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December CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 12

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

features 46 Mississippi’s Oldest Retailers A Century of Shopping

58 Natchitoches Christmas Festival Louisiana’s Winter Wonderland

52 Salvation Army Ringing in Miracles

departments 14 Living Well Holiday Health

42 On the Road Again Dahlonega, Georgia

18 Notables Michael May

44 Greater Goods 64 Homegrown Red Bird Peppermint Puffs

22 Exploring Art Etta B Pottery

68 Southern Gentleman Trans Am Passion

26 Exploring Books Elvis & The ’68 Comeback

72 Southern Harmony John Schneider

30 Into the Wild Diamonds Old West Cabins

76 In Good Spirits Christmas at Blue Dog

34 Table Talk Backerman’s Country Market 38 Exploring Destinations Dickens of a Christmas


78 Exploring Events 80 Reflections A Hallmark Christmas



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editor’s note } december Holiday Wishes Magazine publishing requires thinking about Christmas months in advance. Trying to write December stories when everyone else is still in the throes of fall festivals and football games can be tricky, but our writers met the challenge this month. An inspiring message comes from Robin Branch’s story about the Salvation Army and the important work it does in the Mid-South. After reading “Ringing in Miracles,” be sure to stop and thank a bell-ringer for volunteering. Adding a dollar or two to the kettle will also go a long way for helping families in need. I’ve heard about the Natchitoches Christmas Festival all my life. And no wonder – it’s been around 92 years, making it one of the oldest in the country. Louisiana writer Cheré Coen gives us a detailed look at this year’s festival in her home state. And if you are wondering how to pronounce the city’s Native American name, it’s nak’-a-tish. Many people are shopping online this season, but they are missing out on the joyful experience of getting to know local retailers. Three Mississippi towns are fortunate to have stores that have been around more than 100 years. Writer Michelle Keller profiles Reed’s in Tupelo, Neilson’s in Oxford, and Lott’s in Laurel and learns the recipe for success in the topsy-turvy world of retailing.

DECEMBER 2018 • Vol. 15 No.12


If you are looking to get away this holiday season, we have several suggestions with destinations from Arkansas to Georgia. We also have recommendations for books to read, candy to eat, and drinks to make. Of course, it’s hard to beat a stay-at-home Christmas with family and friends where we can quietly celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Wishing you a blessed Christmas,

Mary Ann

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Mary Fairley Jason Frye Michelle Keller Karen Ott Mayer Charlene Oldham Andrea Brown Ross Jan Schroder Caroline Sposto Karon Warren Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887

on the cover Brooklyn DeShea Weathers of Etta B Pottery took the photo of the nativity design created by her mother, Brent DeShea Weathers, who founded the pottery company 10 years ago.

©2018 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. 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 interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well } healthy holidays

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RedMed Clinical Director Jana M. Call

’Tis the Season to Stay Healthy By Caroline Sposto | Photography courtesy of Ray Rico and

Before the heat of summer even ended, flu season started early with cases reported in September. But it’s not too late to take preventive measures. Flu activity usually peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the first, and most important step in preventing this disease. RedMed Clinical Director Jana M. Call agrees, and she suggests additional measures to help ensure a healthy holiday season. “We saw our first flu cases at the end of September and it’s still going around, says Call who is also a family nurse practitioner. “It’s never too late in the season to get vaccinated.” She makes a point to debunk the common myth that people can get the flu from a flu shot.

“There is no live virus in the inactivated vaccine,” she explains. “The flu shot takes about two weeks to take effect, and so anyone who is exposed to the flu before getting the immunization, or within that two-week window after getting it, remains susceptible.” According to the CDC, flu shots don’t offer protection from viruses that aren’t covered by the vaccine. “The flu vaccine doesn’t prevent colds,” Call adds. “Colds abound this time of year and staying well means being mindful of contact with people who may be contagious.” She advises everyone who is sick to be considerate when they’re contagious, and everyone who is well to try to DeSoto 17

avoid careless contact with those who are sick. She suggests that people who have come down with cold or flu avoid social gatherings. “It’s best to avoid crowded, high-traffic areas during this season whenever possible,” she says. She acknowledges that could be difficult to follow during holiday socializing and shopping. “Beyond avoidance, we have to try to stop disease in its tracks,” she explains. “For example, always clean the handle of your shopping cart with a sanitizing wipe before you use it.” Call recommends frequent handwashing, and reminds us to avoid touching our faces with our hands. “If you have to cough or sneeze, use a tissue,” she says. “If you don’t happen to have a tissue, direct your cough into the crook of your arm.” When it comes to parties she advises that people wash or sanitize their hands before helping themselves at any buffet table. To be safe, refrain from sharing drinks or bites of food and pick up all food with either a utensil or a clean, paper napkin. When Call entertains at home, she leaves a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the party buffet table. “Another defense,” she says. “Is to keep your body healthy so you can fight anything that might be coming your way.” She suggests boosting the immune system by managing stress, eating a well-balanced diet, being diligent about exercise, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, ideally with plain water, and getting advice about multi-vitamins from a health care provider. She goes on to remind us to dress for the weather. “Bundle up for comfort,” she explains, “but don’t overdo so that you’re dressed so warmly you’re sweating.” Because patients often confuse the common cold with the flu, she offers this rule of thumb: “A flu usually comes on fast,” she says. “A person will go from being fine, to being sick. Flus are also accompanied by other symptoms such as body aches, chills and fever.” 18 DeSoto

She explains that the best way to recover from the flu more quickly is to get diagnosed as soon as possible. “The sooner you come in, the better. Some anti-virals that help you get over the flu sooner have to be administered within the first 48 hours. If you don’t get them, you may also stay contagious longer.” “Colds come on more gradually,” she says. “A cold can start out as a runny nose, or a little cough. Fevers with colds are either non-existent or low grade, meaning between 99F -100.” “All you can do for a cold,” she explains. “Is treat the symptoms. Everyone has their own ways to feel better as far as home comfort goes. I recommend warm mist humidifiers and drinking lots of fluids. You absolutely must stay hydrated. If you’re running a fever, your body is losing fluid. If you have a thermometer, take your temperature. If it’s above 100.4 — it’s considered a fever.” She mentions that urgent care clinics, such as RedMed, are an appropriate treatment choice for sudden medical situations like colds, flus, and minor injuries that don’t require a trip to the E.R. Call is adamant in saying that anyone with questions or concerns about their health should feel comfortable asking their medical provider. “Find providers that encourage you to become more involved in your care,” she says. “Good health care providers enjoy answering questions.” She adds that her goal as an urgent care provider is to make every minute of every visit count.

Caroline Sposto is a Memphis-based writer who contributes regularly to Memphis Health and Fitness and

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notables } michael may

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Rooted in Trees By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of Lazy Acres

Michael May leads Mississippi’s Christmas tree farmers year-round.

In 1999, the May family of Chunky, Mississippi, faced a hard decision. “We had a 200-acre farm my parents bought in 1973 and they were thinking of selling it,” recalls their son Michael May. Like many young people, May had gone away to college seeking to get “as far away from the farm as possible.” By the time the farm went on the market, May had returned home with a different perspective. Selling the farm didn’t feel right. “Several people looked at the farm and I began to think maybe my wife and I should buy it. We prayed about it and did end up buying it.” His parents had raised cows and also planted the first Christmas trees in 1980. His mother preferred trees because they couldn’t roam like cows. “I remember her saying the happiest day of her life was when they sold the last cow,” he says with a laugh. This time of year, Christmas tree farms like Lazy Acres feel idyllic. In reality, families like the Mays know that that building a successful Christmas tree farm takes a mountain

of work all year long. “It is a tremendous amount of work. When we replant our trees, we remove the stumps from previous trees whereas some farms leave,” he says. May says approximately 900 trees can be planted on an acre of land when spaced about seven square feet apart. The Leland Cypress accounts for more than 90 percent of the trees planted on the farm and generally in Mississippi. May says his farm brings in a few Frazier firs from North Carolina. “We have more people from outside the area who ask about the firs, but they [firs] don’t grow well here.” May views the success of the farm with a humble humor. “The good Lord has blessed us through the years with hard work and stupidity,” he says with a laugh. His resilience comes both from within and through the support of peers and family. A leader in the industry, May has been involved with the Southern Christmas Tree Association for the last two decades. He served as the executive secretary for the SCTA for eight years and is currently the senior vice president. The DeSoto 21

Southern association includes Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. “It’s very important to share ideas and have a support group especially if you’re new to the industry,” he advises. May gives two pieces of advice to anyone considering becoming a grower. “Before you ever put a tree in the ground, talk to other growers and go to a conference. And don’t go visit a Christmas tree farm at Christmas when it’s busy and pretty! It takes four years and a lot of hard work before one tree is ready to sell. Plan to visit with growers during February or March when things are quieter and you can actually see work happening.” May’s enthusiasm for the industry extends beyond his own operation and he enjoys sharing his knowledge. “For years, the association membership has been on the decline and the conference was filled with old gray-haired folks like me. Recently, we’re seeing more young growers getting into the business and that’s really exciting.” May and other experienced growers know the challenges that go along with farming. “One thing is we really get paid about once per year which can be interesting to manage if you’re used to getting paid monthly or bi-weekly.” His wife teaches school, and until recently, his daughter did, too. “My daughter left teaching to come work with me and it’s been wonderful having her help,” May says. His daughter, Mikayla Carey now represents the fourth generation of farmers for his family. The May family has explored ways to expand their business beyond Christmas trees, learning more about agribusiness in general. They began offering pumpkins more than 16 years ago, growing some pumpkins and bringing others in to sell. They host weddings at the farm, an Easter egg scavenger hunt, and most recently, a Christmas light show. 22 DeSoto

“We went to seven different states to look at light shows and learn about how to set it up before we set up the show at Lazy Acres,” he says. May believes strongly in giving visitors their best hospitality. “We want to give excellent customer service for families who come spend an hour or two with us. We teach our high school kids skills that will carry them through life as they find other careers.” Planting trees or planting seeds in young lives, May seems to enjoy both equally through all the seasons of the year.

