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CONTENTS 2017 • VOLUME 14 • NO. 5

features 48 Standing Still Elmwood’s sculptural graveside art

60 Hotel Bentley Louisiana’s beaux art beauty

54 The Saenger Theaters Get to know the South’s cherished venues

departments 14 Living Well Fun runs in the South

42 On the Road Again Grenada, Mississippi

18 Notables Meet Water Valley’s Mr. Mickey

46 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown When rocks are more than art

22 Exploring Art DeSoto Courthouse murals

70 Southern Gentleman New toys for water boys

26 Exploring Books Unraveling the mystery of Kate

74 Southern Harmony Memphis Blues Foundation

30 Into the Wild The cypress of Sky Lake Preserve

76 In Good Spirits Gone Coco Loco

34 Table Talk Tunica’s Cafe Marie still a favorite

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Auraria, Georgia’s golden past


80 Reflections Tangles and Plaques



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editor’s note } may Artful Moments

When an artist begins to dissect a project or thought, I believe that process is inherently tied to space or place. After I read Devin’s piece about the sculptures at Elmwood and hearing the photographerin-residence’s own perspective, I dwelled more on this idea about how our spaces motivate—or even demotivate. Art is intrinsic in everything around us. But for the more right-brain viewer, maybe it takes more concrete— literally—objects for connections. As we move through the pages of this art and architecture issue, you’ll discover art in the most unusual of places. Like a rock. Who would have thought painted rocks could galvanize the secret kindnesses of a city? Or at Sky Lake, a Delta swamp north of Belzoni where the largest cypress trees on the planet live right here in Mississippi. Standing next to one can make even the most arrogant feel rather insignificant under nature’s looming architectural canopy. Andrea spent time in the Hernando, Miss. courthouse where she uncovered the real story behind the murals many of us have passed repeatedly. Read the fascinating story about how these were actually moved there! Who would have thought… New contributor Warren Johnson introduced us to a fascinating historical story about Auraria, Georgia which is nothing more than a collection of forlorn wooden buildings. But wait until you read his story on page 38. When we drive by these forgotten places,

MAY 2017 • Vol. 14 No.5

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell EDITOR-AT-LARGE Karen Ott Mayer ASSISTANT EDITOR Andrea Brown Ross little do many of us realize the large influence of the structures and people. Time moves on while we humans believe we can capture it in a bottle and that our generation is the most significant. How wrong we actually are. It’s only those who protect the past for future generations that hold the real power. How can I sign off without harassing my favorite preservationist and change maker, Mr. Mickey Howley down in Water Valley? Mickey and his crew of artists, entrpreneurs and young visionaries have transformed downtown Water Valley. He is our Notable. Hats off to all the good work he has led in Mississippi. Save an artifact or go to a museum. Meanwhile, our pages will record this moment in May.

Until June!


CONTRIBUTORS Debra Pamplin Chere Coen J. Eric Eckard Andrea Brown Ross Kathryn Winter Jeanni Brosius James Richardson Warren Johnson Robin Gallaher Branch Jim Shettles Devin Greaney Susan Cushman PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 Fax 662.449.5813 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Get social with us!

on the cover This month our cover features one of the many magnificent statues in Elwood Cemetery. Historic Elmwood Cemetery is the oldest active cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. It was established in 1852 as one of the first rural garden cemeteries in the South. Read more on page 48.

Cover photography by Kent Fleshman

©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 }

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fun runs Dopey Challenge

Krispy Kreme Challenge

Run for the Fun of it!

Zombies, Disney characters and doughnuts dominate fun runs Story and photography by J. Eric Eckard

For every runner who annoys people with their constant posts about running, there are just as many run haters who wouldn’t pick up the pace unless a bear was chasing them. But running has been known to improve health, and foot races often are a way to generate revenue and awareness for charities and causes. So race organizers across the country have developed events that add a little fun to running. Here, we’ve chosen our favorite odd runs to either get you off the couch or reinspire your feet.

Krispy Kreme Challenge – Raleigh, N.C. Mmmm, doughnuts. If that’s your mantra, then maybe this race is the one for you. While it’s mostly frowned up when you scarf down a dozen doughnuts at one sitting, in this case, it’s encouraged. The challenge: Run 2.5 miles, stop, eat a DeSoto 17

Cupid’s Undie Run

dozen doughnuts, run another 2.5 miles – all in less than an hour. That’s 2,400 calories in doughnuts and five miles of running. Runners can opt out of the doughnut challenge and still participate, but what fun is that? The challenge started small by Chris Arbonies and about 10 friends. But it’s been around for more than a dozen years now, and more than 74,000 people have participated in the event, eating 884,784 doughnuts since its inception. Typically held in February, the Krispy Kreme Challenge raises money for the UNC Children’s Hospital. To date, more than $1.35 million has been donated to the hospital. Zombie Run – Gulfport, Miss., and other locations Touted as the original zombie-infested 5K, the Zombie Run is held each year in Gulfport, Miss., Atlanta and Nashville. These Zombie Runs take their cues from flag football, as each runner is equipped with a belt that carries multiple flags that represent your health. Make it to the finish line with at least one health flag, and you receive a Survivor medal. Lose all your flags to the walking dead, and you receive an Infested medal. Stumbler zombies will try stumbling their way to grabbing flags, but chaser zombies will chase runners down during the race. Running through water, buildings and tunnels allow the zombies to get pretty close, but physical contact between runner and zombie is prohibited, other than flag grabbing. If you don’t want to be a runner, you can always sign up to be a zombie. For a fee, you can sit in the makeup chair and get transformed into one of the living dead before setting off after the runners’ brains – I mean flags. 18 DeSoto

Cupid’s Undie Run – Nashville, Tenn., and other locations There was a time when running around outside in your skivvies might get you arrested. But in about 40 cities across the United States, jogging through the streets in your underwear is just another way to get people motivated about running. Held annually in February throughout the country, the events raise money for The Children’s Tumor Foundation and neurofibromatosis research. The first Undie Run was held in 2010, and 600 runners helped raise $10,000. Since then, thousands of participants have stripped down for the (about) one mile fun run and helped raise more than $14 million for the foundation and research. Because those afflicted with neurofibromatosis can’t hide their tumors, race organizers decided to hold a come-asyou-are event to show that there’s no need to cover up regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. Running nearly naked can be a challenge – especially during wintertime in places like Cleveland and Boston. But organizers encourage tasteful thoughts when deciding on a wardrobe. Sports bras for the ladies and boxer briefs for the men are common. Hatfields and McCoys Marathon – Williamson, W.V. Pick a side in this famous family feud themed race held annually in June in the mountain region along the West Virginia-Kentucky border. Pre-race activities include photo ops with “Devil Anse” Hatfield and “Ole Ran’l” McCoy, the patriarchs of the families that sparked a feud in the late 1800s that gained international attention.

Runners can choose from a 5K, two choices of a half marathon and a full marathon. Runners also can run a double half marathon, finishing one of the half marathons in less than three hours and then doing the other half. Ranked in the top 15 hardest marathons due to the elevation, the 26.2-mile race winds through the Appalachian Mountains in both West Virginia and Kentucky. Along the race route, runners pass by many of the feud sites and are greeted by jug-sipping onlookers, playing a little mountain music and some of the world’s smallest horses along the way. Runners truly do pick a side. You’ll be designated as a true Hatfield or a real McCoy. Times will be averaged, and one clan will win bragging rights. Dopey Challenge – Orlando, Fla. For those dopey enough to try, this event challenges runners to complete a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon on consecutive days. Those who finish all four races – 48.6 miles – will receive six medals: one for each race, one for the Goofy Challenge (running the half and full marathons) and the Dopey medal, for running all four races. Running through the parks allows participants to stop for photo ops along the way, and characters are out to make the races more memorable. You’ll pass Mickey and Minnie; Snow White and the Dwarfs; Baloo and Louie; the Incredibles; and so many more of your Disney favorites. Although the parks are huge, you won’t be running in them for the entire race. Running can be fun. But if doughnuts, or zombies, or near nudity, or shotgun-toting hillbillies, or Mickey Mouse don’t get your juices flowing, what will?

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notables } mickey howley

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The Valley’s own Mickey By Kathryn Winter. Photography courtesy of Mickey Howley

Mickey Howley, director of the Water Valley Main Street Association, is redefining “the Valley” with the help of a few friends. A large presence, both literally and figuratively, his early vision and leadership took Water Valley to new heights. “Water Valley is a sweet town. I’m not saying it’s a fairy tale town, but it’s a town that still has a solid lay out. It hasn’t turned into a suburban sprawl. There was a time-period when it was hurting a little bit, but it never fell on desperate times,” Howley said.  Water Valley was built as a railroad town, one that had a large railroad yard that serviced engines coming from Chicago to New Orleans. The last train ran through the town in 1984,

although according to Howley, some people still think of it as a railroad town. “Same with Oxford, North Mississippi is really a development of railroads and railroad towns, most developed after the Civil War. There is a railroad museum in Water Valley. The town is laid out in North to South fashion, downtown being built at the bottom of the valley and closest to the tracks.” He notes how the architecture even tells a story. DeSoto 21

