, Many Stories,” spotlights the state’s people at the heart of this history. For instance, there’s Mississippi author Eudora Welty’s typewriter, a rocking chair that a Union soldier gave to a Port Gibson man after the Civil War, and an ancient canoe used by Native Americans from the late Mississippian Period, around 15001600, magically preserved for centuries in the mud of Swan Lake in Washington County. There are also trade beads of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto to an elegant carriage owned by a plantation owner in the heyday of cotton. Some exhibits, such as “How We Lived,” show the disparities of Mississippi life. It includes an antebellum mansion, slave cabin and poor white yeoman cabin accented by audio of first personal narratives of the people who lived in these homes. The galleries weave through the second-floor exhibits and lead visitors to a DeSoto 65

stunning overlook that shows a visual timeline of state history as well as the state’s geographical diversity. Downstairs are more galleries, including an exhibit dedicated to Mississippi’s military history; an historic flag collection; a recreation of a Jackson Baptist church; the Turkey Creek community of the Mississippi Gulf Coast that was built by freed slaves; and a juke joint recreation where visitors may listen to Mississippi artists on a jukebox. Finding musicians hailing from the Magnolia State was not an issue. At the museum’s end is the “Reflections Booth,” a place where visitors may videotape their own story. Some of those tales may be added to the “Reflections” area throughout the museum, Myers said. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum The historical scope of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the first stateoperated museum dedicated to civil rights in the country, spans only 30 years but those three decades helped shape U.S. society, said Director Pamela D.C. Junior. The museum’s civil rights story begins in 1946 at the end of World War II, when returning soldiers demanded more of America, asking for voter rights and equal opportunities. The timeline continues through the 1955 assassination of 14-yearold Emmett Till, who was killed while visiting Mississippi relatives, through the rise of peaceful demonstrations, Martin Luther King Jr. and the black empowerment movement of the 1970s. The eight galleries examine African-American life, as well as the movement, and how it shaped the road for change. For instance, one gallery includes a replica of an African-American church, a place where protestors met to plan civil disobedience. Another revolves around a school with one side representing white education and the other black and the differences between the two. Along the school’s back wall are charred wood remains, depicting how African American schools were sometimes burned. One of the most inspiring galleries is the “Tremor in the Iceberg” gallery, which features mug shots of those who were arrested in the fight for civil rights, as well as a recreated jail cell and a tear gas canister from the integration protests at the 66 DeSoto

University of Mississippi. The photos rise from floor to ceiling and include one wall of nine students arrested in a “read-in” at the whites-only Jackson Municipal Public Library. Viewing these faces reminds visitors of the bravery of civil rights workers, many of which were teenagers who traveled to Mississippi to invoke change. “Teenagers,” Junior said. “Today, who would do that? That’s amazing to me.” The museum’s centerpiece is a massive sculpture that lights up when visitors arrive and plays “This Little Light of Mine,” growing stronger as more people enter the room and mirroring how change can happen when people stand up to injustice. At the museum’s conclusion, the “Where Do We Go From Here” gallery incites dialogue on further social justice issues, Junior explained. Exhibits and programming The two museums share a 1,000-square-foot gallery space where revolving exhibits will tie into both histories. First up is the “Stories Unfolded” quilt exhibit, spotlighting textiles from the early territorial time of Mississippi to the present, said Myers. “Quilts tell a story,” she said. The museums will offer programming in the future, in addition to activities for Mississippi school children on field trips. Visitor Information The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are located at 222 North St. in Jackson and will open at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. The free celebration includes music, speakers and food trucks. Both museums are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission for each museum is $8 adults, $5 students ages 4-18, $6 for seniors ages 60 and above, and free to children under 3. Dual admission for both museums is $12 adults, $7 students, $10 seniors, and free to children under 3. Visitors may choose to join the Two Museum Member program, which costs $45 for individuals and $75 for families and offers unlimited admission per year to both museums. Want to know more?