Michael May’s Tree Tips 1) Buying a fresh-cut tree means purchasing a naturally recyclable resource, unlike an artificial tree. 2) Hunting for a Christmas tree offers families a complete experience on a farm. Many farms offer wagon rides, refreshments, tours and light shows. At Lazy Acres, the gift shop is open until mid-January. 3) If properly cared for, a fresh cut tree can last six weeks indoors. Keeping it watered is the trick with a gallon of water per day. Locate the tree away from any vents or southern-facing windows.

Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer based in Como, Mississippi.

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exploring art } etta b pottery

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Keepsake Creations of Clay By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Etta B Pottery

Now in its 10th year, Etta B Pottery continues to evolve with new designs that fit perfectly with its timeless and classic pieces. When Brent DeShea Weathers translates her creations into clay, her goal is to produce pieces she’d love to have in her own home. As the designer behind Etta B Pottery in Etta, Mississippi, Weathers also aims to make each item both unique and useful. While many of the hand-painted plates, platters and other pieces are pretty enough to double as décor, all are dishwasher and microwave safe and can even be used in the oven with care. “Some things are more decorative, so you can put them on an easel on a shelf,” she said. “But if you are serving, you can actually pull them down and use them as well.” Balancing beauty and functionality come naturally for the self-taught potter, who has been elevating everyday items into art for decades. One of her earlier business ventures was

selling hand-painted T-shirts. She’s also painted murals on children’s bedroom walls. Then her mother, to whom Weathers attributes her creative spirit, suggested she try pottery as a way to make money on the side while husband Daryl served as chaplain for Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford and the couple homeschooled their children in the tiny town of Etta. “The first few pieces of pottery I made just fell flat,” she said. Weathers, who hand builds pieces rather than using a wheel, learned quickly through trial and error, however, and christened Etta B Pottery at the 2008 Mississippi Market Wholesale Show. But the event turned out to be a baptism by fire as Weathers unexpectedly presold far more pieces than she DeSoto 25

could produce with the equipment she had on hand, and 22 stores signed on to carry her work. Today, around 150 retailers sell Etta B Pottery, with roughly 125 stores ordering new pieces on a consistent basis, prompting an expansion beyond the farmhouse on their property where the business began into a shop six times the size. They’ve since grown to fill the space, and employ between 20 and 25 full-time staff members year-round. The couple has worked to maintain the shop’s cozy feel, though, and son Baylor and daughter Brooklyn DeShea Weathers are active in different aspects of the family’s ventures, which also include ownership of a store within Baptist Memorial Hospital that carries Etta B Pottery and other unique items. Some of the shop’s seasonal employees also return year after year during summer breaks from college, when they help create Christmas plates, platters and more. Etta B’s Christmas collection typically includes somewhere around 52 pieces with hand-painted designs that could span the spectrum from reverential and rustic nativity scenes to playful snowmen. Weathers also designs ornaments and other gift-worthy items that feature seasonal scenes and Southern imagery. These days, potters work alongside Weathers as she translates her creations into clay. She says a piece may go 26 DeSoto

through a dozen or so drafts before reaching its final form, with potters and painters often adding their own ideas and touches along the way. I’ve never wanted our pottery to lose the feel it had when I was making every single piece myself,” she said. “We try to keep the atmosphere in the shop very family-like, very positive, and I think all of that shows in the work we do every day.” Indeed, Etta B Pottery does look as though it’s created with care. And pieces share a familial feel that make them easy to mix and match across collections even as the designs evolve. For the company’s 10th anniversary this year, Weathers refreshed the color palette, but stuck with classic riffs on cream, blue and other earthy tones. “We just try to create a line that stays true to our Etta B brand,” she said. “I try to maintain continuity so that when you see it, you hopefully know it is Etta B Pottery. I took plates from the very first year and made sure what we created 10 years later, even with different colors, still fit.” She also strives to constantly improve her designs while feeding the growing demand from retailers who carry Etta B Pottery, including many of her original buyers from her first Mississippi Market. While she’s always hoped they

could someday get ahead of orders, it hasn’t happened, largely because many of the stores that carry the line have grown right alongside it, she said. And Weathers frequently fields phone calls from new retailers who would like to carry the line and, while she hopes to eventually expand again, it’s more important to her to maintain the handcrafted quality that has kept customers coming back for the last decade. “For it to have grown the way that it has is unbelievable to me, and I’m super-grateful for every bit of it.” Charlene Oldham is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who grew up in the Arkansas Delta. Charlene has worked as a staff writer for newspapers including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Dallas Morning News.

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exploring books} elvis and the ’68 comeback

The Comeback: ELVIS and The Story of the 68 Special Author: Simon Goddard Publisher: Omnibus Press Copyright: 2018 Suggested Retail: $26.99 Comeback ’68: The Story of the Elvis Special Author: Steve Binder Publisher: Meteor 17 Books and Rodan Productions Copyright: 2018 Suggested Retail: $36.99

Music Journalist Simon Goddard

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Reestablishing the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll By Mary Ann DeSantis Elvis photos are courtesy of Steve Binder Archives; Omnibus Press (Goddard Book); and Tony DeSantis (Binder Book cover and the two books together)

Two new books commemorate the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special. It’s been 50 years since Elvis Presley made his “comeback.” Baby boomers and millennials forget – or never knew – that by 1968 Elvis’ rock ‘n’ roll career was essentially over. He was more known for poorly written and hokey movies than for his musical skills and incredible voice. The ’68 NBC Comeback Special, which originally aired as simply “Elvis” in December 1968, re-established his position as the King. It was a pivotal moment in his career, and to mark the anniversary two books about Elvis and show were released this year. Although the titles are very similar, the books are different in tone and style. “The Comeback: ELVIS and the Story of the 68 Special” by British music journalist Simon Goddard is a gritty look at Elvis’ life leading up to the special. Goddard also delves into national events in 1968, such as the assassinations of

Robert Kennedy Jr. and Martin Luther King, and how they affected Elvis. Goddard, who has written books about David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and others, immersed himself in researching anecdotal accounts, interviews, and published articles about Elvis. The conversations in the book between Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker and others sounded so realistic that I could imagine Goddard sitting in the room and eavesdropping. Since Goddard was not born until 1971 – after the special aired – that would have been impossible, however. “With ‘The Comeback’, I wanted to write a new Elvis book for a new age – a vibrant, modern story that would read like a fast-paced narrative that a 21st century Netflix audience would appreciate,” says Goddard. “The book is factually accurate, but it is written as a drama, like a novel.” DeSoto 29

Steve Binder and Elvis

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Steve Binder and Elvis

Die-hard Elvis fans may think Goddard’s portrayals of the King are too harsh, but the author stresses that he was only trying to humanize Elvis. Goddard says he is one of Elvis’ most passionate fans but does not flinch when writing about the performer’s flaws. “The book is deliberately cinematic in the way it’s written as I wanted the reader to weep for Elvis in the first half and cheer for him in the second,” he explains. “All the historical facts were there waiting to be structured into a classic tale, one with a hero to root for and a villain to hiss at.” Indeed, the villain in both comeback books is Colonel Tom Parker, who tightly managed Elvis’ career from 1955 to 1977. “Every great drama needs a villain, and the Colonel is probably the greatest villain in the history of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Goddard. “Parker did not regard Elvis as a human being. He saw him as a means to a fortune. Everything Parker ever did for Elvis was, by proxy, for his own bank balance. He didn’t care for, or understand, the genius of Elvis’ talent, nor the beauty of his music which, to me, is bamboozling. It’s absolutely the stuff of Shakespeare… with all the psychology and tragedy involved.” In the book, “Comeback ’68: The Story of the Elvis Special,” author Steve Binder was no less flattering of the Colonel. And Binder was not a fly on the wall during the making of the comeback special: he was the show’s creator, director and producer. His book is a poignant “buddy story” about being there with Elvis as they created the show, which was actually filmed in June of 1968. Many reproductions from Binder’s own archives, including stage design sketches to personal correspondence with Colonel Parker, are included in the book along with fullpage photographs and the playlist. “For some reason, just instinctively, I sort of kept everything,” Binder told a British interviewer earlier this year.

Binder was the first to be brutally honest with Elvis that his “career was in the toilet” but could be resurrected by the special. With that candor, he gained Elvis’ trust and was able to stand up to the Colonel more than others had. In the end, however, the Colonel still managed to isolate Elvis from Binder. “I always felt that the Colonel had put out the word right after the special aired that I was persona non grata, and Elvis was never told I was downstairs,” Binder writes in his book about unsuccessfully trying to go backstage years later when Elvis performed in Las Vegas. Binder’s book, shaped like a record album cover, is a first-person account of his time with Elvis and the challenges they faced in bringing the 60-minute special to television. With a forward by Priscilla Presley, the 180-page commemorative volume is filled with classic, full-color photographs from the special, showcasing Elvis in his prime. Both authors talk about how Elvis “owned the moment,” clad in black leather and well-tanned and toned from a Hawaiian vacation. “My book is deliberately graphic about Elvis’ physical appearance, often with humor, but I didn’t want to understate how sexy he was,” says Goddard. “Watching the show in the company of women friends and marvelling at their reactions helped me a lot when it came to the descriptions I used.”