“Illinois Central Railroad brought in a lot of northern carpenters who were mainly of Scandinavian descent and who built the houses in the Valley. The houses here have very steep roofs, because Scandinavians thought they needed steep roofs to keep the snow away.” Howley, originally from New Orleans, moved to Oxford in 1999 when his wife accepted a job with the University of Mississippi. They lived in Oxford for a few years, looking at surrounding towns because the couple likes older houses. “We’re preservationists. We like to fix up older homes,” Howley said. In 2005, the Howley’s bought an old building. Because his wife had seven years experience working in an art gallery in New Orleans on Magazine Street, soon the couple created Bozart’s art gallery and it opened on Main Street. Today, the gallery features art work from 15 different regional artists, half living in Water Valley, and the other half from surrounding counties. “The name is a pun on the French term beaux art,” Howley said. “We try to have fun- we host a lot of events in the gallery. My philosophy is have an event and introduce a good bit of fun and people will come back. The appeal of the art 22 DeSoto

scene here is there are three galleries in town now. Once a year we have an art crawl, people come to town get a map and go to galleries and see in house studios.” Attendees actually walk in neighborhoods and go in houses and see where the artists really create their work. In the past they have had anywhere from 13 to 17 stops in the crawl within a three-hour window. It is a free, walkable event held on a Saturday in October. Revitalization started with the commercial section of downtown on Mainstreet, according to Howley. “We’ve had good luck with a fair amount of people who purchased old buildings and houses and brought them up to good condition. We’re actually running out of old buildings to fix up, which is a good thing, but what we’re doing now is focusing on a shift to education and creativity.” One plan to boost creativity is to develop a software coaching academy for people who live in the area, but aimed towards kids outside of high school. “The hope is that we can provide education and skill set learning even in small places like Water Valley. It’s all part of the bigger picture. We’re also going

to take an old high school and turn it into an art school. We’re trying to create a good quality of life and make it better for everyone who lives here.” Jim Dees, host of Thacker Mountain Radio, once called Water Valley “our Brooklyn” and Howley takes that as a very high compliment. “All small towns are different from each other. Actually all cities are different. Whether New York or Coffeeville, they all have different personalities, some commonalities, but each town has individuality.” Mickey’s own enthusiasm and joie de vivre has inspired many others. “It’s more than architecture, it’s small enough where you know everyone, or about everyone, big enough to have a bank, hospital, newspaper, galleries, brewery and restaurants. We work really hard to make this town livable for everyone.” Another way he’s improving Water Valley is by traveling to other places and seeing what they’re doing. If it’s a place that seems interesting, Howley envisions it as a possibility for Water Valley. “Look at other places and see how they’re doing and where they’re going, not steal ideas, but understand the philosophy behind it. Every time I come back I’m always happy to come back, I don’t ever get the blues here. People are happy and have a positive attitude- a very solid attitude about who we are and what we’re doing. That and the work which is very satisfying is what keeps me going everyday.”

“We’re actually running out of old buildings to fix up, which is a good thing, but what we’re doing now is focusing on a shift to education and creativity.” Mickey Howley DeSoto 23

exploring art } desoto courthouse murals

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Canvasing History DeSoto County courthouse murals hold a storied past By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography courtesy of Adam Mitchell

Sometimes beauty is found in the most unexpected places. Undoubtedly, the South is dotted with courthouses in charming small town squares. But in Hernando, Miss., the county seat of DeSoto County, it’s what’s on the inside of their courthouse walls that mesmerizes visitors. Four 15-foot tall canvas murals depicting Hernando de Soto’s discovery of the Mississippi River adorn the rotunda. Three other smaller murals of French explorers can be found in the main courtroom and second floor of the courthouse. DeSoto 25

Brian Hicks, museum director of the DeSoto County Museum, shared the intriguing history behind the murals whose journey may be considered as arduous as the explorers depicted in them. And true to life, not all the murals have survived. The journey begins around the turn of the 20th century with a Memphis landmark, the luxurious Gayoso hotel. The Gayoso was constructed in 1842. According to Blythe Semmer of the Metropolitan Nashville Historical Commission, “The Gayoso House became a Memphis landmark, an oasis of modern luxury frequented by travelers passing through the city by river, road, or rail. With its own waterworks, gasworks, bakeries, wine cellar, and sewer system, the hotel offered amenities far beyond those available to the rest of Memphis. The indoor plumbing included marble tubs and silver faucets as well as flush toilets.” Another distinct touch was the wrought iron balconies from which guests could enjoy commanding views of the Mississippi River.. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the Gayoso years later yet left the murals unscathed. After the Gayoso burned on July 4, 1899, new plans were made to replace it. “In 1903, New Yorker, Newton Alonzo Wells, was commissioned to paint a series of nine murals for the Gayoso hotel. The murals were to depict de Soto’s discovery of the lower part of the Mississippi River, along with French explorers Bienville, Marquette and Joliet Arleen, and D’Iberville who had been in this area,” explained Hicks. Perhaps a lesser known artist in today’s world, Wells was an accomplished artist in his own right. Born in 1852, Wells studied art at Syracuse University obtaining a Master of Fine Arts in Painting. He would go on to hold various positions at colleges and universities until his retirement as Professor 26 DeSoto

Emeritus from the University of Illinois in 1919. During his lifetime, he traveled the United States and Europe exhibiting his work. And like de Soto, he too, died while traveling abroad in 1923. Hicks elaborated on the significance of Wells work, specifically the murals. “What’s so special, not only on a local level but state, and even national level, is that these pieces pre-date World War II. Large size murals from that time are rare finds. It’s very likely they are the first large murals in the Southeast created during that time period,” he said. The Goldsmith family eventually purchased the Gayoso hotel in 1952. Knowing the Goldsmith family had renovation and expansion plans in mind for their department store, J.B. Bell, the mayor of Hernando, and J. F. Russum, school superintendent, approached the Goldsmiths with an offer to purchase the murals for the courthouse. The Goldsmith family decided to donate the murals to DeSoto County. Hicks explained the next step of the journey. “Plans were made to take a truck up to the hotel. They went inside and literally ripped the canvases off the wall in strips three feet long. They rolled them up, put in the truck, and headed back south,” he said. Upon arrival back at the courthouse, only eight of the nine canvases made it. Was it stolen? Did it blow out of the back of the truck? The mural of D’Iberville remains a mystery to this day. After five months and $1500, the murals were displayed in the courthouse with some attempts at touching up the paintings. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the lack of air

conditioning, courthouse windows being left open, and people smoking inside the building, the canvases were due for a touch up. The county spent $11,000 having the paintings once again touched up. This time the touch up included a layer of varnish over the paintings. And another mystery unfolded. During the 1950s, one of the murals was deemed inappropriate for women’s eyes and was not displayed. Depicting de Soto’s battle with Chief Tuskaloosa, the bloodshed in the mural was later deemed acceptable for public eye in the 1970s. Recalling that the mural had been stored in the courthouse attic, Bell went to retrieve it. However, it was nowhere to be found. Had it been stolen? Disposed of ? Like the other mural, it remains a mystery. In 2003, the county spent $30,000 to have the murals restored by an expert in art restoration. “Not only were they able to remove the varnish, but also uncover details that been covered up by the previous touch ups,” shared Hicks. Hicks also had an opportunity in 2003 to show the Goldsmith family the murals. “They had always heard about their grandfather’s donation, but they hadn’t seen them with their own eyes. When they walked in, it seemed they were taken aback, almost in awe. They seemed really touched by how much his donation has meant to our community.” “It’s amazing to hear people share that they can remember going to the Gayoso as a child, or they remember the Goldsmith’s location downtown. These murals have really meant a lot to people through the years,” Hicks shared. To learn more about organized tour groups, visit Or, view the murals during courthouse operational hours. According to Hicks, the bailiffs are typically accommodating in directing visitors to all the murals. DeSoto 27

exploring books} the artist’s sketch

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The Artist’s Sketch Kate Freeman Clark By Kathryn Winter. Photography courtesy of University Press

A forgotten painter from Holly Springs, Kate Freeman Clark, put her paint brush down at the peak of her career. As with certain artists, their work is not recognized until after their death. Clark’s story comes to life in the new book by Carolyn J. Brown, “The Artist’s Sketch: A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark”. It was not until after Freeman’s death that citizens ever discovered she was a painter of considerable stature. Why was the artist so elusive? Brown’s biography is the only complete biography to be written about Clark’s life and she combed over her journals, letters, book and paintings to put it together. Brown’s hope is that “The Artist’s Sketch” will shine a light on Clark, finally bringing her name out of obscurity. Clark studied art in New York and took classes with some of the greatest American artists in her time. She spent six summers learning and studying at Shinnecock Summer School of Art in Long Island, mastering the plein air technique. Her beloved mentor, William Merritt Chase recognized her as “his most talented pupil.” Although she lived in New York studying art, it was hardly a glamorous life for her. She is known as a landscapist, but she painted in a lot of styles and genres including beautiful portraits, still life, watercolors and abstract and urban scenes later in her life. Clark often signed her work as “Freeman Clark” or

“K. Freeman Clark” so that her gender was not immediately apparent. Her mother didn’t think it was lady-like to be an artist, and the rest of her family is known to have been against her career. One uncle even wrote her, that she should not partake “in spheres of life which belong to men.” In 1924 Clark gave up her career after immense sadness from the loss of her teacher, Chase in 1916, followed by the deaths of her grandmother and mother in a quick sequence. She decided to move home to Holly Springs, closing the door on her 20-year career as an artist. Clark never returned to New York and never picked up a paintbrush again. Instead she embraced the life of a southern lady, joining various clubs and organizations, keeping her busy within the Holly Springs community. She never married and died at age 81. Her decision not to work again after returning home is history in itself-as this was a time in our country that women were just beginning to be accepted into the arts. Brown’s book is an art book, not a coffee table book. Brown said the best compliment she can receive is that “I spent a few hours reading the book and now I learned something. My hope for Kate Freeman Clark is that you get a sense of her life.” DeSoto 29

“She left all these journals-I went through all these letters and journals, I went through as much as I could, and the fact that she kept these journals for the majority of her life is amazing. She lived through important historical events like World War I, went to art school with famous American impressionists at the time, painted along side some famous artists. Her work was equal to these painters, but she held back, didn’t sell her work or exhibit it, and if she did she used a different name. Her work never received the attention it deserved,” Brown said. “I found no evidence that she ever picked up a paintbrush again after she moved back to her hometown, and not surprisingly, a new generation of Holly Springs citizens had no idea she had ever been such an accomplished painter.” It was not until after her death in 1957 and her will was read that it was discovered she left the city of Holly Springs her enormous collection of paintings and the funds to build a small gallery. The community was absolutely astonished when a truck delivered over 1,000 paintings to the Bank of Holly Springs! These paintings had been in storage in New York City for over 30 years.”