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homegrown } hanging by a thread

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Just Hanging Around By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Kerry Scott

Cheery, elegant linens from Mississippi hang in homes around the country and provide a little color for special occasions. Although she owns and operates a thriving firm based on sewing, Kerry Scott confessed something quite surprising, “I have no idea how to sew!” Nevertheless, Hanging By A Thread, a wholesale business located in Hernando, Mississippi, ships literally thousands of high quality household linens to gift shops nationwide. Although she is not a seamstress, Scott brings to her business – now in its 16th year – an amazing skillset. What she does know is how to operate industrial machines, produce fine work, market products, and consistently offer new, creative items for sale. Her shop hums with the background sounds of

machines sewing throughout the day. She starts preparing for Christmas in June, and that means working from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week. Her specialties include towels (tea, bath, and beach), tablecloths and napkins, makeup bags, and practically anything else that can be monogrammed or decorated via machine. “A pretty monogram never goes out of style,” said Scott, a woman of few words and lots of action. As the sole, full-time employee of Hanging, she multitasks all day long. Scott, 44, credits her business success to word of mouth. Facebook provides her only advertising. However, her page displays her excellent eye, for her photographs are striking, DeSoto 69

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well framed and positioned, and very colorful. “I come from an artistic family and have a dance background,” she said. Her dance ability carries over to the math and balance required for patterns. Scott starts with ready-made household linens on fine fabrics from China and India. She designs by computer. She types in coordinates; a pattern emerges. Scott puts the pattern on a fabric, cuts the material, and glues it on, say, a bath towel or a waffle-weave tea towel. She then secures the whole thing in a plastic hoop somewhat like a hand embroidery hoop but useable on an industrial machine. Lastly, she chooses the thread, sets more coordinates, flips a switch, and the machine starts sewing. “Although done by machine, the process is very labor intensive,” she said. “There’s no way I could do hand embroidery and make a profit.” Scott came to business ownership with lots of workplace experience. As children, she and her sister helped in their mother’s drapery business in Hernando. Scott went to college, got a job as a flight attendant, was laid off after 9/11, and returned home to Hernando. She resumed helping her mother and started experimenting with industrial machines. Her knowledge of fabrics, ribbons, finishes, designs, patterns, and cutting transitioned seamlessly from drapery to decorated linens. She exhibited at fairs. Businesses responded, and she started shipping orders. Scott has kept her customers for years. “A thank you is when they call and reorder,” she said. Watson Brooks Hall, owner of The Brooks Collection in Collierville, Tennessee, is a long-time Hanging By A Thread customer. Hall appreciates Scott’s consistent, artistic eye from thread color to the perfect ribbon. “Everything always looks great,” she said. “She’s always coming up with cute ideas.” For example, when Hall hears laughter in her store, she knows exactly where it’s coming from. “Someone’s reading Kerry’s towel, ‘This Wine Is Making Me Awesome,’” Hall chuckled. Another popular seller in Collierville is something essential for a college student’s flat, a tea towel proclaiming team loyalty like Vols Kitchen, Bulldog Kitchen, Bama Kitchen, or Rebel Kitchen. For this and other reasons, Hall gives her vendor the best kind of feedback: “We cannot keep her towels in the shop.” Smiling when hearing this praise, Scott said that while “it’s really hard work to own a business, it’s rewarding to see people using your products and very rewarding to do a good job.” Laura Patterson owns Accents Fine Home Interiors and Gifts, a 10-year-old business in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She’s been a Hanging customer for eight years. Once again, Hanging’s hand towels sell well. “A new hand towel is a quick, clean, elegant way to freshen up a kitchen or bath before guests arrive. It’s pretty, and everybody likes something with their initial on it,” Patterson said, adding that a towel sells for under $20. Seasonal gifts at Accents include Hanging’s laundry bags for graduations and beach towels for when summer starts and everybody heads to the beach or pool. Makeup bags sell year round. Scott watches changes in consumer moods. Trendy right now are the Mr & Mrs kitchen towels she monograms and individual bath towels monogrammed with His and Hers. In terms of color, customers like sand, taupe, white, and oyster. “It’s neutral tones now and gray, a lot of grays,” she said. When asked about her personal preferences, Scott had a surprising response: “I prefer hot pink and green, but most people don’t like that,” she said. “I don’t think you can get too much color. I haven’t met a bright color I didn’t like.” Want to know more?

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southern gentleman } gentlemen’s suits

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James Davis owner Van Weinberg

The Sharp-Dressed Man By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of StyleBlueprint, Malibu Clothes, and The Myer Blog