The ’68 Elvis Comeback Special was broadcast on NBC on Tuesday Dec. 3, 1968, at 9 p.m., and captured 42 percent of the total viewing audience, making it the network’s biggest rating victory for the entire year and the season’s top-rated show. Mary Ann DeSantis is the editor-at-large for DeSoto Magazine.

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into the wild } diamonds old west hotel/cabins

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An Arkansas Gem By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Diamonds Old West Cabins

A luxurious cabin attraction with a rustic touch, Diamonds Old West Hotel/Cabins in Arkansas takes guests back in time. If you’re looking for a rootin’ tootin’ time or you just want something unique for a nearby vacation, Diamonds Old West Hotel/Cabins in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is a good choice. Conveniently located near the Crater of Diamonds State Park, the rustic lodgings can be a memorable experience for the entire family. With a backdrop of the Ouachita Mountain foothills, the frontier-looking cabins sit on 40 acres where guests can enjoy the great outdoors as well as old-fashion fun without giving up modern amenities. In addition, on-site family friendly activities are offered for all ages. Open since 2012, the Diamond Old West Hotel/ Cabins resemble buildings typically found during cowboy days. Themed cabins include a bank, blacksmith, saloon, sheriff’s office and stables. Vintage décor and pine walls give each cabin a feeling of authenticity. To accommodate the expectations of today’s travelers, each cabin offers a variety of modern

conveniences such as baths/showers/Jacuzzi, microwaves, and refrigerators. The rustic amenities include porch swings, rockers, outdoor barbecue grills, firepits, and picnic tables. “Some of our cabins have fireplaces, and each cabin has an outdoor firepit and picnic table,” says employee, Meagan Smith. Specific cabins, like the one called “Bank Cabin,” offer accommodations for families and large groups. The twostory cabin acts as a single unit providing multiple beds and a full-size kitchen. “While the Bank Cabin is a great fit for a larger group or family, the Jail Cabin is our most popular. Guests seem to love this smaller cabin, because it has a jail cell with twin beds inside it. It makes for a fun photo opportunity,” Smith says. And when you are done digging for diamonds at the local state park or playing on Lake Greeson or the Missouri River, Diamonds Old West Cabins offers activity options. DeSoto 33

Guests can purchase a gem bag at the General Store and learn about sluicing with the attraction’s very own sluice box. Playgrounds designed like a castle and a pirate ship encourage children to let their imaginations run wild. The corn pit is a great option for children seeking a sensory integration activity. Pedal cars, archery, and horseshoes are among the list of activities enjoyed by adults and children alike. One of the most anticipated activities is the foam party or “The Great Diamond Wash.” Five feet of suds that children and adults can play in makes for a lot of clean fun, no pun intended. “Most of our guests are visiting the area to go to the diamond mine, but we’ve found that the adults enjoying hiking around on our property, just being outdoors and hanging around the firepit,” Smith elaborates. If you enjoy cooking on the campfire, the General Store sells campfire essentials like hot dogs and ingredients to make s’mores. In fact, guests can make s’mores inside the tepee on the grounds. Although guests cannot stay overnight in the teepee, it’s another unique activity that’s offered. Having been recognized as a 2015, 2016, and 2017 Certificate of Excellence Winner by Trip Advisor, Diamond Old West Hotel/Cabins aims to continue creating memorable opportunities for families. The property’s latest project includes a stocked pond. Guests will be able to fish, gather in a nearby pavilion, or simply relax by the water. “Our pond is a work in progress,” says Smith. “We hope to have it available for our guests in the spring.” Guests can book cabins online or call directly for reservations. With so many fun options, you may even want to visit more than once.

Dig for Diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

North America’s only diamond mine is located about a half day’s drive from the Mid-South at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Since becoming an Arkansas state park in 1972, more than 33,000 diamonds have been discovered by park visitors within the 37-acre plowed field. “We went there for my teenage son’s birthday last year,” recalls TJ Hicks of Blytheville, Arkansas. “My son had a great time! My husband and I thought it was great, too.” And while they didn’t strike it rich, they enjoyed the time together as a family. Open year round, the park is closed Christmas Eve afternoon, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Walking trails, campsites, diamond digging equipment, and other amenities are available at the park. Andrea Brown Ross is assistant editor for DeSoto Magazine and a freelance writer based in Como, Mississippi.

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table talk } bäckermann’s country market

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Bäckermann Country By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Bäckermann’s Country Market

Bäckermann’s Country Market, a longtime business located in the Mennonite community of Whiteville, Tennessee, offers customers delicious deli-style lunches and homemade specialties. After several Mennonite families relocated to Whiteville from various states to start a new church plant in the 1970s, a store seemed like an ideal way to connect with their new community. In 1981, the Bäckermann’s Mennonite Bakery opened, according to Samantha Yoder, employee and granddaughter of current owners, Earl and Mary Yoder. While the name Bäckermann has stuck, the store has changed hands several times with slight deviations of the name. The Yoders have had the store for 18 years. Manager Jamison Overholt shares what he believes

keeps customers coming back for more. “We offer deli sandwiches, daily specials, at least six kinds of soups, and sides such as pasta salad, but our personal pies are very popular.” The Reuben sandwich, beef barbecue sandwich, and Yoder burger are customer favorites according to Overholt. Many of the ingredients are sourced from an Amish community in Holmes County, Ohio. Although several members of their Mennonite community come from dairy farming families, they now source their milk from a dairy in DeSoto 37

Russellville, Kentucky, because of the decrease in the number of dairy farmers in the industry. “We still get our milk in glass jars,” says Overholt. Surprisingly, Bäckermann is not a family name as non-German speaking customers might assume. It is a German word meaning “baker man,” but was incorporated into the name as a reflection of their German/Swiss heritage. While business has always been steady, the kitchen really started heating up when local meteorologist, Tim Simpson, did a segment on the market for the Memphis news channel, WREG-TV. Morgan Graff of Como, Mississippi, opted to visit during the week with her husband. “It was an easy drive from the Lewisburg area of DeSoto County (Mississippi). We enjoyed looking at the scenery. We had a great lunch which was fresh, made to order, and reasonably priced.” Having toured Amish communities previously, Graff wasn’t sure what to expect when they arrived. “Everything is conveniently located within the store, as opposed to Amish communities where you may follow a map and stop at various households where they each sell a specific item,” explains Graff. As an avid cookbook collector and one who loves trying new recipes, Graff appreciates all the homemade food products that are available. “We probably spent about an hour there looking at their selection. They have a huge assortment of homemade items from pasta to jellies and such. If you like baking bread, I would recommend a visit!” says Graff. Those who enjoy baking can certainly appreciate the work that goes into the more than 1,500 pies Mary Yoder bakes during the holidays to fill a single order from an insurance company. “Our pecan pie minis are one of the bestselling items we offer,” says Overholt. During the holidays, customers may order a variety of baked goods. Pies, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, and different types of bread are available. Carrot cake, Italian crème, strawberry, and apple cakes can also be ordered. “We also offer holiday baskets,” explains Overholt. “Chocolate covered candies, jars of jam, bologna, and crackers are the typical items found in a basket.” “Customers can purchase a basket we have already created, or they can customize their own basket,” he says. With homemade apple butter, peanut butter spread, and chocolate-covered animal crackers as some of the choices, customers may find it’s difficult to limit themselves. Bäckermann’s also offers food sold in bulk, gluten-free items, and refrigerated items, such as a large selection of deli cheese. Homemade canned goods range from pickles, chow chow, peach salsa, salad dressing, and pickled quail eggs. And if it can be covered in chocolate, they likely have it on their shelf. Saturdays are quite busy, especially since the store is closed on Sundays. The staff works efficiently to make sure lunch orders and other customers are waited on in a timely manner. A small petting zoo is available to keep young children occupied. A variety of vendors are located outside the market on the weekend as well. Homemade products such as essential oil blends, soaps, and the coveted sourdough donuts are available. For customers who want to beat the lunch rush, Bäckermann’s now offers a limited menu of breakfast sandwiches. With so many options at Bäckermann’s, customers may find themselves leaving not only a full stomach after lunch but a basketful of goodies to take home for the holidays. bä

Andrea Brown Ross is assistant editor for DeSoto Magazine and a freelance writer based in Como, Mississippi.

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exploring destinations } victorian christmas celebrations

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Covington guests in costume

Franklin musicians

Dickens of a Christmas By Jan Schroder Photography courtesy of Covington-Tipton Chamber of Commerce and The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

Southern towns enjoy traditional Christmas celebrations that reflect Charles Dickens’ vision of the perfect holiday with feasts, goodwill and peace. Men in plaid vests sporting top hats and walking with canes, women in long skirts with frilly blouses, and children standing rapt as they listen to Christmas carolers are a few of the scenes you can expect to see at Victorian Christmas celebrations around the South. Here are a few places where you can don your bonnet and get in on the fun. Covington, Tennessee Dickens on the Square December 8 Every year the Historic Covington Square in Covington, Tennessee, is transformed as shop owners decorate their shops with Victorian decorations for Dickens on the Square.