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Ironically, her grandmother was the one who maintained a connection to Mississippi, one that enabled Clark to return home. Kate loved both her family and her art. When she lost both, she went home. The Kate Freeman Art Gallery is today what she wanted-- a museum of fine and social arts. Brown is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. She has written two biographies before- “A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty”, and “Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker”. “I have always loved art and as an undergraduate at Duke University I took several art history classes. I discovered Kate Freeman Clark in Patti Carr Black’s seminal book, Art in Mississippi 1720-1980. The entry on Clark was brief, but was enough to arouse my curiosity and incite me to research her further. I traveled to Holly Springs to see what was there, and to my surprise there was a treasure trove of materials from which to write her life story. The majority of my research took place on one street in Holly Springs: College Avenue, home to both the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery, and the Marshall County Historical Museum. The two institutions that, since Clark’s death, work hard to keep Kate Freeman Clark’s legacy alive.”

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into the wild } sky lake

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Giants By Jeanni Brosius. Photography courtesy of Wildlife Mississippi and

Meandering through a trail at Sky Lake, just north of Belzoni, Mississippi visitors get an intimate view of massive moss-draped cypress trees that tower overhead as their knees protrude from the swampy water beneath canoes and kayaks. This ancient land was once home to humans as many as 6,500 years ago. There is something remarkable about being in the presence of natural greatness. Many family vacations have been planned around California’s giant redwoods and sequoias, but Mississippi lays claim to having the largest and oldest bald cypress trees in the world at Sky Lake. “It’s such a unique situation,” said Alyene Boyles of Wildlife Mississippi. “I live three hours away, and I encourage my friends who live around here to go on a day trip to see it. It’s worth the drive and definitely not something you see every day.”

An abandoned channel of the Mississippi River, Sky Lake is thought to have been occupied by Native Americans more than 6,000 years ago. Sky Lake is an oxbow lake, and the backwater ecosystem of the lake is saturated with ancient bald cypress and water tupelo trees. Ecosystems such as this, produce habitats for many plants and wildlife. Migrating birds, such as shorebirds and neotropical song birds, ducks and geese are often seen flying overhead. There may be some alligators, turtles and frogs along the path as well. Be sure to bring mosquito repellant before you venture out for a stroll. DeSoto 33

To make it easier for people to visit, a 1,735-foot-long Sky Lake boardwalk was constructed 12 feet above the swamp and through the forest. The more than $1 million project took six years to complete, and includes an amphitheater, comfort station, walking path and pavilion. Cummins said there is also a kayak and canoe trail, so visitors can get an up close view of the magnificent old trees in their natural habitat as they meander through several miles of water. The best time to paddle the 2.6 mile trail is when water levels are the highest, from late fall to early summer. Interpretive signs placed along the boardwalk tell particular facts about the lake, trees and ecology of the wetlands and backwater swamps. Signs also provide details about Native Americans and other relevant information about the area. The project has been a cooperative effort by Wildlife Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, the Federal Highway Administration, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board and private donors. Although camping is not allowed, limited hunting permits are issued for deer, turkey, rabbit, dove and raccoons. There is also access and special use permits available for hunters with disabilities. “About 15 years ago, we were made aware of the tract, and the land owner wanted to see it preserved,” said James Cummins, executive director Wildlife Mississippi. “It’s the largest stand of cypress on the planet, and it’s under perpetual protection. Some trees are almost 2,000 years old.” Cummins said landowners Mark and Peggy Simmons realized what they had and the importance of preserving the beautiful old cypress trees, especially when they learned that they were the oldest-known living trees in Eastern North America. During the field inspections, Dr. David Stahle, director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at the University of Arkansas, determined that Sky Lake contained some of the largest and oldest bald cypress trees on earth, giving them international 34 DeSoto

scientific significance. The core piece of property obtained from the Simmons was 773 acres, but now as part of the Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA), it comprises almost 3,500 acres of protected land. “When people see it, they are totally amazed that this exists in Mississippi,� Cummins said. Cummins said visitors from 50 countries, 48 states and most counties in Mississippi have come to Sky Lake to see the trees. By preserving the backwater area, it helps reduce the risk of flooding when the water levels fluctuate throughout the year. The cypress trees help lower the water table. Learn what Mississippians have always known, and plan a trip to walk along the beautiful, ancient Sky Lake among the quiet giants. For more information and directions to Sky Lake, visit

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table talk } cafĂŠ marie

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Tunica’s Favorite


By Robin Gallaher Branch. Photography courtesy of Eddie McGregor

Eddie McGregor, a self-styled Yankee who lived in New York for decades, visited Tunica, Mississippi, in the 1990s. The visit changed his life. Not only did it lead to a relocation but also to a redirection of talents and time. McGregor, 51, is now the chef of Café Marie, an upscale yet community-friendly restaurant in Tunica’s historic Hotel Marie.

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“When I came to Tunica, I fell in love with the property, the Hotel Marie,” said Eddie Mac, as he is known and prefers to be called. The two-story, 12,000-square-foot red brick hotel is 100 years old and is on Mississippi’s historic register. The ground floor is the restaurant and bar. Upstairs are four apartments and nine hotel rooms; five of the hotel rooms are renovated. In the café, abstract paintings go well on one brick wall as do photos of the Delta, the work of a local artist, on another. Distinguishing features throughout are exposed old brick and 16-foot ceilings. “The hotel is the centerpiece of downtown. It’s been restored to its original purposes—a café and a hotel,” said Lyn Arnold, president and CEO of the Tunica Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation. When asked if she dines frequently at Café Marie, she answered, “Of course.” She described the hotel and café as “a hidden jewel”; its friendly atmosphere reminds her of Cheers, the classic TV sitcom Guests from overseas, from places like Belgium and France, sign the register, having rented rooms via Air B&B. “They do the Delta and the Blues Tour,” Eddie Mac said. Because of the hotel’s long heritage, plenty of stories surround it. Over the years it served as a liquor store, an adult38 DeSoto

care facility, some sort of storage area for the cotton exchange next door, and, yes, even a bordello. Consequently, it’s possible that the property has a ghost or two. Eddie Mac mentioned an odd experience one early morning when he was alone in the locked building. The paned doors to the bar area opened; he thought it was his manager and shouted hello to her; no response. He investigated and nobody was there. Other doors that normally required exertion and routinely scraped the floor started swinging. “You have to push pretty hard to get those doors opened and closed. And there was no sound, no sound at all. It happened in broad daylight. My hair stood up,” Eddie Mac said. “It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced.” A guest mentioned something along those lines, too. He emptied his pockets and left coins in disarray on a desk while he went into the bathroom. “He came back and they were arranged in order by size,” Eddie Mac said. When it comes to the food, however, there’s no mystery. Diners enjoy steak, seafood, burgers, and pasta in a relaxed, old-school setting. A friend and frequent diner is Beth Dickerson. “The food is good. The prices are affordable. The meat is as good as it gets. Eddie Mac cooks the steaks well,” she said.

She and her family like Café Marie’s atmosphere. “Eddie Mac has worked hard to make it more than a bar. He wants everybody to feel comfortable,” she said. One feature attracting families is Monday’s game night. Eddie Mac offers a meal for $5 a plate. Plenty of table games are stacked nearby. “I want this to be a community place,” he said. “A family can eat at Café Marie for less than it costs at a drive-thru and can stay and play games.” When asked about his background, Eddie Mac laughed and called it the schoolof-hard knocks. He described himself as taking after his small Italian mother. His father and brothers all measure over six feet, but he is 5-foot 6-inches tall and of average build. He is married and has four adult children. “I have no formal cooking training. So I will do some things other chefs don’t try. I’m willing to take chances. Sometimes I get really lucky and it just works out,” he said. Ar nold mentioned the fun monthly wine tasting parties. Eddie Mac acknowledged that one of the greatest things about almost any wine (except a really sweet wine) is that “if you add chocolate to it, you’ll have a home run.” He remembers doing a lot with eggplant. One dessert was a roasted Japanese eggplant crème brulee. “I don’t see other chefs doing that. And it was absolutely fabulous,” he said. With a nod to his Italian mother, Eddie Mac has ravioli dishes—shrimp, salmon, tuna. He also likes egg rolls. One new offering is a crawfish royale with corn and cabbage. “People love it,” he said. Another winner is a spicy pecan covered with dark chocolate. “You can’t go wrong with it!” he exclaimed. Café Marie favorites are fillets and rib eyes. “I believe with every fiber of my being that we have the best center cut of tenderloin out there. I’ve spent a lot of time finding it,” he said. Eddie Mac often comes from the kitchen in an apron and greets his guests. “I like going out to people and telling them hello. I like hugging people,” he said. Dickerson added, “He offers to say a blessing if you want one.”