Properly fitted suits are making a cool comeback among men, and finding the right haberdasher is the key to looking sharp and feeling comfortable. Was ZZ Top right—is every girl crazy about a sharp dressed man? Just look to the likes of James Bond; the dapper, mod suits ushered in by Jon Hamm and company on Mad Men; and the cocktail-cool styles of celebrities in magazines and red carpets and you’ll find your answer: Yes. Suits are back… but not the double-breasted, brass buttoned suits of yesteryear or the boxy, burgundy getups worn by ushers at your grandmama’s church. Whip-smart suits that fit, move, look good dressed up or down, and bring a bit of Continental flair to the wearer -- that’s what’s moving today, and for good reason. When you button up your suit and when you adjust your tie, you know it too: suits are cool. Two of the South’s top haberdashers — Van Weinberg of Memphis, Tennessee’s James Davis, and Spence Abraham of Cleveland, Mississippi’s Abraham’s Clothing — offered tips on buying a new suit or refreshing a tired wardrobe. With

their guidance, you know your next purchase isn’t going to be a blazer from the department store, but a full-fledged suit from men who know style like no other. “Suit sales have been on an uptick for a while,” says Van Weinberg, owner of James Davis. “We sell plenty of sports coats — they’re easy to dress up or down — but since suit styles have shifted to a narrow, modern fit, we have more men coming in to get fitted for a proper suit.” The modern style —a slim silhouette — eschews pleated, baggy trousers and prominent shoulders for a fitted look that’s more flattering to more men. “Younger men are coming in for suits they can dress up with a tie or dress down by putting the tie away for the evening, which makes for a cool, European look,” he says. Spence Abraham, from Abraham’s Clothing, says fabric matters as much as the cut of the suit. “Wool is an excellent choice when choosing a fabric. Wool breathes during DeSoto 73

summer to keep you cool but will also keep you warm in winter.” Abraham says to look at the suit tag for terms like Super 100s or Super 150s, “that refers to the number of times the worsted wool has been twisted. Generally, the higher the number, the finer and lighter the cloth. The higher Super count will mean a smoother texture and more luxurious look. The lower the Super number, the ‘sturdier’ the cloth.” Both Abraham and Weinberg agree that solid suits are the way to go, especially for first-time suit buyers. “For first-time suit buyers, we look to something classic like a charcoal worsted wool or wool blend,” says Abraham. “Charcoal is versatile and can be accessorized to keep up with today’s trends.” “Solid colors are key,” adds Weinberg. “Today, solid colors represent about 85 percent of our suit business — we still sell chalk stripe and pinstripe suits, but solids are in demand. If you want that one suit that can go everywhere, that you can add some sizzle to with a pocket square, or a smart tie or patterned shirt, solid is the best choice.” At James Davis, hardly a suit goes out the door without a pocket square or two. Weinberg calls them the hottest accessory going and says, “everybody’s wearing one.” The slip of fabric peeking from the breast pocket adds a splash of color and contrast, accentuating the style-forward nature of the suit while adding interest for the wearer and all who look upon him. There is the question of tailoring. Not everyone has the means or needs for a custom-made suit, though both Abraham and Weinberg agree that for frequent suit wearers or those who desire particular details, custom is the way to go. “Made-to-measure suits give a guy more options in terms of fit and fabric and detail. Think of having thousands of fabrics to choose from rather than eight or 10 in an off-the-rack suit,” Weinberg says. “Custom suits also allow for accessorizing details the way you want, from pic-stitching to monogramming initials, even making functional buttons on the 74 DeSoto

Summer suit

sleeves,” says Abraham. But what about getting a custom fit from an off-the-rack suit? “Find a haberdasher like Abraham’s. We’ve been tailoring suits for decades and have the knowledge and experience to fit off-the-rack suits to make them look and fit as well as a custom,” Abraham says. “Though when you want something completely different or luxurious, custom suits are the only choice.” “Most quality men’s shops will have tailoring available in-house or through a trusted tailor,” says Weinberg. “We’re proud of our tailor shop at James Davis and we have the ability to make dozens of adjustments that will give a dapper look to a standard suit.” So, men, listen up. If you want to look good you have one choice: see an expert, get measured, and buy a suit that proves ZZ Top was right. Abraham’s Clothing Cleveland, Miss. James Davis Memphis, Tenn.

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southern harmony } singer/songwriter andrew bryant

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Doing What He Loves By Pam Windsor | Photography courtsy of Robbie Brindley

The little things in life bring songwriting success to musician Andrew Bryant.