In addition to the puppet shows, refreshments, bell choirs and horse and carriage rides, Covington is adding more music this year with additional Christmas carolers and local choirs. Another new event is Breakfast with Santa at Old Town Hall & Café. While shop owners and customers have always been encouraged to dress in period costumes, this year’s celebration will include a competition among the business owners to win “Best Dressed.” Lizzy Jackson, owner of Bayou Belle’s Boutique and the chairman of the 2018 event says, “People come in and they are so excited to see our costumes. We just love the spirit of the celebration – everyone is in a great mood and so happy.” To view more Christmas décor or pick up a few items DeSoto 41

Franklin street dancers

of your own, head to nearby Brighton to visit Oak Lawn Garden Center and Nature Gift Shop. Stop for a bit of comfort food at Billings Bald Butcher or Little Jimmy’s Lunch Box. or Franklin, Tennessee Dickens of a Christmas December 8-9 With Victorian architecture featured prominently in its 16-block historic downtown, Franklin, Tennessee, has a head start with its Dickens of a Christmas celebration. Guests may spot Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin and Jacob Marley among the 200 musicians, dancers and characters at the free street celebration, now in its 34th year. Guests are encouraged to get in the spirit by dressing in period costumes. If that’s not your thing, grab your ugliest Christmas sweater and stop by the First Citizens National Bank booth (sponsors of the event) to enter the Ugly Sweater contest. Bring your modern-day currency as more than 100 vendors will be selling arts and crafts. Entertain the wee ones with train rides and pony rides, and end the evening with the town singing Christmas carols. “This year, we anticipate bringing even more periodappropriate activities and programming to the festival,” said Liz Hall, the director of the festival. “Not only is this a prime opportunity for kids and families to have a good time but also to learn something about days-gone-by, which directly supports 42 DeSoto

our educational mission.” Franklin, located just about 20 miles south of Nashville, has historic homes to tour and more than 30 places for live music. Get your Southern food fix along with some lively tunes at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and check out the 100-layer donuts at Five Daughters Bakery. Iuka, Mississippi A Dickens Christmas December 21 Guests don their Dickens-era clothing to stroll the streets of Iuka, Mississippi, during the town’s annual Dickens Christmas, always held the third Friday in December. While the town has had an annual Christmas celebration for many years, the Dickens theme was added in 2014. Carolers add to the festive atmosphere and the downtown merchants stay open late for holiday shoppers. “We always provide carriage rides through the town to help set the mood,” said Shana Hollon, president of Iuka Development & Economic Association (IDEA), which puts on the event. “There is nothing fancy about our event, but we get great feedback from families about what it feels like to step back and spend time with friends and family during the holidays.” Other sites in Iuka include a Civil War Interpretive Center and Mineral Springs Park where you can drink water directly from the natural mineral springs. It’s also home to the country’s only Apron Museum, with thousands of aprons dating

back to the Civil War. Another attraction is the Old Courthouse Museum, built in 1870. Popular restaurants include Bread & Butter and the tiny Front Street Snack Bar, which dates back to the 1920s.

The Origins of Victorian Christmas We can thank the industrial age, Prince Albert, and Charles Dickens for our version of the Victorian Christmas. With factories generating more wealth for its middle-class citizens in the 19th century, people in England were able to take a few days off to celebrate Christmas. The first Christmas card was printed in 1843 and popularized by Queen Victoria. Her husband, Prince Albert, was from Germany and introduced that country’s tradition of a Christmas tree in the 1840s. Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” published in 1843, is credited with creating our view of Christmas as a time of feasting, family, goodwill and peace.

Jan Schroder is an award-winning Atlanta-based writer and editor. She is editor-in-chief of The Travel 100, a newsletter and website with 100-word stories.

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, a g e n o l h a D a

on the road again } dahlonega, georgia



9:00 Start the day with a breakfast sandwich, house-made pastry, muffin, or croissant at Picnic Café on the Historic Dahlonega Square. 10:00 Tour the artifact-rich Dahlonega Gold Museum, located in the former courthouse. Dahlonega was the site of the first major U.S. gold rush in 1828. Get a close-up look at a gold coin collection – worth a small fortune – minted in Dahlonega. 11:00 Shop in Dahlonega’s unique boutiques and stores. Over 100 local businesses line downtown, including the historic Dahlonega General Store where you’ll find homemade fruit butters, jellies, and more. Youngsters will love the marbles sold by the pound, wooden yo-yo’s, train whistles and other toys. 12:30 Sit down for a family-style meal at The Smith House, a north Georgia landmark. In 1922, Henry and Bessie Smith opened a boarding house, and Bessie began cooking delicious meals, served on the long communal tables still famous today. Her buttermilk fried chicken, country ham and gardenfresh vegetables became the restaurant’s signature recipes. 1:30 After lunch, ask for a basement tour at The Smith House, where you’ll see a mine shaft that was discovered during renovations in 2006. More than 15,000 miners came to Dahlonega looking for gold, and it turns out the famous Dahlonega Vein ran right under the inn. 2:00 Head a few miles out of town to tour five distinctive wineries in the “Heart of Georgia Wine Country.” The Dahlonega Plateau was officially named an American Viticultural Area (AVA) last July. 3:00 If you prefer to stay in town, you can still sample wines at the tasting rooms around the Square. Relax and enjoy the daily holiday events – including caroling, entertainment, wine samplings and live theater productions – throughout December. 4:00 Take a carriage ride around the picturesque Square. Rides are available on Thursdays through Saturdays until 8 p.m. in December, including New Year’s Eve night. 5:00 The Bourbon Street Grille in the historic Hall House building brings a delightful taste of New Orleans to Georgia. Ask for a table on the outdoor balcony for a great view of the holiday lights. You’ll find all the Cajun-inspired favorites like jambalaya, gumbo, fresh Apalachicola oysters, and blackened redfish. Save room for the Bananas Foster or the “Paul Thomas” Beignet stuffed with local dark chocolate for dessert.

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To plan your visit:

Upcoming Festivals:

Old-Fashioned Christmas Nov 23 - Dec 23

Dahlonega’s Old Fashion Christmas is a month-long celebration that officially brings Santa to town on Dec. 1 during the annual Christmas parade. Santa will be at the Visitors Center Plaza on Saturday and Sunday afternoons through Dec. 23.

Dahlonega Literary Festival March 1-2

The 2019 line-up of authors includes Jacob Appel, Ray Atkins, Chuck Barrett, Lee Ellis, Anthony Grooms, Eric Haney, McCall Hoyle, Phil Hudgins, Naomi Munaweera, D. J. Steele, and featured guest Rebecca Wells, author of “The Ya Ya Sisterhood” series!

23rd Annual Bear on the Square April 27-28

This old-fashion mountain festival features musicians, storytellers, and artists. Acoustic jams will be everywhere on the Square. Bring a chair, find someone playing old fiddle tunes, country and bluegrass, and join in the fun.

Dahlonega Arts & Wine Festival May 18-19

Chestatee Artists will present this juried art show for the fourth year in the downtown Square and in Hancock Park. Sip local and regional wines and hear terrific jazz performances.

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greater goods } christmas decor

Christmas decor











1. Hand Towels, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 2. Etta B nativity plate, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 3. MudPie Wine bags, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 4. Wooden Christmas Trees, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 5. Santa toy bags, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 6. Christmas pillows, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 7. Wall decor, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 8. Tin angels, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 9. Nativity scene, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 10. Holy Land wooden Nativity scene, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS

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greater goods } christmas ornaments

Christmas ornaments














1. Metal classic ornaments, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 2 Hand painted wooden ornaments, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 3. Little Red Truck ornament, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 4. Merry Christmas Y”all ornament, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 5. 2018 ornaments, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 6. Vintage vehicle ornaments, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. Hand Painted Miss State ornament, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 8. Grand Kids ornament, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 9. Hand painted wedding ornaments, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 10. Santa ornament, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 11. Cactus ornament, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 12. 6 inch Cotton Ball ornament, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 13. Alex Ladner painted ornaments, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS

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Reed’s in Tupelo, Mississippi

a century of

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shopping By Michelle Keller Photography courtesy of Lott Furniture, Neilson’s and Reed’s

The recipe for staying in business for over a century takes knowledge and great customer service with a dash of good luck. That winning combination has helped three Mississippi retailers survive two World Wars, the Great Depression, and an onslaught of online competitors to welcome new generations of shoppers. DeSoto 49

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In the age of the internet phenomena we communicate faster, work faster, and even shop faster. Among the things the internet can’t offer, though, is a warm, personal smile when you purchase Christmas gifts, housewares, or other items. The convenience of online or mall shopping can’t compare to the personal connections that these three Mississippi retailers have offered to their customers and communities for more than 100 years. Neilson’s Oxford The folks at Neilson’s in Oxford say stability contributes to the achievement of their more than 150-years in operation. Founded in 1839 on the Historic Oxford Square, Neilson’s is reportedly the oldest store in the South. “Our customers and our employees know that we are here to stay,” says Amanda Lewis Hyneman. She says that while the internet has changed the way people shop everywhere, some things remain the same. “We live in a town that supports local businesses and promotes Oxford as a destination. We offer personalized service along with the ease of being able to see and feel what they are buying.” Hyneman’s father, Will Lewis Jr., is still a very active part of the store. “My father is 82 and has been associated full-time with the store since 1967, and his father had been associated with the store since 1930,” says Hyneman. Since its founding, Neilson’s has changed drastically with three store renovations, the last in 2016. The store’s square footage increased from 10,000-square-feet to 17,000 between 1971 and 1981. The merchandise has also changed. The store initially sold fabric by the bolt, along with dress and clothing patterns, and seamstress supplies. Keeping tradition alive and catering to a new generation is key for the family-owned business.  “The Ole Miss students and alumni are a vital part of the community and our business, so we certainly carry items that they like.  We also make sure to carry items that our loyal local customers can rely on,” Hyneman explains. The holiday season has always been a special time at Neilson’s. From decorating the 10-panel front window to DeSoto 51

changing merchandise inside to reflect the season, Hyneman says it’s always fun to turn the store upside down for the holidays. REED’S, Tupelo Established in 1905 as a general dry goods store, Reed’s in historic downtown Tupelo wraps around three-quarters of a city block and is now a collection of four specialty stores under one roof: Men’s, Women’s, Kids’, Gifts & Books. Founder R.W. Reed was known as an energetic, dynamic young man who always had “something going on.” He understood trends, and according to the company website, the store held America’s first “One-Week Day & Night Sale” in the 1920s, remaining open 24 hours a day for a week to drive business. Family member and current assistant manager to the company’s bookstore and gift shop, Catherine Reed-Mize explains: “Since 1905, major styles and trends have come and gone and resurfaced yet again. Most recently, there has been a trend toward a more casual look in clothing and gifts for entertaining.” To address those trends, Reed’s tries to bring those trends to customers, not only in merchandise but also in the shopping experience. For example, Reed’s also has an outdoor lifestyle store, called Core: Cycle and Outdoor, that includes a climbing wall, wake boards, bikes and bike repair. Other Reed’s locations include the Tupelo Barnes Crossing Mall and downtown Starkville. 52 DeSoto