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exploring destinations } auraria, georgia

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Georgia Gold By Warren R. Johnson. Photography courtesy of Warren R. Johnson and New Georgia Encyclopedia

The words gold digging and Georgia aren’t often uttered in the same refrain, especially since California is widely known as the site of the U.S. gold rush. But that gold distinction, in fact, is held by the quiet north Georgia town of Auraria where America’s first major gold rush occurred. While today it remains a ghostly sketch of a once thriving town, the history that exists is as fascinating as the remaining structures. Gold was discovered in Auraria in 1828 and the population swelled to 4,000 by 1848. When gold was discovered in California in 1849, most of the miners had left Auraria for better diggings, which reduced the population to 300 in just days. Benjamin Parks is credited with finding the first gold. About 1828, he went deer hunting in the vicinity of Auraria. Walking quietly through the woods, he stumbled over a rock.

He knew it was gold. He took the rock home and tried to keep his find a secret until he could decide what to do with this nugget. That decision was to get mineral rights to the land with a lease for 40 years. Soon, the news was out and others started streaming to the area. They came to be known as the ‘29ers. There was no town; there was no county. This was Cherokee land. These Cherokee were a civilized people, molded by the white missionaries who had come among them. The Federal Government promised Georgia the Cherokee would be removed from the land. By 1830, that had DeSoto 41

not happened, so Georgians instituted a raffle to give the land to whites in 160 acre parcels or 40 acre parcels where there was known to be gold. The Cherokee fought for their rights in the U.S. Supreme Court, where they were upheld. But President Andrew Jackson ignored the ruling and thus began the Trail of Tears, driving the Cherokee off their land toward Oklahoma. Miners flocked onto a ridge of land between the Etowah and Chestatee rivers, developing the little town of Auraria. Its name derives from the Latin meaning gold mine. By 1833, it was incorporated by the state legislature. One of the more interesting personalities in Auraria was Grandma Paschal. She was known as the Angel of Mercy of Auraria, taking care of the sick and the infirmed; although Auraria had an abundance of lawyers, it did not have a doctor. Grandma Paschal took subscriptions to start the first church in Auraria – the Antioch Baptist Church. Hastily built, the church crumbled with the first snowfall. She built another church that lasted 110 years. Auraria lost its place in the run for the county seat, as the land that reserved for the courthouse had been won in the raffle and could not be legally verified. Dahlonega, a town five miles up the road, became the center of county government. The 1849 California Gold Rush achieved more fame than the 1829 Georgia Gold Rush yet, the gold discovered in Georgia was more pure than that found in California. The Georgia miners remembered this and many returned to Georgia. The national Panic of 1857 caused American people to live in survival mode. This struggle forced the Russell 42 DeSoto

brothers of Auraria - Wm. Green, Joseph, and Levi - to look to the Kansas Territory for the opportunity to seek new gold claims. In June 1858, the Russell brothers stopped in the foothills of the Rockies at Cherry Creek, Colorado. Here they found gold and started the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Quickly, a town developed on the banks of Cherry Creek that they named Auraria. A little west of this second Auraria, they found a major gold-bearing quartz vein and a second town sprung up across the creek from Auraria. These two towns were arch rivals but eventually became one town named Denver. Today, Denver is a major city, but Georgia’s Auraria is a ghost town. Only a few buildings are visible to the public. Auraria Road extends from Dahlonega to Highway 400, a freeway running into Atlanta. Without knowledge of Auraria, one might wonder why those old dilapidated buildings are there. A drive down the west side of the ridge to the Etowah River will bring you to a new concrete bridge. The days of this once prominent town in Lumpkin County are long gone, but not dead. Now, the community gathers monthly over a potluck dinner to discuss their future. They are working hard to bring back some of their former glory by raising funds to build a museum to honor their past. Benjamin Parks’ find brought men to Georgia from both North America and Europe to Auraria. This little town influenced American history for years, and it may do so again.

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on the road again } grenada, ms

a d a n e r G issippi Miss

9:00 Breakfast at A Taste of Soul. This delightful cafe serves delicious soul food as well as the perfect big country breakfast to fuel your day. 10:00 After breakfast, get familiar with the city by taking a self- guided tour of the historic churches, homes and landmarks. Be sure to stop by the Grenada Confederate Cemetery, which contains 180 graves of unknown Confederate soldiers. 11:30 Tour the Grenada Historical Museum. Learn about the history of Grenada and view one of the largest Coca-Cola memorabilia displays. Call ahead to book a tour, 662-226-2060. 1:00 Lunch at Orlean’s Bistro in Downtown Grenada. Order a delicious plate lunch or one of their New Orleans inspired favorites like red beans and rice, shrimp and grits and gumbo. 2:00 Shop the local stores for unique gifts, jewelry, clothing, home accessories and fishing and outdoor gear. 3:30 Drive to beautiful Grenada Lake, the largest inland body of water in Mississippi at 36,000 acres. Known for the best crappie fishing, the lake offers fun water activities as well as many other outdoor activities. For information on lake history and wildlife check out the Visitors Center. 5:30 Dinner at 333 Restaurant near the main entrance to the lake. The menu is large offering appetizers, salads, sandwiches, BBQ and chicken dishes, but the seafood and steaks are the best in town according to locals. On Friday and Saturday night enjoy the seafood and soul food buffet with over 50 items including dessert!

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Upcoming Events: Thunder on Water Safe-Boating Festival June 7 - 11 Fun for the whole family! Enjoy a carnival, arts and craft vendors, food vendors, BBQ competition, balloon show, fireworks, beauty pageant and car show. Water events include crappie tournament, kids fishing rodeo and MSU wakeboard competition. For more information visit or call 662-614-4224. Grenada Heritage and Music Festival June 30- July 1 This festival focuses on the rich culture, heritage and music from the hills of Grenada, MS. For more information visit their Facebook page or call 662-226-2060. Downtown Jubilee September Car show, arts & crafts vendors, kiddie rides and more. Contact the Grenada Chamber of Commerce at 662-226-2571 for more information. Grenada Afterglow Film Festival October 6 - 7 Attendees will enjoy a wide variety of live musical performances ranging from bluegrass to indie rock to psychedelic pop. Want to take a break from watching films & jamming out with the bands? Browse the fine art exhibit or chow down on some great food from Mississippi food trucks. Want to get in the action? Attend one of theworkshops. Don’t forget to hang around after the festival, because you won’t want to miss the awards ceremony. For more information visit

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greater goods } arts ands crafts

arts & crafts






1. Original oil painting, The Square Cupboard, 328 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 2. Zipcode art, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 3. Etta B pottery decorative plate, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Rd, Marion, AR 4. Original oil painting, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 5. Crossroads pottery Napkin Holder, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 48 DeSoto

arts & crafts




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10 6. License plate art, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 7. Satterfield pottery, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Rd. Olive Branch, MS 8.Original oil painting, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Rd. Olive Branch, MS 9. Etta B Pottery, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Rd #115, Olive Branch, MS 10. Ashley Bynum art, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Rd, Marion, AR 11. Original oil painting, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS DeSoto 49

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By Devin Greaney. Photography courtesy of Devin Greaney and Kent Fleshman

A cemetery may seem like an unlikely place to study art or photography, but at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee, the park-like setting invites thousands of visitors for many reasons. Often, it is to simply enjoy the stone sculptures and monuments which dot the landscape and give personality to each lost soul. More than 75,000 residents are buried in an area less than one square mile. If it were a city, it would be the seventh largest in the state.

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Memphis author, photographer and business owner Kimberly Richardson, who was the volunteer photographer in residence during 2015, regularly strolls the bucolic grounds. “When I told people I was going to be their photographer many said ‘Oh, that’s great!’ But a lot thought I wasn’t right in the head and said ‘Why would you want to do that? You’re going to be in a cemetery with a bunch of dead people.’ But you don’t feel sadness here. Yes, there’s a lot of dead people here, but you don’t feel the sadness.” Those who have never visited Elmwood will be struck by the silent beauty of the sculptures and monuments. Those, like Richardson who have visited frequently, look deeper to learn what’s behind the monument. “Sometimes I pick an area and walk through, touch the statues and look at the dates when people were born and died,” she said. “These people were a part of Memphis. But the bigger thing is this is a place of peace for me.” When asked about her favorite monument she does not hesitate. “It’s Etta Grigsby Partee.” Etta Grigsby Partee lived from 1884 to 1911, and if her statue is any indication, turned a lot heads when she walked her too brief time on this earth. The sculpture is a young woman, seated and quiet, wearing a soft gown that appears to be slipping from her shoulder. Across her lap and falling to the ground is a loose garland. Looking closely at the marble statue – which was reportedly under glass until the 1940sit’s clear the elements have been at work. A green moss has found her hospitable to life. Her beauty remains, just tempered by the years and the elements. It’s not a big, gaudy monument, but it’s easy to see why Richardson picks this as her favorite. Another sculpture she points out is the kneeling, praying angel over Lady Lee Phillips who died in 1915. Elegant, simple and put there by a loving family missing the 29-year-old wife. The variety of sculptures and statues are as different as the eternal quietly resting. Angels stand watching over the departed. Statues of the deceased remind us of days gone by. Most show them in their best light while Wade Bolton’s statue has the buttons awry on his vest. The pale bluegreen of the copper angel watching over the Snowden family has a color that jumps out from the green trees and gray monuments. DeSoto 53