Music has been a part of Andrew Bryant’s life for as long as he can remember. “I got interested in it when I was really young,” the Mississippi-native recalled. “My mom played piano at church and we always had a piano at my house. She was always playing.” His mother took Bryant and his sister to piano lessons, so they could play, too. But Bryant soon discovered that while he loved music and would eventually learn to play many different instruments, he needed to learn things on his own. “I was never very good at reading notes and was kind of disinterested in that side of it. So, I quit lessons, but would still sit down and play. My mother wrote down the chords to hymns and things and I just taught myself to play piano by ear.” He would do the same with an old guitar his mom had tucked away from the 70s, then later with a set of drums the preacher let him take home from a back closet of the church. “I told the preacher I knew how to play drums, but I’d never played drums before. He said take them home and practice for a week and I did. And I started playing the next week in church. I did that for years.” As a teenager growing up in Bruce, Mississippi, Bryant expanded his interests to rock and funk, and began pulling those influences together to create his own music. “I started playing in my bedroom, different instruments all the time. I got cassettes and started writing songs. I began putting the different instruments together and making these little cassette EP’s in my room.” His love for creating music continued through high school and into college and he started playing in different bands. Over the years, he continued working on music in his home studio and would self-release a collection of albums on which he played most of the instruments. He began touring as a musician and singer with a group called Water Liars. Bryant enjoyed traveling to different cities and playing for new audiences although it wasn’t always easy being away from home. During that time he also realized he missed songwriting. Bryant began working on a side solo project that would result in an album called “This is the Life.” “I think it had been three years since I’d written a song. I just kind of sat down one day and I wrote that album,” he remembered.

The album, with songs close to his heart like “Do What You love” and “It Just Takes Time” did pretty well and Bryant did a few tours to go along with it. Since then he’s continued working on solo projects and recently released his latest album called “Ain’t It Like the Cosmos?” It came out digitally and as a CD in late October, and this month will be released as a vinyl LP, available worldwide. He is reluctant to categorize or put a label on his music, but says it can probably best be described as folk rock or indie rock. “I just try to write really good songs,” he explained. “I’m influenced by country, gospel, rock, soul, and blues and I think there’s a little bit of all of that in there.” It’s an introspective album with titles like “Everything in this World,” “I Am Not My Father’s Son,” and “Robert Downey Jr.’s Scars.” It touches on everything from work to fatherhood to family, and more. “There are references I really like, such as throwing a baseball with my son, calling my mother. It’s the little things in life that are spread throughout the record that are the most meaningful to me. These things are real and make me reflect on myself and what I do in a bigger way.” That kind of reflection comes often for Bryant who does a lot of thinking about his music and his family and how to balance both. Like many musicians, especially those who have spent time on the road, there’s the ever-present question of how to do what you love and make it work. “Do I want to continue to tour 200 days a year or do I want to just work and spend time with my kids and play occasional shows? I’m still kind of asking myself that question.” For now, he’s enjoying a good combination of all of those things while living in Oxford. He’s playing shows to promote the new album, spending time with his family, and creating new music. “All I ever wanted to do is play music. I just want to write songs and play music. That makes me happy.” Want to know more?

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in good spirits} holiday punches

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Meeting the Grinch at the Mistletoe By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Punch Bowl Social

Grinch Punch, a long-standing festive favorite, has more versions than the movie, or television special or book, whose main character inspired its name. The green party punch is sometimes made with sherbet or ice cream, and also has many dairy-free versions. Here is a fairly standard recipe for the family-friendly holiday drink, along with a few variations. Experiment with proportions and ingredients -- some recipes use both pineapple juice and Hawaiian Punch, for example -to make the concoction your own. Ingredients

1 liter ginger ale or lemon-lime soda ½ gallon pineapple juice or Hawaiian Punch Green Berry Rush 5 (or more) scoops vanilla ice cream or lime sherbet Garnish Red or green colored sugar Directions - Add ingredients to a punch bowl in order and stir. Pour colored sugar into a shallow dish. Dampen the rims of clear glasses or cups and dip them in the colored sugar to coat. Ladle Grinch Punch in each glass to serve. You can offer adult guests a more posh -- and potent -- punch if you mix up a batch of Mistletoe, created by Katy Guido, from the bar, restaurant and entertainment chain Punch Bowl Social. Her Mistletoe Punch blends two types of Jack Daniel’s with tea, cranberry shrub and other fruit flavors. “I’m a whiskey and Scotch drinking girl, so when I get the chance to experiment I normally start there. Jack Daniel’s Honey has such a strong flavor alone and tends to overpower other flavors by making the drink too sweet,” Guido said. “I found the balance by using Jack Daniel’s [Old No. 7] Tennessee Whiskey and McClary’s Michigan Cranberry shrub as well as

our house-made pear syrup. Mistletoe was kind of a beautiful accident really, just like finding yourself under a mistletoe.” Mistletoe Punch from Punch Bowl Social Four-Person-Serving Ingredients