The fourth quarter is always the busiest time at Reed’s. With gift wrapping and several holiday events and promotions, Reed-Mize says one of the highlights for Reed’s during the holidays is sponsoring the Downtown Christmas parade. As for what Reed’s attributes such long-standing success, Reed-Mize says, “We feel that creating a unique experience for our customers is important. We try to stay ahead by looking at new trends and addressing the changes in retail. Giving back is important to us and we are heavily involved in our community.” LOTT FURNITURE COMPANY Laurel In 1917, Reuben Lott at age 20 opened a small furniture store on Front Street in Laurel, just across from the train depot. Initially selling primarily to nearby logging camps, Lott branched out over the state and fell right into the hub of regional commerce. With no heirs, Lott eventually sold his stores to his employees in the 1970s. The stock percentages were determined by position and seniority, with the largest share going to Nellie Rowell, who began working at Lott Furniture in the 1940s. Nellie eventually bought out the other employees and worked at the store for a total of 58 years, before handing the reigns over to her children in 1983. Today, Lott’s is in the hub of downtown Laurel’s resurgence. The store’s current owners, Rodney and Angie Rowell, open their doors for special events, such as the monthly “Wine & Design” with music, speakers, and workshops like

flower arranging. While furniture is still the store’s mainstay, merchandise has expanded to include home décor, candles, gifts, and even a few clothing items promoting Laurel. Keri Rowell – Nellie’s granddaughter – says serving the community is a “big deal” all year, but the holidays are extra special. “We participate in all of the community events like Loblolly Festival, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Christmas Open House, December Downtown and more,” says Keri. “We love getting the store decorated and offering special Christmas decor for the home.” One custom of Mr. Lott’s that has survived for a century is keeping records by hand. He believed personally writing a customer’s name built a relationship that shouldn’t be sacrificed for efficiency. “For years, we’ve carried our own accounts the old-fashioned way – handwritten on paper,” says Keri. “In-house financing has always been the store’s bread and butter. We still have many accounts and are one of the only furniture stores around here to do it.” The bookkeeping practices may be old-fashioned, but the owners have stepped boldly into the 21st century with social media. Lott Furniture Company has very active Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, often showcasing items seen on HGTV’s HomeTown program. Described on Instagram as “part museum, part furniture store” Lott Furniture has itself been featured on the HGTV series and thereby garnering fans from near and far. But’s it’s the local customers and Mr. Lott’s original business model that have kept the store alive during hard times. “We’ve been able to survive on monthly payments from our customers when sales were slow,” explains Keri. She adds that customers who have purchased goods all their adult lives along with their parents and grandparents, are the ones who have kept Lott’s Furniture alive for over 101 years.

Michelle Keller is a freelance writer based in Memphis. She also writes for The Austin Times Newspaper, On The Links Magazine and National Hardwood Magazine.

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G N I G N I R IN S E L C A R I M By Robin Gallaher Branch Photography courtesy of The Salvation Army

The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers, especially for families in need. DeSoto 55

Bell Ringers

On the day after Thanksgiving, John Green routinely dons a black top hat, black frock coat, white shirt, and black string tie. He looks like either Scrooge or Abraham Lincoln. “Take your pick,” he says with a laugh. He goes to the Kroger in Collierville, Tennessee, on Byhalia Road, stands near a red kettle, and starts ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. Green, owner of John Green Realtors in Collierville, has been ringing so many years that people expect him. “They see somebody crazy enough to dress up and they’re more apt to give,” he says. The bell ringing, familiar kettles, and assured cheery greetings are part of America’s Christmas tradition — and a chunk of the Salvation Army’s annual fundraising. “We raised $903,000 last year,” says Major Zach Bell, who with his wife, Major Shelley Bell, co-command the Salvation Army for Memphis and the Mid-South. “It’s 20 percent of our yearly support.” Approximately 80 kettles dot the nine-county, Tennessee-Mississippi-Arkansas area of this Salvation Army. Most donations are $1. Most ringers are volunteers; Germantown Baptist handles two weeks of kettle duty, for example. “We also have paid ringers; some 150 people get 56 DeSoto

seasonal work.” Zach says. Are there memorable donations? Yes, indeed. The Bells mention an anonymous donor who routinely puts several hundred dollars wrapped by a single dollar bill in various kettles (never the same one). “We should have a nickname for him,” laughs Shelley, expressing her thanks. Green praises the generosity of those slipping donations through a kettle’s narrow slot. “Those you think would give the least give the most.” When asked why this is so, he pauses and then says: “It seems that people who don’t have much appreciate what the Salvation Amy does. Maybe the Army helped them.” Probably so. For instance, Joey, a middle-aged white man with tattoos, describes the painful period before he came to the Salvation Army Mid-South Adult Rehabilitation Center as dark, cold, very lonely, and hungry. He participated in the live-in, six month program for men, and, as he says, worked on his life. “God did show up in ways that I never expected,” he shares. Joey completed the program. He now has a job, truck, and safe place to live, and he reconnected with his children. “I am extremely grateful to God,” he says.

Angle Tree

Angel Tree Angel Tree is another popular Army Christmas program. Depending on funding, it serves 4,000-5,500 pre-screened children and seniors. Angel Tree provides Christmas presents — and more. “It gives a family slack,” Zach says. “A parent doesn’t have to choose between paying the light bill and getting the children presents.” Lists from seniors and children dot the Angel Tree, and then anonymous donors buy what the child or senior wants. The presents are wrapped at an Army warehouse, but nothing identifies them as coming through the Army. In that way, as Zach says, “the gifts give dignity to the parents. Families can enjoy Christmas together.” History The Salvation Army has a history of helping others. Its motto — Doing the DeSoto 57

Shelley and Zach Bell

Most Good — fits its mission. Founded in London in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth, the Army’s ministry is to the poor and destitute on the streets; it now serves in 128 countries. Five local churches brought the Salvation Army to the Memphis area in 1900. Over the years as programs grew, developed, and changed to meet many needs, the focus always remained this: Sharing God’s Love by Serving Others. The Army’s structure is based on the Methodist model. The Army has 111,859 staff worldwide and over 200 in Memphis. Career staff, like the Bells, are officers; churches are called corps; and corps members are soldiers. There are two corps (Salvation Army churches) in Memphis — at the Kroc Center and Purdue Center. Most of the Mid-South staff have been with the Army for 12-plus years. “That’s unheard of in non-profits because of burnout,” Zach proudly says. The Bells have led the Memphis Army for three years. They came as captains and were recently promoted to majors. They recently received doctor of ministry degrees from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. The two obviously love their jobs. “We see miracles every day,” Shelley says. Zach continues: “We’re evangelistic in everything we do. We preach with words and actions. We preach the good news. Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners. We love without discrimination.” 58 DeSoto

Insights from Army volunteers Judy and Homer Moore, volunteers with Salvation Army backgrounds for generations, are Purdue Center favorites. The retired couple drives from Southaven, Mississippi, several times a week ready for, as Judy exclaims, “Anything that needs doing!” That means data entry for her and counting Christmas kettle money. Homer recently tackled cleaning a closet, a twoday project, but always broke for hugs. “When the kids come in from school, they run to Homer. There aren’t a lot of men in that part of the women’s shelter, and children need a man,” Judy says. “He holds them and talks to them. It’s great for them to see a grandfather figure.” Purdue houses 122 women and children and 20 single women per night. The women participate in programs while the children attend school; the programs give security, counsel, teaching, and social service support for months. Their purpose is to fight multigenerational homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, and addiction. Christina Roberts, an Army volunteer for about seven years, smiles when she gets what she calls “godly taps” from the officers. “An officer will say there’s a need or an event coming up; the word goes out,” she explains. Roberts just stepped down as president of the women’s auxiliary and now is the adult sponsor for Salvation Army GPS Squad. Short for Give

Pray Serve, GPS is an online resource of 500 teens and family members. GPS hosts at least one Purdue event monthly like a game night, cookout, or dance. Students do things like lead devotions, bring desserts, and distribute Angel Tree gifts. Roberts loves volunteering because, as she says, she sees so many miracles. “People come in broken and we watch their lives become transformed. To watch God’s work—it’s amazing!” And it’s done something for her as well: “It’s completely blessed and transformed my life.” Miracles, documentation, plans It turns out that documentation backs up the miracles, those good results the volunteers, officers, and participants mention. An independent data processing firm called Slingshot Memphis looked at Purdue’s records. Zach summarizes Slingshot’s findings: In 17 years of serving women and children and single women, there have been 13,000 residents. In Renewal Place, a twoyear residential program for addiction and recovery, 71 percent now have independent housing, there is a 76 percent sobriety rate, and 95 percent of the children are in school. During those years, there have been only three teen pregnancies and none of the children have entered foster care. “That’s why we believe in miracles,” Shelley says. Zach adds, “What makes this happen is Jesus Christ.” These data give backing for the Army’s $12 million capital campaign. The goal is to be able to house 75 more people a night. “Memphis needs the facility,” Zach says, mentioning the area’s reputation for violence, homelessness, addiction, and poverty and its obvious need for healing. “We have the answer: Jesus Christ. We are unashamed of that. We are the Salvation Army.” Robin Gallaher Branch, a Fulbright scholar, teaches adjunct classes in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University in Memphis and writes for many news sources.