An interesting color on the James and Clara Falls memorial also catches the eye. A tall statuesque (who also happens to be a statue) woman lifting a veil from her head while making the “shhhhhhh” sign with her finger over her mouth. But she’s fighting a losing battle with I-240 just to the east and the big jet airliners out of Memphis International. But still, one has to admire her steadfastness. The art of Elmwood is not limited to the older monuments. In 2009, William Maxwell Rose died just before his 20th birthday. Artist Roy Tamboli was hired by the family to memorialize “Max” and the metal sculpture shows the college student being carried by an angel. Despite his youth, Max bears a trusting expression of what is yet to come rather than regrets 54 DeSoto

of leaving the world before life was fully lived. “I think of Elmwood like a book that you can walk into and experience as three dimensional, reality history. It’s a very condensed landscape representing the stories of Memphis and its cast of characters over so many decades. When I drive over the bridge, I always wonder what I will see this time that I have not seen before,” says Tamboli. Architectural elements like the Grosvenor Arcade in Lenow Circle are structurally classical and add sculptural elements to the park. Every visit reveals new things. The small graves of children remind us how much worse childhood death rates were in generations past. Someone felt the need to leave a toy for a

child who by that time would have been in his 90s. Some of the tombstones are broken as trees have grown. Richardson points out a plot of ivy which actually conceals a grave. One could easily pass by and not notice. One section of tombstones is dedicated to the Chinese Americans who made Memphis their home. A large area has markers clustered near to each other where those who have donated their bodies to science have been cremated and interred in Elmwood’s grounds. There are mass graves from the yellow fever outbreaks of the 1870s. It was a scary time in the area. Many years later a letter was uncovered about those days. On Sept. 6, 1878, a writer believed to have been a Memphis police officer penned a letter to his sister from “Station House,” which read: “The city is almost depopulated. The death rate is over a 100 every day. The undertakers cant burry them fast a nuff. We find a lot that have bin dead thre and for days. My God it is fearfull.” But fearful and depressing is not what one feels in these grounds. The land was set aside in 1852 away from the city and despite the changes, one can see why a place like Elmwood was chosen. It still feels more park than graveyard. Elmwood hosts events other than funerals. Walking tours are given on a regular basis, the largest being the costume tour the Saturday before Halloween where faces of Memphis’ past live on through volunteers who greet roughly 1,000 visitors. “Spirits with the Spirits” is held in October with an occasional beer event scattered throughout the year. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to have an evening party at a graveyard? Movies are also sometimes shown at night, projected on the Phillips Cottage at the entrance. “We’re surrounded by death, but I always feel alive when I’m here,” Richardson says. Tamboli, the sculpture, agrees. “It’s a magical cemetery full of life.” And they are not the only ones who see art and life in the cemetery. During a trip to Elmwood in the spring, a friend with a drone joined Tamboli. Flying over the William Rose monument angel sculpture the camera spotted where a robin had built a nest with a blue egg in it between the angel’s wings. As a safe haven for her hatchling, the bird had chosen a monument to the dead in order to nourish along new life.

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Saenger Theater New Orleans

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Saenger Theater Pensacola

VINTAGE Curtain Call

Exploring the South’s Saenger Theatres By Debra Pamplin. Photography courtesy of the Saenger Theatres

In 1911, brothers and pharmacists Abe and Julian Saenger developed an intense interest in the brand new “moving pictures”. Their ensuing fascination left an indelible, architectural imprint across the South with their Saenger theatres. We encourage you to explore one of these theatrical gems that dot the landscape over a 100 years later. DeSoto 57

Saenger Hattiesburg Movie Palace

Saenger Shreveport

Saenger New Orleans

Their first theatre, known as the Capri, in Shreveport, Louisiana, was built in 1925. They built a new 2,500 seat opera house at the cost of $750,000. It was named “The Strand” and is the official State Theatre of Louisiana. It is the flagship of what would become the Saenger Brothers chain of 320 movie theatres located across the South. The interior included ornate box seats, gilt edged mirrors and colors of deep burgundy and gold. It has a magnificent ceiling with dazzling chandeliers and a 14-foot tiered main chandelier. There are six murals of the “Muses of the Strand” hanging in the entrance of the theatre. In 1951, the original marquee was removed and replaced with a 12-foot vertical neon sign with a turquoise facade. In 1954, the opera boxes were removed to accommodate CinemaScope motion pictures. After more than 60 years of operation, doors closed in the mid 1970s. In 1977, the theatre was donated to the newly founded Strand theatre of Shreveport Corporation and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places that same year. Seven years were spent restoring, replacing and placing the original marquee, with the exterior sandblasted for original appearance. Currently, the theatre presents Broadway Shows, concerts and plays.

The Saenger Brothers moved their corporate base to New Orleans in 1927. Julian Saenger constructed a new theater for $2.5 million dollars on Canal Street in New Orleans. Its design was fashioned after 15th century Italian courtyards and gardens, featuring arched surroundings, columns and decorative moldings. The blue domed “sky” ceiling was completed with winking stars. Greek and Roman statuary line the walls and statues on stands of Venus on pedestals along the upper rim of the auditorium. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The theatre was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but by 2011, plans were underway to rebuild this beautiful theatre. Replicating the original masterpiece of 1927, the lobbies, auditorium, and ceiling areas were furnished with carpeting and lighting fixtures recreated from the originals. The theatre stage was equipped with state of the art theatrical systems, and reopened in September of 2013, at a cost of $53 million.

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Saenger Hattiesburg Movie Palace The Hattiesburg Movie Palace was built in 1929 by the Saenger Brothers and designer Emile Weil who patterned the theatre after the Neo Classical Revival and Art Deco Style, including Mayan inspired elements. It accommodated both live films and live performances. It features a front facade with bear bulb lighting, a glazed tile fountain near the men’s restroom in the lobby, chandeliers in the lobby and ground floor level theatre seating featured glass chandeliers with nickel and bronze fillings. The balcony featured a section of ornamental trim around the ceiling. There was a fly-loft rigging over the orchestra and stage area. This theatre featured a 778 pipe Robert Morton Organ, one of a few in the United States in use today. The theatre closed in late 1960 and was given to the city. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979. In 1980, the mayor, with very limited funds, purchased the original organ back from a private owner and put it back into the theatre, where it is still being played. In 2000, a $3.75 million renovation was completed, restoring as much as possible back to its original grandeur. Group tours are available. Saenger Mobile, Alabama The Saenger in Mobile, Alabama was built in January 1927 and took one year to build. It is a Mobile landmark, known for its ties to local cultural history. Designed by Emil Weil, the cost of the building was $500,000. The building had a three-color auditorium lighting, a Robert Morton Theatre Organ, and full-stage facilities to accommodate large road shows. The seating was reduced to 1,900. It was known as “The Motif of a French Palace of the Renaissance”, and was inspired by classic Greek mythology and Mobile’s coastal location. Poseidon is cast above the front entrance and has a very decorative plaster ornamentation. Color schemes of the interior primarily are sea green with maroon and gold trim with ornate ceilings. At the dedication of the building, a representative of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, presented a portrait of General Robert E. Lee for the theatre foyer. In 1970, the University of Alabama bought the theatre to prevent it from being torn DeSoto 59

Perot Theatre, Texarcana, TX

down. Partial renovations were completed and the theatre reopened as a performing arts center called the USA Saenger Theatre. In October, 1999, the city purchased the theatre and made it into The Center for the Living Arts, with donations from the community used to restore the historic Mobile Saenger at a cost of $6 million. It is now functioning as the official home of Mobile Symphony Orchestra. Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, Florida The “Grand Dame of Polafox� opened in 1925. Taking nearly a year to build, the theatre is designed in Spanish Baroque architecture in opulent Rococo style. The theatre had a colorful array of films, ranging from silent to Broadway. It was purchased by Paramount in 1935. The theatre closed its doors in 1975. ABC Southeastern Theatre donated the building to the city of Pensacola and the University of West Florida, where it was restored over a four-year period, and returned to its standing as a center for the performing arts. 60 DeSoto

The restoration took four years and $1.6 million. In 1981, the theatre reopened as a national historic site, and is now known as the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Saenger Theatre. Saenger Theatre in Texarkana, Texas This theatre was built in 1924, and became the largest and most famous theatre in the city by providing seating for 1,675 and featuring a 24,000-square foot auditorium. It was designed by Emil Weil using a Classical Revival Structure to accommodate stage production, musical programs and motion pictures. It was purchased in 1931 by Paramount as the admissions dropped. In 1970, the theatre became a secondrun movie house and eventually closed in 1977. Now the Perot Theatre, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1984, it was listed as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

New Orleans Saenger Theatre

Saenger Theatre in Tupelo, Mississippi The Comus, built in 1912, was Tupelo’s theatre for live productions touring the state. It was later renamed the Strand and today it is known as the Lyric Theatre, and is primarily for live productions. An Art Deco makeover was done when it became a theatre in the 1930s. In 1984, the theatre was saved from demolition and eventually restored. Today, the Saenger theatres offer visitors more than entertainment. They reveal an architectural history unique to each place and restoration, which when viewed in person, can inspire.

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Bentley, Born Again

By CherĂŠ Coen. Photography courtesy of CherĂŠ Coen and

For years the Bentley Hotel sat vacant in the heart of downtown Alexandria, Louisiana, rising above the surrounding buildings and reminding residents of its forgotten history. Folks would drive by the majestic giant built in 1907 with its dramatic steps leading to a columned porch, recalling how President Dwight D. Eisenhower once stood at that spot as a World War II general, or how generations of their families were married in the once glorious ballroom.