4 ounces Jack Daniel’s 3 ounces Jack Daniel’s Honey 3 ounces Teakoe’s Kodiak Mountain Mint Tea 3 ounces pear syrup 1 ounce McClary Bros. Michigan Cranberry shrub 1 ounce fresh lime juice Garnish Mint Luxardo cherries How To Make Pear Syrup - Dice up a ripe Bosc pear and simmer in 2 cups of simple syrup for 15 minutes. Strain off fruit and set aside to chill. Directions - Build ingredients in two small tins by dividing them equally and pouring them in each tin in order. Shake vigorously for 7 seconds and strain into a medium-sized punch bowl. Add ice. Garnish with Luxardo cherries and mint sprigs arranged like mistletoe. Teakoe’s Kodiak Mountain Mint Tea, Luxardo brand maraschino cherries and McClary Bros. Michigan Cranberry shrub, also known as drinking vinegar, are all available online.

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exploring events } december Christmas Parades:

December 1 Iuka, MS Tupelo, MS Greenwood, MS Collierville, TN December 2 Tishomingo, MS Corinth, MS Olive Branch, MS Vicksburg, MS Como, MS Holly Springs, MS Grenada, MS Memphis, TN December 4 Senatobia, MS Pontotoc, MS Columbus, MS Oxford, MS Hernando, MS Burnsville, MS December 5 Batesville, MS December 12 Sardis, MS

Panola Playhouse Presents “Elf Jr. The Musical” Through December 3 Panola Playhouse Sardis, MS Directed by Lauren Suddoth. For more information visit or call 662-487-3975. The Phantom of the Opera Through December 10 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera will return to Memphis as part of its North American Tour. For more information and tickets visit or call 901-525-3000. Cookies & Milk with Santa Through December 17 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS Between 1:00pm-5:00pm, Nov 24-26, Dec 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17 you can visit with Santa and have your picture taken, while enjoying light refreshments that include farm fresh donuts, cookies, chocolate & white milk, coffee, tea and water. Cost is $9.95 (+ tax) per person to visit with Santa. Price also includes admission to the petting zoo, train ride, chicken show, play areas and hayride. For more information, call 662-429-2540 or visit

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Merry Christmas Tree Farm Through December 24 Nesbit, MS Merry Christmas Tree Farm is the number one tree farm in the Mid-South, with a huge selection of Christmas trees in a variety of sizes. Take a free hayride into the tree farm during the holidays and choose and cut your favorite tree or it can be cut for you. For easier handling, trees are netted at no extra charge. Pre-cut trees also available. For more information, call 662-429-2773 or 662-429-9462 or visit Southern Lights Through December 31 Central Park Southaven, MS Drive through the 116-acre park with 500,000 twinkling lights. Cars can tune to five FM radio stations playing Christmas music as they ride through the park. Don’t miss the Christmas Tree Farm synchronized to music by TransSiberian Orchestra. Proceeds benefits local charities. Open weekdays dark until 9pm & weekends dark until 10pm. Closed Christmas Day. Admission: cars $10, vans & hay rides $15, buses $25 and motorcycles $5. For more information, visit or call Southaven Parks & Recreation at 662-280-2489. 50 Nights of Lights Through December 31 Downtown Cleveland, MS 4:00pm - 11:30pm Drive or walk through the beautiful holiday lights and themes by blocks in downtown Cleveland. This new annual colorful event will be the perfect addition to your holiday shopping or light viewing trip! For more information call 662-843-2712 or visit Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees Through December 31 Pink Palace Museum Memphis, TN Children of all ages will be charmed by the animated characters set in the magical snowy setting of Enchanted Forest. For more information, visit or call 901-636-2362. DeSoto Family Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol, The Musical” December 1 - 10 Landers Center Southaven, MS Tickets are $15-$30. Purchase tickets at LANDERS Center box office 662-470-2131 or Christmas in the Valley December 1 Water Valley, MS 5:30pm - 8:00pm Festive night of Shopping, Carriage Rides, Entertainment, Frosty the Snowman, Food and Dining. Sponsored by the Water Valley Chamber of Commerce. For more information call 662-473-1122

Tracks of Generals December 2 Holly Springs Depot Holly Springs, MS 10:00am - 5:00pm Learn about the raid that stopped the Union landinvasion to Vicksburg in December 1862 and, thus, delayed the end of the war by many months. Tour the Depot grounds and the Square. Admission is $10 at the door or $5 as part of the Marshall County Historical Museum Holiday Home Tour 2017. For more information visit