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Voted as one of the South’s top festivals, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival is just the beginning of a fun-filled holiday celebration in Louisiana’s oldest town.

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Natchitoches 92nd Annual

Christmas Festival By Cheré Coen | Photograohy by Cheré Coen

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Every year just before Thanksgiving, the historic town of Natchitoches turns into a holiday wonderland. More than 300,000 lights are hung throughout Louisiana’s oldest town, and 100 lighted set pieces are floated on Cane River Lake or installed along its banks. “We’ve got it down pat when it comes to the holidays,” said Arlene Gould, executive director of the Natchitoches Convention & Visitors Bureau, adding that the holiday festival is almost as old as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1927, Max Burgdorf, the city’s superintendent of utilities, purchased enough 10-watt Christmas tree bulbs to string along Front Street and to make a set piece to display on the riverbank. And what began as one man’s desire to give thanks to his beloved city by lighting up the heart of Natchitoches has turned into one of the largest holiday festivals in the United States. “It’s grown so much that it’s now a six-week festival of lights,” she added. The 2018 Festival of Lights began Nov. 17 with a “Turn on the Holidays!” celebration, with live music, arts and crafts, a visit from Santa and children’s activities. After a day of fun, Miss Merry Christmas and the Christmas Belles flip the switch to illuminate the decorations, with fireworks to follow. Natchitoches’ Festival of Lights runs through Jan. 6 with special activities, holiday tours, and performances every 62 DeSoto

Saturday evening. “If you can imagine how many fireworks have been blown up in 80 years,” Gould said. The Festival of Light’s such an extravaganza it’s been named winner of the 2018 Shining Example Award “Top Festival of the Year” by Southeast Tourism, the “Top Festival in the State” by New Orleans Magazine and “Festival/Event of the Year” by Louisiana Travel Association. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival begins early on Dec. 1 with a Natchitoches City of Lights 5k Run that begins at Northwestern Louisiana University. Cajun music star Wayne Toups leads the Festival of Lights Parade at 1 p.m., followed by music on the Riverbank Stage. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. it’s Christmas on the Cane at Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site where historians, reenactors and period merchants will offer a taste of 18th century living. In addition, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum is open for free tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The evening concludes with a spectacular firework show choreographed to holiday music over Cane River Lake. Festival activities including live music, arts and crafts, and food vendors, occur along Front Street and the downtown riverbank, and armbands are required for entry into those areas. Festival day admission is $10 for ages 12 and over and free to those under age 12.

After the Dec. 1 Festival Although the heart of the annual celebration is the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, the city will be filled with holiday spirit throughout December. There’s plenty to catch along the streets of Natchitoches if you didn’t make the Dec. 1 Natchitoches Christmas Festival. Home tours, live music on the riverbank stage and other events happen every weekend with armband admission. Highlights include the following: A Holiday Kids Fest is offered weekends on the downtown riverbank. Free photos with Santa will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 2-24 at the south end of the riverbank. First United Methodist Church presents a free Choir Cantata on Dec. 9. A free Christmas musical will be performed at First Baptist Church, along with a Dec. 17 First Baptist Church Natchitoches Christmas Celebration on the Riverbank Stage. DeSoto 63

Holiday Tours Tours of decorated homes, businesses and churches are part of the festivities this year. Visitors may tour the historic Laureate House and Bayou Amulet House in the “Christmas by Candlelight” tour from 5 to 8 p.m., Dec. 7 and 14. For tickets, visit the Natchitoches Historical Foundation at The Prudhomme-Rouquier House, constructed between 1790 and 1811, will be open for a free “Christmas for Children” tour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 8. Children will be able to create cornhusk dolls, play Christmas-theme carnival games, and enjoy live performances by local groups. A “Living History Tour” on Dec. 8 and 15 will guide visitors through downtown Natchitoches to learn the history of the Cunningham Law Firm, now the Natchitoches Historic Foundation, and Trinity Episcopal Church and its Bishop Leonidas Polk, known as the “Fighting Bishop” during the Civil War. Natchitoches’ Northwestern Louisiana University began as the Louisiana State Normal School in 1884. “A Very Northwestern Christmas” tour will include the three remaining columns of the 1832 Bullard Mansion, part of the original campus, and the Old President’s Home, dating back to 1927, 64 DeSoto

now the Alumni Center. The tour will be offered from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 6 and 13. In addition, there will be complimentary admission for tour ticket holders to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Northwest Louisiana History Museum. Both are located at 800 Rue Front Street in a 27,500-square-foot museum complex that has won awards for its unique architecture. The Sports Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of more than 300 Louisiana athletes, coaches and other sports figures. The history museum artifacts range from early Native Americans to the present-day Louisiana. Accommodations Natchitoches is home to numerous bed and breakfasts, many of them historic sites, and most dress up for the holidays. However, the Samuel Guy House, built in 1850, enjoys the season to the max. The house remained in the Guy family for 150 years before it was purchased, moved and restored as a bed and breakfast. The two-story Greek Revival offers seven guest rooms, eight bathrooms, a 55-foot central hallway and a dining and living area that overlooks a lovely garden. During the holidays, guest rooms are decorated,

sometimes with their own Christmas trees, and every nook and cranny of the house contains either holiday decorations or Christmas-themed collections. There are Duncan Royal Santas, holiday cookie jars, a miniature Christmas Village with handpainted ceramic houses, Hummel figurines and more. For information on this elegant house that will get you in the mood for the holidays — if the festival hasn’t already — visit For more information and to access a schedule on the Festival of Lights and the Natchitoches 92nd Annual Christmas Festival, visit Cheré Coen is a freelance food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, but her Mississippi roots run deep. Read her quirky stories at

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homegrown } red bird peppermint puffs

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Sweet Memories By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Red Bird Peppermint Puffs

Since 1890, the family-owned Piedmont Candy Company has produced peppermint puffs to the delight of generations of children and adults. For as long as I knew her, my grandmother was a kindly old church lady, and like her peers everywhere she had a candy dish at home and a pocket filled with candy (and wrappers) at all times. My grandmother and her Sunday School class were Red Bird Peppermint Puffs devotees. Between Sunday School and the regular service, I’d find my grandmother and get a handful of these pillowy peppermint candies to carry me through church hymns, the distribution and collection of the offering plates, announcements, a pair of prayers and, finally, the sermon. As much as my mother, or the minister, would be disappointed to hear this, those candies got me through many a service. Today, some 30-odd years removed from begging a handful of candies from my granny, there’s a part of my brain where Red Bird Peppermint Puffs live. I know the way they’d

melt, the sharp peppermint sting (that I always imagined was stronger in the red stripe), the crinkle and rattle of the wrapper resounding through the church sanctuary; they were the incense and litany of Crooked Creek Church of Christ. Piedmont Candy Company, the folks responsible for Red Bird Peppermint Puffs, has used the same recipe since 1890 to make the candy 100 pounds at a time in a Lexington, North Carolina, factory. A hundred pounds of peppermint puffs seems like an impossible amount, but it’s a drop in the bucket of what Piedmont produces in a day. Daily, they make 55,000 pounds of candy; weekly, they make 275,000 pounds. During the holiday season, they’ll make some 4 million pieces of candy a day. But how do you quantify that? Their daily output weights more than a concrete truck. Their weekly output DeSoto 67

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weights more than a Boeing 747 made of peppermint puffs. Who knows how many grandmothers’ pockets that would fill. As astounding as those numbers are, that’s nothing. This company has been family owned and operated since 1890. They use the original recipe for every batch (minor tweaks – like flavorings – aside). They make the candy by hand… every batch, every time. Workers heat water and pure cane sugar to 300 degrees, making a thick goo that, after a moment of cooling, a 100-pound mound is separated into two lumps of 10 and 90 pounds. Gloved hands knead red dye into the 10-pound lump while the 90-pound lump is wound around a series of arms on the candy puller (it looks like that wild machine that pulls taffy at the boardwalk), pulled and ladled with peppermint oil. After a few minutes, the peppermint lump is shaped into a long pillow, the bright red 10-pound lump is formed into a quartet of strips and the two are combined. The concoction is then fed slowly into a rolling machine that stretches the candy pencil thin and cuts it into peppermint puffs and peppermint sticks. There are two reasons Red Bird Peppermint Puffs (and minis and sticks) are made by hand: quality and accountability. According to Jenna Paquin, marketing director for Piedmont Candy Company, accountability is huge. “We’ve been a North Carolina-made candy for more than 125 years and we’re a large part of the community here,” she says. Piedmont’s story starts way back in 1890 when the NC Candy Company opened its doors and cooked up all sorts of sugary confections. By the early 1900s they’d changed their name to the Piedmont Candy Company and a young candy apprentice – German immigrant Edward Ebelein – joined the team. Ebelein went on to become the sole owner of the business and made millions of pounds of candy until 1987 when the family sold the business to Doug Reid. Reid was watching North Carolina’s textile industry shrink but saw long-term potential in the form of the peppermint puffs and today, Piedmont is one of a handful of candy companies with roots and production based in the USA. Which is the long way of saying Piedmont Candy Company is tied to Lexington and Lexington to the Piedmont Candy Company. And that makes one fact odd: Piedmont Candy Company doesn’t have its own retail outlet. Instead of visiting the factory and picking up a bag of peppermint puffs on the way out, you’ll have to visit The Candy Factory, a candy shop in downtown Lexington that’s owned by Edward Ebelein’s granddaughters. So how does a candy from 1890 remain relevant today? My grandmother would have the answer. She’d dip her thin, wrinkled hand into a pocket and come out with a trio of Red Bird Peppermint Puffs, then place them in your palm. A conspiratorial smile would gleam in her eye and she’d tell you, “Be quiet with these during the service.” Jason Frye is a freelance writer from Wilmington, North Carolina. Jason has authored three travel guides for Moon Publications and written for Southern Living and the Dallas Morning News.