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Mirror Room lounge

“I’m sad anytime I see a business close its doors. It changes the fabric of the community,” said David Atwood, an Alexandria resident, architect and radio personality. “But it becomes tragic when it’s an iconic business. The Hotel Bentley was quite literally a part of Alexandria’s, and in fact, America’s history.” Today, the magnificent hotel along with its restaurant and Mirror Room lounge have been restored and reopened, bringing back a Louisiana landmark and the only historic hotel of its size for the region. Alexandria residents are once again enjoying specialty drinks and camaraderie in the Mirror Room and hosting special events — even Mardi Gras festivities — in the ballroom. Tourists now enjoy a unique slice of history when visiting central Louisiana. “It’s not often that you have the opportunity to witness a landmark being reclaimed the way The Bentley has been,” Atwood said. “To step foot inside her again is more than just pleasing; it’s finding a missing piece of yourself.” Bentley History The massive hotel was the brainchild of Joseph A. Bentley, a Pennsylvania native who made his fortune in Louisiana as a logger and banker. In the hopes of creating a world-class hotel for Alexandria, his new home, Bentley 64 DeSoto

enlisted Arkansas architect George R. Mann, who designed the Arkansas state capitol among other fine hotels. The five-story Bentley Hotel was built in 1907 for $750,000, furnishings included, and is likely “the only major commercial example of the turn-of-the century Renaissance Revival architecture and of Beaux Arts axial spatial planning in central Louisiana,” according to its application for the National Register of Historic Places, which it received in 1979. The dramatic lobby with massive marble pillars, central fountain and crystal chandeliers greets visitors when they enter through the front entrance off the middle of a Third Street block. In the center of the lobby is an imperial staircase leading from the lower level of the two-story domed cortile to the mezzanine level, a feature that’s been popular with brides for years. Overhead lies an extravagant deep blue Roman mural. Off the lobby is the hypostyle ballroom, a secretive board room popular with Joseph Bentley and a spring-fed water feature — no longer in use — that Bentley insisted upon having to bring fresh water to his guests. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were trained for overseas action in several Louisiana camps, a program known as the Louisiana Maneuvers. Major Gen. George Patton, Lt. Col. Omar Bradley, then Gen. Dwight

David Eisenhower and the future Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were all guests at the Bentley. Over the years, entertainers such as John Wayne and Roy Rogers graced the grand hotel’s halls and Elvis Presley was known to have serenaded guests on the veranda. Motels sprung up on suburban MacArthur Drive and the hotel fell out of popularity. The hotel closed in 1968, was renovated and reopened in 1972, only to close four years later. The hotel continued to change hands and closed in 2004 where it sat like a dark, forgotten giant until self-made millionaire Michael Jenkins, also known as Alexandria’s “Mr. Downtown,” purchased the complex in 2012. Jenkins first restored the famed Mirror Room, a long-time favorite among Alexandria residents and visitors alike, and opened the lounge in 2015. The original ceilings featured mirrors that had cracked and tarnished over the years so the ceiling now contains hand-painted black metal squares. The original stained glass windows and sconce wall lights remain. Lounge bookshelves are filled with old law books purchased from a long-standing Alexandria attorney to add an additional cozy touch. Over the years the lounge hosted a variety of entertainers and today serves up delicious cocktails, including a house specialty, the maple bacon old fashion. The first phase of guest rooms opened in May 2016. To o f f e r m o r e h i s t o r i c a l information to the guests, the hotel features a miniature museum explaining the Louisiana Maneuvers and their impact on the U.S. winning the war with many items borrowed from the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum at the Louisiana National Guard headquarters in nearby Pineville. “We’re dee ply involved in restoration and downtown renovation,” said Charles Charrier, president of the Historical Association of Central Louisiana. “The Bentley is the pulse of downtown. I’m so appreciative of Mr. Jenkins for restoring that hotel.” A visit to the Bentley The newly-opened hotel contains 93 smoke-free rooms, less than its first incarnation at the turn of the 20th century so as to contain modern features such as larger bathrooms and work spaces. The rooms are decorated with antique-style furnishings, luxurious bath towels and linens and, of DeSoto 65

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course, wifi to keep guests connected. Other modern amenities include a flat-screen TV with cable offerings. Guest rooms range from single queen, double queens and specialty suites, including a bridal suite for wedding parties. Rates average $130-140 per night on weekdays and $140-150 per night on weekends. The Bentley Room Restaurant serves up southern and Louisiana cuisine and offers in-room dining as well. The restaurant will eventually accommodate those soon to be living in the condominiums next door, a renovation project in the works that’s also helmed by Jenkins. In addition, there’s a business center and hotel staff offer valet and self parking onsite, daily newspaper service, dry cleaning and laundry and nightly turn-down service. Within walking distance from the hotel is the Diamond Grill, a fine dining establishment that serves up Cajun-Creole fare. The restaurant is another of Jenkins restoration projects, once a high-end jewelry store. There’s also dining and live entertainment at Embers restaurant, the eclectic Tamp & Grind coffee shop and the Alexandria Museum of Art, which offers special events in addition to exhibits. The Red River rolls by only a block away, and visitors can get a good look at Bailey’s Dam — a Civil War attempt to tame the Red River rapids — along the boardwalks at Forts Randolph/Buhlow State Historic Site on the opposite shore. Events happening this month in downtown Alexandria include the Louisiana Dragon Boat Races ( and the Second Saturday Market at the Museum May 6 on the Red River and the Alexandria Museum of Art. The Little Walter Music Festival happens Memorial Day Weekend along the riverside, a tribute to Marion Walter Jacobs, a blues musician from nearby Marksville, Louisiana. To explore the hotel closer, visit For information on Alexandria and Pineville, or events happening in central Louisiana,

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homegrown } 901 rocks!

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Rockin’ Along in Memphis Simple idea spreads love

By Robin Gallaher Branch. Photography courtesy of and Twitter

Last fall, Ginni Fischer, a third grade teacher at New Hope Christian Academy in Frayser, a Memphis suburb, joined other teachers, students, and parents in a community event called Arts on the Grounds. There she painted her first Memphis #901 rock. “I am not super artistically gifted,” she laughed. “I think I did mainly polka dots; but some of the rocks were really beautiful.” She hid it and others at places she frequents like the Memphis Pizza Café. Fischer is one of a growing “above ground” movement called #901 Rocks! A Facebook site with over 39,000 members. The idea started during the summer dog days of July. “Rock Etiquette,” as outlined via interviews and Facebook, is quite simple. 1. Paint a rock 2. Tag it with “#901 Rocks!” 3. After drying, spray it with clear acrylic 4. Hide it somewhere in the Memphis area

5. Commit to re-hide or replace any rock you find 6. Keep looking around for more rocks What a rockin’ idea! Crossing age and economic lines, it brings smiles to artists and finders alike. It’s cheap, creative, and promotes Memphis in a very positive way. And after all, everybody likes a treasure hunt! The idea of painting beauty, planting it, and sharing it anonymously emerged naturally. The brainchild of Lisa Dawson and Amy McSpadden, the movement grew quickly DeSoto 69

from Midtown Memphis to the whole 901 area code. Along with #901, the painting agent (as in Fischer’s case, New Hope Christian Academy) usually is visible. “It’s a huge trend,” said Nancy Klepper, “and 80 to 90 percent is done by kids.” She participated in a Girl’s Night Out at Second Presbyterian Church in February, an event that highlighted fashion, food, and gardening. She passed around rocks painted with #901 and advertising the church’s annual Easter sunrise service at the Botanic Gardens. Klepper is on the board at Botanic Gardens. Palm-sized rocks seem to be the best, and smooth is better than craggy for painting, although the more experienced artists like the challenge of cragginess. Unquestionably, each rock encourages creativity. While nothing is ever “wrong,” here are things experienced “rockers” say work best: Sharpies or acrylic paints Yes, be adventurous with a glue gun, wire, sequins, ribbon, buttons, yarn, and other household items, but remember that a rock may have a hard, dirty, sometimes damp, and windy life outside. People all over town chronicle finding them. Look for #901 Rocks! in public places like the Greenline, Overton Park, Shelby Farms, and Midtown sidewalks. Children seem to know how to look and find the best, perhaps because they are closer to the ground and closer to the treasure hunt mentality. Invariably the rocks produce smiles. Thanks appear on social media sites. Police and fire departments report coming to work and the fun of finding them at substations and headquarters and in parking spots. Patients at Le Bonheur and St. Jude know to go hunting. Proponents dub it “planting joy”. Let’s look at some joyful postings from Facebook: The University of Memphis School of Communication Sciences and Disorders posted finding a #901 Rocks! in a tiger’s mouth and noted “the patterns 70 DeSoto

on the rock look like little hearing aids” and added that “our thanks goes out to the person who placed it there.” Dentists Elizabeth Mitchell and Edward Wiener posted information about an office painting party and hiding the rocks at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. The post ended with We B Memphis! Elizabeth Williams found a #901 Rocks! at a dog park. She extended “a big hug” to those who “came up with the idea of making these little happies.” Girl Scouts Heart of the South notified the Chesterton Fire Department Training Center of hidden rocks. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office posted its thanks to those who planted a rock at the substation on January 1. “What a wonderful way to start 2017,” the post said, adding that it’s “nice to know so many of you support what we do.” Rhodes students painted rocks for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and confided that some were hidden in Barret Library. One Facebook rock of a chocolate pie complete with whipped cream topping and flaked chocolate looks absolutely delicious. Holly Yarbrough and Emily Lequerica teach junior kindergarten classes at Presbyterian Day School, a private school for boys. A parent brought some rocks and Lequerica designed a class activity. The fiveyear-old boys confidently chose rocks and began painting. One boy did a basketball, another a big pizza, and yet another a dinosaur. But the hands down, most popular winner? The Ninja Turtle! Yarbrough asked the boys what they would do with their rocks. Most chose to take them home. “In other words, they wanted to keep them,” Yarbrough grinned, “and that was OK.” One boy said he would hide his under his pillow. In the weeks since the activity, however, PDS teachers sometimes see a rock unexpectedly in a classroom and know a child has brought it and is waiting for it to be found by a classmate. Meanwhile, Yarbrough offers this wise advice for those walking around their neighborhoods and finding painted rocks: “If it’s a Ninja Turtle, you’ll know it’s done by a five-year-old boy.”