59th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl December 30 Liberty Bowl Stadium Memphis, TN 11:30am Celebrate the patriotic spirit of America at the 59th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl, as two of the country’s best teams “Battle for the Bell.” The game will be nationally televised on ABC. You will be entertained by a spectacular halftime show. To order tickets, call the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 901-795-7700, email or visit

Hernando’s Annual Cookies with Santa December 3 Gale Community Center Hernando, MS 2:00pm - 5:00pm Bring your children to have their picture made with Santa and enjoy cookies, crafts and more. Admission $3, children 12 and under are free. For more information, call Hernando Parks and Recreation 662-429-2688 or visit

New Year’s Eve at Bonne Terre Country Inn December 31 Bonne Terre Nesbit, MS 4:30pm - Midnight Enjoy a delicious dinner in the Garden Room. Book a room in the Bed and Breakfast and wake up to 2018 with a BIG country breakfast! For more information or to make reservations call 662-781-5100 or visit

The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Celebration Tour December 9 Gold Strike Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:00pm For tickets visit or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Dickens on the Square December 9 Covington, TN 10:00am - 7:00pm Shopping, refreshments, carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides and lighting of the community Christmas tree at 7:00pm on the courthouse lawn. For more information call 901-476-9727 or visit

Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees

Author event with Robert St. John and Wyatt Waters: “A Mississippi Palate” December 12 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 5:30pm Chef, restaurateur, and author Robert St. John and watercolorist Wyatt Waters return to Greenwood to present their latest collaboration, A MISSISSIPPI PALATE: HERITAGE CUISINE AND WATERCOLORS OF HOME. For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit The Oak Ridge Boys

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reflections} the not-so-perfect “perfect” tree

The Not-So-Perfect “Perfect” Tree By Cathey Frei

The best holiday decorations are not always picture-perfect, but creating special memories last a lifetime. Each year right after Thanksgiving, my family piled into our station wagon and headed from Memphis to our grandmother’s farm in Independence, Mississippi, on a quest for the perfect Christmas tree. Coveys of quail, their wings fluttering furiously, sprang from the tall winter grass to escape our little army—five sisters, our parents, and our grandmother—tromping through the fields to find a cedar that was “just right.” It usually took the sun setting and our toes freezing to agree on one all eight of us liked. Daddy, then, whacked the trunk of the chosen tree near the ground and handed the ax to each of us so we could participate. After finding other trees for our grandmother and special friends, we’d drag them back to my grandmother’s and warm up with her homemade vegetable soup. When we finished decorating her tree, we tied the others to our luggage rack and headed home, delivering the extras along the way. There was nothing quite like that dramatic moment when we carried our own tree into our house and raised it in its stand in front of the window, turning it several times until its “good side” faced us. Then we’d lie on our stomachs, adjusting the stand’s screws, until our tree stood straight. We’d slowly let go, hoping it wouldn’t topple over, which often involved tying it to the window latches. There our tree stood in all its majesty. To anyone else, it probably would have appeared pathetic. The lower branches creating its beautiful shape out in the wild were strewn about 82 DeSoto

our driveway so it would fit in its stand without touching the ceiling. But it was the tree we’d found, cut down, and brought home, and to us, it was perfect. As the festive aroma of fresh cedar permeated our house, we hung colorful bubble lights, glass ornaments, and tinsel on the branches. Then we positioned on the top the special aluminum star our parents bought for their very first Christmas, when our dad was in the Army during World War II. Standing back, we admired what we thought was the most beautiful tree ever. We used the cedar branches from our driveway to decorate our Styrofoam musical church that played “Silent Night;” our miniature ice-skaters gliding on a mirror, centered on cotton-batting “snow;” and the mantel, where we hung our stockings. They even surrounded the Nativity scene, also from our parents’ first Christmas together. Each of us had a different opinion about how the shepherds, wise men, camels, lambs, cow, and donkey should be arranged, so they were in different places each day. But Joseph, Mary, and “Baby Jesus,” with the angel hanging over them, always remained in the center, a humbling reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. We loved every one of those trees. And as the carols of Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby filled the room, we always felt our not-so-perfect tree was about as perfect as it could be.

Cathey Frei is a freelance writer who now lives in Vienna, Virginia.

DeSoto Magazine December 2016  

Christmas spirit, wishes and the joy of the holiday season.

DeSoto Magazine December 2016  

Christmas spirit, wishes and the joy of the holiday season.