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southern gentleman } restoring trans ams

Harold Sullivan

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A Smokin’ Passion for Trans Ams By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Harold Sullivan and

Love for a Pontiac Trans Am leads New Albany’s Harold Sullivan into the business of restoring the iconic sports cars. When Harold Sullivan was a teenage boy, he did what many other teenagers did: He fell in love. The object of his affections? The Pontiac Trans Am. Like many other fans, the 53-year-old New Albany, Mississippi, resident loved the car after seeing it featured in the 1977 “Smokey and the Bandit” movie. “That movie really inspired me,” Sullivan says. “It just had more excitement to it than the Chevrolet Camaro. To me,

it’s just more styled and detailed than the Camaro.” Although Sullivan never owned a Pontiac Trans Am as a young man, his passion for the automobile never waned. So, about 15 years ago, he made the purchase he’d waited so long to get. “I always had a passion for those cars,” he says. “I always wanted one and decided to get it.” Sullivan’s choice was the 1979 10th anniversary DeSoto 71

The Bandit’s original Pontiac Trans Am

Pontiac Trans Am. However, it wasn’t much to look at when he bought it. Instead, he spent the next three-to-four months restoring the car. Of course, this was in addition to working his regular full-time job as an over-the-road truck driver. Weekends at home were spent on the car. At the time, Sullivan did much of the restoration himself, but he wasn’t ready to take on all of the work just yet. He did hire out the painting as well as some of the interior work although he now does his own interior restoration. Once the restoration was complete, Sullivan entered it into area car shows, and, to his surprise, kept finishing in firstplace. In 2004, he took the car to Florida, where he entered it into the Southern Trans Am Regional Show, and again took home first place. His buddies kept telling him to take the car to Ohio for the Trans Am Nationals. He finally did so, and, once more, received first place for stock (unmodified) cars. “I was just enjoying a hobby,” Sullivan says. “But that car had never been beat, so I brought it home and retired it.” However, that was not the end for Sullivan and the Pontiac Trans Am. He soon had friends asking him to restore cars for them; then, strangers began seeking his services. Since his first restoration, he has gone on to restore between 15 and 20 more Trans Ams although he isn’t sure of the exact number. “I was trying to add that up, but I’ve lost count,” Sullivan says. He may have lost count, but he definitely recalls a few favorites, including a 1978 replica of the “Smokey and the Bandit” car. It turns out, Sullivan wasn’t the only one who loved that car. In 2015, he got a call from country music band Thompson Square, who wanted to use the car in the official lyric video for their song, “Trans Am.” Sullivan even appeared in the video although you probably won’t see him. “The scenes of the car leaving the car wash?” he says. 72 DeSoto

“That’s me driving it.” But Thompson Square wasn’t done with him or the car just yet. “I brought the car home, and I sold it to my buddy who wanted it,” Sullivan says. “I sold it on Tuesday, and [the band] called on Thursday, saying they wanted it back for a second video. We took it up there together to film the video.” That video is the official video for “Trans Am” featuring the band. Starring in music videos and winning awards are just some of the unexpected aspects Sullivan has experienced since he first started restoring Pontiac Trans Ams. “I’ve had a lot of good times and met a lot of good people through this,” he says. Meeting those people and the joy he gets from restoring Trans Ams are the main reasons Sullivan continues to restore the cars. As he says, he loves seeing these cars come back alive. “I’ve had people look at cars I’ve bought and say, ‘There’s no hope,’” he says. Although Sullivan has learned a lot about restoring Pontiac Trans Ams through the years that have benefitted him in these projects, he credits another source for his success as well. “My wife has been very supportive of this,” he says. “She’s always backed me up on it.” With that type of support and a passion that still burns strong, expect Sullivan to continue to give his time to restoring Pontiac Trans Ams. And the next time one passes you on the road, remember this: It could be one of Sullivan’s creations.

World of Customs Auto Show Comes to Tupelo in February In 2017, Harold Sullivan, Danny Thompson, Zack Rogers, Robert Breed, Barney Long and Robert Rice came together to create the World of Customs Auto Show, an International Show Car Association (ISCA)-sanctioned car show that brings together some of the top show cars in the region. “The closest shows to us were in Birmingham and Chattanooga,” Sullivan says. “We decided it would be good to have one near us, and we thought Tupelo could accommodate the crowds. It looked like a good time and place to have it there.” The inaugural show was held in February 2018 and attracted approximately 180 cars and 10,000 attendees. For 2019, the three-day event will be held Feb. 22-24 at the Tupelo Furniture Market Buildings 4 & 5. There is a $50 registration fee for show cars, which must be pre-registered. Tickets to attend are $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-to-11, and free for kids age 5 and younger.

Karon Warren is a freelance writer based in Ellijay, Georgia. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon also writes for USA Today and her blog,

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southern harmony } john schneider

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Dancing Back to Music By Pam Windsor Photography courtesy of Maven Entertainment and ABC/Eric McCandless

Best known for his role on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and more recently on this season’s “Dancing With the Stars,” some might forget John Schneider also had a very successful singing career in the 1980’s. This year, he’s back to making music, and lots of it. He first won the hearts of TV viewers in the late ‘70s for his role as Bo Duke in “The Dukes of Hazard.” In the decades that followed John Schneider went on to play a long list of other popular roles including Superman’s father on the CW’s “Smallville,” Judge Jim Cryer on “The Haves and the Have Nots,” and many more. He’s been such a familiar face to television viewers for so long, he’s never quite sure how someone he meets for the first time will react, but he’s always ready embrace it. “It’s pretty amazing.” Schneider says, “Like yesterday,

I stopped on the way from Atlanta to Nashville and the girl behind the counter looked up at me and started to tear up. I said, ‘What show?’ She was like ‘Smallville,’ and I said that relationship must have meant something to you, so I gave her a hug.” His most recent TV appearance has been on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” It thrust him into an entirely new role, not as an actor, but as a contestant on a very physicially demanding dance competition show. “I’m not a dancer,” Schneider explains with a laugh, DeSoto 75

ABC/Eric McCandless

“I would say I move well when I’m talking.” At 58, he was this season’s oldest contestant, but welcomed the experience with the same enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication he approaches every new professional opportunity. “This is both the most challenging and rewarding professional experience I’ve ever had! Learning an entirely new discipline every week is definitely not something I thought I would be doing at this age,” he admits, but says “loved every minute of it!” Disappointingly, Schneider was eliminated Nov. 5 after seven weeks of competition. He thanked fans for their messages, comments, and support throughout the season and said he wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world. While dancing might have been new for Schneider, music has always played a major role in his life. A celebrated country artist during the 80’s, Schneider first topped the charts with his cover of Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never,” then went on to have a number of other hits. Despite that success, Schneider says a lot of people don’t remember he sang those songs. “People go, oh yeah, you had a song back in the 80’s and I say, yeah, I had several. They’ll say, like what? And I say, well there was ‘I’ve Been Around Enough to Know,’ and they’ll say, no, that wasn’t you. Or I’ll say, how about ‘What’s 76 DeSoto

a Memory Like You Doing in a Love Like This,’ that was me. They’ll say, no, it wasn’t. They think I did Waylon’s song; they think I did ‘Dukes of Hazzard’.” Last year, after a long break from music, Schneider returned with an album called “Ruffled Skirts.” And this year he’s been hard at work gathering and recording songs for a project he calls “The Odyssey.” “It started with a question to songwriters,” he explains. “I said play me your best song that people are afraid of because there’s too much heart, there’s too much soul, there’s too much story there. And they started playing songs for me that were just unbelievable.” He wanted songs that made him laugh, made him cry, and would make everyone feel deeply. “That’s why there are songs like ‘I Hate Cancer,’ and ‘I Want to Hear it Again’,” he says, “which is a very unusual song about hearing loss. I mean who writes a song about hearing loss?” There’s a song called “Wounded,” and one called “A Soldier’s Memory.” The list goes on and on. The songs were recorded and released one CD at a time, for a compilation of six, with all now completed and available. Some of his greatest hits are also included, and he says there are some fun songs, too. But the overall goal was to select a large number of songs that had real meaning. “Absolutely every song on ‘The Odyssey’ had to be

ABC/Eric McCandless

one of those songs that if you heard it on the radio and you’re driving down the road, you want to pull over and listen to the rest of the song.” Schneider, who lives in Holden, Louisiana, spent a lot of time in Nashville, recording some of the music, and performing it in different venues, including the Grand Ole Opry. He’s grateful that so many of country music’s most well-respected singers, songwriters, and musicians contributed to the project. “I’m really excited,” he says. “I love those songs.” Schneider is now working to promote and perform the music, even as he stays busy with other projects. He continues to act, and also write and produce his own films with partner Alicia Allain at John Schneider Studios in Holden, Louisiana. He’s happy and grateful to have had so many different opportunities since those early days on “The Dukes of Hazard.” “It’s all part of the road that led me here,” he says, “And I’m enjoying everything.” To sample some of his music and find out more about “The Odyssey,” as well as many of his other projects, visit: Pam Windsor is a Nashville-based freelancer, who writes for AARP, MotorHome Magazine, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, Country Weekly, and other publications.