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southern gentleman } summer’s newest water toys

Ascend Sit Down Kayak

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The Paradise Pad

On the Water! By James Richardson. Photography courtesy of James Richardson, and

Spring has sprung early this year and the water beckons. Being in the Mid-South with rivers and lakes all around, it is no doubt the call of the water is so strong. This year, as in years past, new toys await those who may be suffering from cabin fever, even though our winter was seemingly non-existent. New boats and several new water toys will be available to cure that fever. Then a new conundrum will present itself: To buy or to rent? For true fishermen, that question rarely comes up. Warren Martin, a sales consultant at the Tracker Boat Center in the Bass Pro Shops at the Memphis Pyramid, has a few new boats ready for the water. “The Tracker Pro Team 195 TXW, Tournament Edition, is ready to go to the lake as rigged. It has high end electronics and is our biggest aluminum boat. If you were a bass fisherman and didn’t want to pay the fiberglass price, and

you fished tournaments, at $28,000, this boat is for you. Then, there is the Nitro D17 also new for 2017. This is considered an entry level fiberglass boat. It’s 17-foot and under $30,000.” For the occasional fisherman, renting a boat may be an option. For instance, at the Bent Hook Marina at Bass Pro’s Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, the part-time fisherman can rent a Bass Tracker Pro 175 for half a day for $135 and all day for $270. An alternative to the traditional fishing boat is the new Ascend Sit Down Kayak. According to Bill Swiatkowski, another sales associate at Bass Pro Shops, “We sell a lot of DeSoto 73

Slingshot Tube

Avalon Pontoon

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the Ascend Model 128T. It is just over 12 feet long and has a seat that swivels 360 degrees. It is pre-wired for stern lights or other accessories. It has a rubber mat that makes it more stable while standing up fishing. It can be used on lakes and rivers. It is not for white water, but is great for cruising down calmer rivers.” It is priced at $850. Not everyone who enjoys water sports is a fisherman. Enrique Martinez, director of Sales and Marketing at the Memphis Boat Center, shares a few solutions. “The Slingshot Wakefoiler is new for 2017. It is a hydrafoil attached to a surfboard. Hydrafoiling became popular a couple years ago when the air chair was introduced. The air chair was a board with a hydrafoil underneath that you sat on. So, they took that technology and custom fitted it to the surfer. You can ride on water that’s really choppy. But at the same time, it’s a board that rides smooth and is easy to learn. Once people start seeing it on the lake, it will spread like wildfire. This is the most exciting product that came out this year.” Another solution for the water lover is “The Paradise Pad, which is a floating foam pad that attaches to your dock, boat, or anywhere in the water. The pads actually hold up a lot of weight. You can walk on them.Your kids can play ‘king of the mat.’ The prices start at $475. It will last a long time because it’s built very well. I love how it floats on the water. It’s like standing on the water.” He also suggests the new inflatable tubes by Slingshot which have a material that’s called ‘soft shell.’ “In the past when kids rode tubes for a long time, they would get rashes and their skin would become irritated because the material was rough on their skin. The new soft shell material won’t cause rashes or irritations to the skin. So, your kids can ride on the tube all day long. Tubes run anywhere from $120 to $350. They come in different sizes and different models from one person, two person, or up to a five-person tube. Another interesting new entree into the market is the Slingshot Inflatable Crossbreed Boards, or paddleboards. “You can inflate the boards up to 17 psi, and at that pressure, it’s actually a rigid board. You can paddle across the lake on it. You can put it behind a boat and surf. You can go out and do yoga with friends. Also, when you deflate them, they fit into a small backpack. The rigid boards, unfortunately, just stay rigid and are very big and hard to move around. But when you get the inflatable ones, you can put them in the backpack and take them wherever you want. The boards are $879 with the paddles being extra.” Other water options exist besides buying boats and equipment. At Pickwick Boat Rentals, pontoon boats are available from between $250 and $350 per day, depending on their capacity and horsepower. At a Middle Tennessee lake, pontoons with a capacity of 12 to 14 rent for around $250 and ski boats that can accommodate ten people go for nearly $500 per day. At that same marina a paddleboard rents for around $70 per day. So, if water is your thing, then 2017 may be the year to explore the newest water toys and boats. And with so many local and regional lakes, rivers and streams, finding the water will be just as easy. Slingshot 2017 Crossbreed Airtech

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southern harmony } blues music awards

And the award goes to... By Jim Shettles Photography courtesy of The Blues Foundation

Memphis describes its musical heritage as “the birthplace of rock ‘n roll and the home of the blues.” On the anniversaries of Elvis’ birth and death, it’s easy to spot a rocker on Beale or at Graceland dressed like the King and know it’s time to celebrate rock. Ever present as well, the Memphis-based Blues Foundation does its part to keep the blues viable and popular in the world of today’s music. Located at 421 S. Main, the Blues Foundation was formed in 1980 with the mission of preserving and promoting blues heritage, recordings and performance. The Foundation is involved in various activities including its Blues Hall of Fame Museum. However, the highlight of the year is the annual Blues Music Awards (BMAs) competition and awards ceremony. “This will be the 38th year of the BMAs,” according to Foundation President Barbara Newman. “The awards have been held everywhere from The Peabody Hotel to the Orpheum Theatre, and even left Memphis for a few years. But ultimately, the Blues Foundation determined that Memphis really is the Home of the Blues and the best place for the Blues Music Awards, so they are now held at the Cook Convention Center in May each year.” In the early years the Awards were hosted by B.B. King and Koko Taylor. Now there are 24 categories, with various presenters, for categories including Best Album, Band, Contemporary Blues Album, Male Artist and Female Artist. 76 DeSoto

The most nominations this year for individual members and as a band together is 10 for Sugar Ray and the Bluetones. The Foundation uses two steps to determine the nominees for the various categories and for selecting the winners. Newman explained, “There is a process open during the summer for musicians to submit recordings for consideration. For the 2017 BMAs, all music must have been released between November 1, 2015 and October 31, 2016.” Approximately 100 nominators, who are blues industry experts like label owners, engineers, producers, radio DJs, festival promoters and other industry leaders, listen to the musical submissions. “These people listen to blues professionally and regularly and really know the music. They vote in two rounds to determine the final ballot.” Blues Foundation members vote to determine the winners. Anyone can be a member of the Foundation, including fans, and annual membership begins at $25 per year. Current

members can log into the membership portal at to access the ballot and vote. You can join online by clicking on the “join now” button. There are two ceremonies associated with the awards on May 10 and 11. “On Wednesday night we will induct the 2017 class for the Blues Hall of Fame,” Newman said. “Performers, industry leaders, single and album recordings and literature are inducted into the Hall of Fame. This event is held at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and the ticket also includes a cocktail reception before the ceremony.” The next night’s award ceremony begins with a 5:30 p.m. lobby party at the Cook Convention Center. “We have a seated dinner in the Grand Ballroom at 7 p.m. and the winners are announced while nominees perform until about midnight. “It’s the best blues concert of the year with music representing all areas of the blues genre,” Newman said. Even though the awards ceremony is on Thursday night, many of the nominees will perform the next day. Newman explained, “For the past many years, some of our supporters have organized fundraisers in Beale Street clubs on the day after the BMAs, usually during the daytime, to benefit two of our funds – The HART Fund, which supports blues musicians with funding for chronic and acute medical conditions, and Generation Blues, which gives scholarships to youth to attend summer blues camps and workshops. It’s another way for these musicians to give back.” Some of last year’s winners will be defending their awards in 2017 including Contemporary Blues Female Artist,

Shemkia Copeland, and Best Harmonica Instrumentalist, Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bobby Rush recently won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for his “Porcupine Meat” CD. That record is also a nominee for Best Album at the BMAs. This year two nominees, Biscuit Miller for Best Bass Instrumentalist, and Kenny Neal for Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Best Album for “Bloodline”, are managed by Paul Benjamin. Benjamin serves as the chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation. His location exemplifies the strong national and international popularity of the Blues. He’s not from the Mississippi Delta, Memphis or blues stalwart Chicago for that matter – Benjamin lives in Maine. He also promotes six blues festivals including the St. John Blues Blowout in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, the North Atlantic in Rockland, Maine, Gloucester Blues Festival in Gloucester, Massachusetts and three in Florida - Bradenton Blues Festival, Suncoast Blues Festival in Sarasota and Camping With the Blues in Brooksville. “I feel the blues is the heartbeat of music and has maintained its place in the music world as the heartbeat of all music from the beginning and will continue as it has in the past.” For tickets or more information about the event, visit

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in good spirits} coco loco

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Cheers, to Columbia! By Devin Greaney. Photography courtesy of

Some words and phrases don’t translate well into English. Crazy coconut? What’s that? It’s the Coco Loco that is as intriguing as the name. This Memphis in May, the annual international festival, honors the country of Columbia, the nation of Shakirra, coffee, rain forests and mountains. And to toast the South American nation perhaps the best way would be with the coco loco, the nation’s national cocktail. On the Caribbean beaches, tourists seeing the Northern-most South American nation can find vendors along the coast with their coconuts and all the fixin’s ready to cool off in the equatorial sun. Miles of beaches grace this country whether it’s at Playa Blanca or anywhere on the San Bernando islands, you will see beachgoers holding a large coconut with two straws cocked out of the side. Not a coconut water, this drink is a coco loco, truly a favorite of the wandering beach goers in this part of the world. The coolest part of this drink is the presentation. On a beach, the coconut itself is part of the drink. While some may improvise, vendors will take a coconut – fresh- and a machete and cut off the top. Now that the coconut is in a proverbial topless state, the over-21-year old crowd has many ways to improvise this concoction. Basic ingredients for the Coco Loco include dark rum, light rum, vodka, creme de bananes, pineapple juice, coconut cream and sugar syrup. Variations could include grenadine or pineapples.