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in good spirits} femme fatale

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Christmas with the Blue Dog By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Blue Dog Café

Certain flavors remind us of the holidays: cloves and cinnamon sticks stewing in apple cider, pine needles of Christmas trees and garlands, and the aroma of gingerbread baking, and cranberries for the sauce. It’s why we chose a ginger-infused cocktail from Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, Louisiana, a restaurant known for its Cajun fare and whimsical artwork from “Blue Dog” creator George Rodrigue. The restaurant mirrors its region, with Gulf seafood dishes, typical Cajun meats and cocktails that make you want to say, “Laissez les bon temps rouler.” Chef Ryan Trahan has created three cocktails that contain holiday ingredients, drinks that will delight the senses and remind us of holidays past. Two utilize ginger in interesting ways and one is a holiday twist on a Louisiana favorite. Trahan has a long and decorated culinary career for his young age. He opened two farm-to-table restaurants in Lafayette and at both restaurants, loved experimenting with cocktails. “I enjoy drinking them more,” he said. Trahan recently took over the kitchen at Blue Dog of Lafayette — there’s a location in Lake Charles as well — and competed against numerous Louisiana chefs this summer to win the coveted title of Louisiana Seafood King. Then, in August, he went against 12 chefs from around the country to take the King of American Seafood crown at the 15th Annual Great American Seafood Cookoff. His dish with Blue Dog Sous Chef Sullivan Zant married cracklin’ crusted red snapper with pickled crawfish tails, buttermilk chili consommé, spring vegetables, burnt leek oil and bowfin caviar. Not bad for a self-taught chef. But about those cocktails — Blue Dog drinks are always made from scratch and fresh ingredients, Trahan said. The Darby House Tea, for instance, combines Bulleit bourbon with peach honey shrub, lemon bitters, ginger beer and sweet tea. It’s a play on a gimlet, Trahan said.

“I’m a huge bourbon fan,” he explained, “and it’s a nice blend of flavors.” The “Hurricane on the Bayou” features locally produced Bayou Satsuma Rum and Bayou Spiced Rum along with pineapple and orange juices plus cranberry, the latter of which makes it more holiday festive. “We wanted to make the classic New Orleans drink and we wanted to bring a fresh approach,” he explained, adding that this hurricane’s not like the overly fruity varieties that visitors find in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Below is a recipe for Femme Fatale, which includes Seersucker Gin, a Southern-style gin with a variety of botanicals such as citrus peel, clove honey and mint. The drink also includes Domaine de Canton, a ginger-flavored liqueur from France. For information on Blue Dog and its cocktails, visit Femme Fatale 2 ounces Seersucker Gin ½ ounces Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur) 1 ounce lime juice ½ ounce ginger syrup 2 leaves basil garnish 1 sprig rosemary, toasted Directions: Add first four ingredients into shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour into strained chilled glass. Garnish with basil leaves and toasted rosemary. Cheré Coen is a freelance food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, with deep Mississippi roots.

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exploring events } december Christmas Parades: November 30: Tupelo, MS Greenwood, MS December 1: Tishomingo, MS Olive Branch, MS Pontotoc, MS December 2: Holly Springs, MS

December 3: Hernando, MS Senatobia, MS Columbus, MS Oxford, MS December 4: Batesville, MS Coldwater, MS

December 7: Southaven, MS Cleveland, MS Iuka, MS December 8: Byhalia, MS

DeSoto Family Theatre presents Disney “Newsies” The Broadway Musical Through December 9 ​Landers Center Theater Southaven, MS Purchase tickets at Landers Center box office 662-470-2131 or For additional information visit, Cedar Hill Farm Cookies & Milk with Santa Through December 23 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS For more information, call 662-429-2540 or visit Cedar Hill Farm Christmas Tree Farm Through December 23 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS Take a hayride out to the back forty and pick out the perfect tree. There is no admission to the farm during Christmas! For more information, visit call 662-429-2540. Merry Christmas Tree Farm & Gift Shop Through December 24 Nesbit, MS Merry Christmas Tree Farm is the number one tree farm in the Mid-South, with a huge selection of Christmas trees in a variety of sizes. Pre-cut trees and wreaths are also available. For more information, call 662-429-9462 or visit 18th Annual Southern Lights Through December 30 Central Park Southaven, MS Drive through the 116-acre park with 500,000 twinkling lights. Weekdays dark- 9pm & weekends dark-10pm; closed Christmas Day. Proceeds benefit local charities. For more information, visit or call 662-280-2489. 50 Nights of Lights Through January 1 Cleveland, MS Experience downtown Cleveland’s light extravaganza! For more information call 662-843-2712 or visit Memphis Arts Collective Through January 3 Crosstown Concourse Memphis, TN Artists and artisans will be showing work in mediums

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including: painting, photography, pottery, jewelry, woodworking, metal working, fiber and textile arts, soap and candle making, cartooning, mixed media, retro collectibles, printmaking, glass work, and holiday ornaments among others. For more information visit or call 901-833-9533. New Albany Holiday Tour of Homes December 1 - 2 Union County Heritage Museum New Albany, MS 1:30pm - 4:00pm Live music and light refreshments will be part of the festive event. Tickets for the tour are $10 for the four homes and can be purchased from any garden club member and at the museum. For more information call the museum at 662-538-0014 or email Hernando’s Annual Cookies with Santa December 2 Gale Community Center Hernando, MS 2:00pm-5:00pm Cookies, cocoa, crafts, Christmas stories and Claus himself! For more information, call 662-429-2688 or visit Old Towne Christmas with Santa December 3 - 6 Olive Branch City Hall Olive Branch, MS 4:30pm-8:00pm Come enjoy children train rides around the City Hall and free hot chocolate (while it lasts) and professional photographs; or bring your own camera. Lighting of Olive Branch Christmas Tree takes place November 30 For additional information, call 662-893-0888 or visit   Sip’n Cider December 14 Hernando Courthouse Square Hernando, MS 5:00pm-8:00pm Each participating shop will be preparing and serving their own special blend of hot cider.  Visit surrounding businesses to eat, shop, mix and mingle, register for door prizes and and vote on your favorite cider! For more information, call 662-429-9055 or visit   Kudzu Playhouse Presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dinner December 17 - 20 Sweetpea’s Table Olive Branch, MS 7:00 PM No tickets will be sold at the door! You MUST purchase your tickets online. For additional information about this production, visit or email Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes December 28 - 30 Landers Center Southaven, MS Purchase tickets in person at the Landers Center Box Office, call Ticketmaster 1-800-745-3000, online through, or through the Ticketmaster mobile app.

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reflections} a hallmark christmas

The Ornaments of Life By Mary C. Fairley

In the kitchen drawer where I kept a hammer, screwdrivers, broken refrigerator magnets, candles, and stamps, I found a Christmas ornament. A Hallmark Keepsake, no less. It was a teddy bear that wore a red hat and cleats, a jersey with green sleeves, and a sheepish smile. He held a personalized bat inscribed with “Jamie,” in honor of my son. Thick layers of glue showed the fascination of our grandson with the baseball player figure. My mother started a tradition with Hallmark ornaments in 1980. She gave my daughter, Katie, one for her second Christmas. The bauble was an off-white satin ball that read: “A granddaughter is a dream fulfilled, a treasure to hold dear, a joy to warmly cherish through each year.” Thus, a tradition began. Mother carefully purchased Hallmark Keepsake ornaments. Angels for me, and NASAinspired ones for my sister who was a science teacher. Old World Santa Clauses were procured for my brother-in-law. For Katie, there were cheerleaders and soccer players. Jamie received baseball hero figurines: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson. My nephew, Lance, future Mississippi State graduate and Washington, D.C., architect, collected houses and churches. I favored my Mario Lemieux Pittsburg Penguin treasures. The professional hockey player and I were Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivors. My thoughtful mother passed away in 2000. Yet, the Christmas ornament tradition continued. Susan G. Komen ornaments, benefiting breast cancer, were the choice for daughters and daughters-in-law to support the cause that took Mother’s life. Favorites for sons reflected their love for fishing, hunting, and music. Sons-in-law enjoyed football, grilling, and golf. 82 DeSoto

Five grandchildren were celebrated with “Baby’s First Christmas” selections. What a pleasure it was to fill a shopping bag for them. I carefully selected baseball, dance, Disney, gymnastics, and soccer knick-knacks. I realized my mother must have felt the same gratification. When it was time to decorate our Christmas tree, grandchildren elves came to help. We prepared sugar cookies in the shapes of bells, trees, reindeer, and stars. Our only grandson preferred gingerbread men, and we were happy to oblige. We were big on colored icing and sprinkles, and we were big on laughter and smiles. We gave the grandchildren free reign to decorate the tree. The granddaughters placed the baseball players together looking dreamily at the angels. Many of the baseball boys were placed on injured reserve. Our grandson loved to see how the bats worked. Ken Griffey, Jr., as a Seattle Mariner and a Cincinnati Red, was damaged. Mark McGwire was hurt as well. David Ortiz and Nolan Ryan seemed none the worse for wear. There were no steroids in our house, only E6000 glue. A few lovely angels lost their wings. When my husband suggested some ornaments be retired, I admit I became a bit huffy. We were talking about cherished memories. Other homes may have more elegant Christmas trees, but I believe as my mother’s great-grandchildren – ones she never knew – garlanded our tree, somewhere my mother was pleased. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Mary C. Fairley lives in Lucedale. She has written for Mississippi Magazine and Parents & Kids.

DeSoto Magazine December 2018  

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

DeSoto Magazine December 2018  

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