¼ cup of rum (They are a Caribbean nation.) ¼ cup vodka (North and cold in a drink that’s south and mostly warm.) ¼ cup tequila (We are south of the border.) 2 cups coconut crème (It’s not just for pies.) 1 cup of coconut water (The swishy stuff you hear when you shake a coconut.) Juice from three limes (Lemon’s neglected green cousin.) Lime slices Combine all of the ingredients into a blender with the exception of the lime slices. Blend until smooth. Pour into a glass or a coconut and garnish with lime slices. Be sure to pop in two straws to mimic the beach originals. And finally, enjoy!

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exploring events } may Memphis in May International Festival: Beale Street Music Festival May 5 - 7 Tom lee Park International Salute to Columbia May 8 - 14 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest May 17 - 20 Tom Lee Park 901Fest May 27 Tom Lee Park Great American River Run May 28 Downtown Memphis For more information on events and tickets visit or call 901-525-4611.

The Taylor Swift Experience Through August 13 The GRAMMY Museum Cleveland, MS The Taylor Swift Experience gives visitors and fans an in-depth look at the 10-time GRAMMY®-winning artist as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer through personal photographs and home videos, interactive experiences, handwritten lyrics of Taylor’s top-charting hits, and iconic performance outfits. For more information, call 662-441-0100 or visit Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival May 5 - 6 City Hall Lawn Meridian, MS This year’s lineup features Wynonna Judd, Reckless Kelly, Cowboy Mouth, Brandy Clark, Hayes Carll, Chris Knight, Lydia Loveless, Charlie Worsham, Cary Hudson, and The Jimmie Rodgers Talent Competition Winners. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy 2 days of great entertainment. For more information call 601485-1808 or visit

15th Annual Blue Suede Cruise May 5 -7 BancorpSouth Arena Tupelo, MS Over 900 classic, antique and collectible cars roll into Tupelo for a weekend of fun. Enjoy live music by famed-country artist, Ronnie McDowell. He will perform at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights in the BancorpSouth Arena parking lot. For more information visit Kudzu Playhouse Dinner Theatre “Noir Suspicions” May 5 -7 St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church Southaven, MS Kudzu’s Playhouse Mystery Dinner Theatre was such a hit last year, it is returning! This comic mystery is a sequel to the ever-popular Murder at Cafe Noir performed last year. Each ticket includes a 4-course dinner and non-alcoholic refreshments. Patrons are invited to bring their own cocktails and wine. Set-ups provided. For reservations or additional information, email 5th Annual Native American Customs & Traditions Festival May 6 Tishomingo State Park Tishomingo, MS For more information call 662-438-6914. Jockeys & Juleps benefiting Southern Reigns Center for Equine Therapy May 6 440 South Shady Grove Road Memphis, TN 3:00pm This premier event features big hats, bourbon and bluegrass with a live broadcast of the Kentucky Derby! For more information visit Natchez Festival of Music Natchez, MS May 6: Best of the Mississippi Blues II starring Vasti Jackson May 9: Rossini Puccini and Martinis For more information visit natchezfestivalofmusic. com or call 888.718.4253. 25th Esperanza Bonanza May 10 - 13 Marion Recreational Complex Marion, AR Fun for the whole family including carnival,

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backyard BBQ contest, golf scramble, kids games and live entertainment. For more information visit or call 901-484-7752. FiveStar Fest May 12 - 13 Senatobia, MS Friday night features 5k race, kids zone and music. Saturday events include car show, kids zone, arts & crafts, BBQ competition and live entertainment on the Gabbert Park stage. Saturday night live music will be on the Main Stage on Front Street. For more information visit their Facebook page. Gumtree Festival May 13 -14 Downtown Tupelo, MS This juried fine-art festival is a Tupelo Mother’s Day weekend tradition. Enjoy local culinary arts, a singer/songwriter competition with block party, food court, beer garden and a Jr. Art Market. For more information call 662-844-2787 or visit SpringFest May 19 - 20 Downtown Batesville, MS Live music, JA kids area, YPP corn hole tournament. arts & crafts vendors, carnival rides, food vendors and more. Saturday night music features William Michael Morgan. For more information call 888.872-6652.

Book Signing and Reading with Curtis Wilkie and Thomas Oliphant: “The Road To Camelot” May 11 TurnRow Book Company Greenwood, MS 5:30PM Acclaimed, award-winning journalists Curtis Wilkie and Tom Oliphant provide the most comprehensive account of John F. Kennedy’s wily campaign to the White House, based on a depth of personal reporting, interviews, and archives. Reception at 5:30. Reading and signing to follow. For more information, visit or call 662-453-5595. Landscaping Camp featuring Jeff McManus May 26 - 28 Oxford, MS During the 2 ½ day camp each participant will receive two books written by Jeff McManus, whose expertise in landscaping has gained The University of Mississippi accolades of being named “The Most Beautiful Campus” by a number of national publications. Tour the campus and Oxford, attend educational seminars on pruning, butterfly gardens, low maintenance yards and more. For more information visit landscaping-camp/, email or call 662-234-4651. Landscaping Camp featuring Jeff McManus

154th Battle of Hernando May 19 - 21 Mussecuna Plantation Hernando, MS Experience the history of the Battle of Hernando during this two-day Civil War reenactment. The battles will take place Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21. Gates open at 10:00am and close at 5:00pm. The battle will be complete with authentic period clothing and weaponry. Booming cannons and the shrill whistle of Civil War-era musket fire will fill the air as soldiers tramp through the woods just as they did in late June of 1863. For additional information, call 901-553-3878 or 901-238-4393. A’Fair Arts and Crafts Festival May 20 Historic Court Square Hernando, MS The Hernando Optimist Club hosts the annual A’Fair. Laurie L. Wylie Memorial 5k Race at 7:30am. Arts & crafts, kids zone and food vendors from 9:00am 5:00pm. For more information visit

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reflections} tangles and plaques

Tangles and Plaques By Susan Cushman

On November 24, 2007, I wrote my first blog post about my mother, Effie Johnson, and her journey with Alzheimer’s. Over the next eight and a half years, I published a total of 60 posts about Mom. In 2016 I decided to gather those posts into a book, and Tangles and Plaques was born. Why “Tangles and Plaques”? The brain has 100 billion nerve cells that operate like tiny factories. As Alzheimer’s disease spreads throughout the brain, those cells lose their ability to do their jobs and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain. With this loss of brain cells comes the loss of memory—the stories that make up the fabric of a person’s life—as well as the inability to perform everyday life chores. By the time this collection of essays became a book, I was thankful that Mom had joined my father—her spouse of 49 years—on the other side, because the quality of her life after seven years in a nursing home—being fed through a peg tube to her stomach since January of 2013—was certainly not what I desired for her. She died on May 22, 2016. My close friends and relatives know that loving Mom and caring for her was complicated by her emotional and verbal abuse of me for most of my life. The silver lining in Mom’s disease is that the same tangles and plaques that had stolen most of her memory also erased the dysfunctional part: She forgot how to criticize and abuse. In her altered state, she was much easier to love. To forgive. I think you will find that the tangles and plaques aren’t only in our brains, but often in our relationships. I tried to blend humor in with the pathos in these essays, as I did in my post from July 24, 2012, “Effie and the M&Ms.” Here’s an excerpt: “Last week during my regular visit with Mom, I brought out her “treat.” I alternate taking her giant cookies from McAlister’s or M&Ms—her two favorite snacks. Or at least they used to be. But when I showed her the package, she looked confused. 82 DeSoto

“What’s that? “It’s M&Ms, Mom. Your favorite candy. “Is that so? “Yep.” I poured a few into a cup. But she just stared at the cup, so I poured three or four of them onto her “lap buddy,” which also serves as a makeshift tray for her wheelchair. “What am I supposed to do with those?” She pointed to the M&Ms, one orange, one blue, one red, and one green. “You eat them, Mom, like this.” I poured a few into my hand, put them in my mouth and began to chew. She finally picked them up and put them in her mouth. But no chewing. She just stared at me. After a few seconds, she said, with her mouth full of M&Ms, “They’re not moving around in there.” “You have to chew them, Mom.” Once she started chewing, she remembered that she liked them, and eventually ate the whole package. But her brain had already begun to forget simple tasks. If I find myself in Mom’s place one day, I hope someone will be patient with me and remind me to chew my M&Ms.

Susan Cushman’s book “Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s” was published in February 2017. She is editor of “A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be”. Her novel “Cherry Bomb” will be released in August. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, she lives in Memphis. Her blog, “Pen and Palette,” can be found on her website,

DeSoto Magazine May 2017  

Beautiful historic Southern architecture and the arts.

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