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may CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 5

features 46 Loft Living Historic Downtown Buildings Go Residential

60 Crosstown Memphis Repurposing a Landmark

54 From Blues to Bliss The Artwork of Sharon McConnell Dickerson

departments 14 Living Well Brain Cancer Awareness

42 On the Road Again Fredericksburg, Texas

18 Notables Chelius Carter

44 Greater Goods 68 Homegrown Southern Chef

22 Exploring Art History of Bottle Trees

72 Southern Gentleman DIY or DI-Why?

26 Exploring Books Lost Mansions of Mississippi

74 Southern Harmony Forest Fire Gospel Choir

30 Into the Wild DeSoto Caverns

76 In Good Spirits Kentucky Sweet Tea

34 Table Talk New Albany’s Ciao Chow

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations New Orleans 300th Anniversary


80 Reflections Pearls of Wisdom



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editor’s note } may Art & Architecture Creating something new from something old can be satisfying and rewarding, especially when it comes to restoring and ultimately saving historic buildings. Reclaiming downtowns has been a mission for many Southern cities, where once-abandoned buildings are finding new life as trendy loft apartments. From masonry walls and heart-of-pine floors, these new dwellings offer historic looks with modern conveniences. Another perfect example of a modern reincarnation is the Memphis Crosstown Concourse, which was the former Sears distribution center on Concourse Avenue. Memphis writer Gerry Glenn Jones takes a look at this new mixed-use urban village that sat abandoned for 17 years before Crosstown Arts, a non-profit organization formed to breathe life into the behemoth structure. Como artist Sharon McConnell Dickerson had to find a new purpose in her life when she began losing her eyesight in her 20s. Andrea Ross gets an update from the sculptress and glass artist who has since become a Mississippi legend. This month, we feature many more art and architecture stories, including a salute to New Orleans where art and unique architecture have reigned supreme for 300 years. We also look at “nature’s architecture” in Alabama’s DeSoto Caverns, a historic family friendly destination.

MAY 2018 • Vol. 15 No.5


Most of all, we hope this issue inspires you to create your own unique art – like a bottle tree -- or tackle your own renovation project. After all, everything old can be new again. Happy reading,

Mary Ann

CONTRIBUTORS Rebecca Bingham Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Carey Crawford Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Verna Gates Aleksandar Jankov, M.D. Gerry Glenn Jones Mary Carol Miller Andrea Brown Ross Heather Gausline Tate 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 Brandon’s historic downtown recently got its first loft apartments – The Wierhouse – in a building that once housed the city jail. Architect Jamie Wier strived to maintain the building’s integrity while providing modern conveniences in the loft residences. Cover photo by Jackson-based photographer Sully Clemmer, Get social with us!

©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 } brain cancer awareness

On May 10, 2017 Dr. Jankov became the first Baptist Cancer Center medical oncologist officially certified to prescribe OptuneÂŽ, a wearable, portable device that is classified as durable medical equipment by the FDA. To speak with Dr. Jankov, please contact his office at (901)747-9081 or via email at ( 16 DeSoto

Brain Cancer Awareness Month Glioblastoma

By Aleksandar Jankov, M.D. | Photography courtesy of Aleksandar Jankov, M.D.

New treatment option gives hope to brain cancer patients.

In late 2017, Senator John McCain of Arizona announced the grave news of his brain cancer diagnosis. Specifically, he was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, the same brain cancer that stole the young life of Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, in 2015 at age 46. As a medical oncologist with Baptist Cancer Center in Memphis, Tenn., I treat patients with glioblastoma multiforme, also called GBM for short. While rare, it is, however, the most common type of primary brain cancer in adults with more than 12,500 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Personally, my own family was affected by this disease when my aunt died of GBM in 1975. Even now decades later, we’re faced with the same fatal prognosis – but with a glimmer of new hope. Until 2017, the standard of care involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – a similar regimen for many cancers. On April 2, 2017, however, the final results of a pivotal trial study called EF-14 showed clear benefits. Subsequently, the FDA added a treatment called Tumor Treating Fields (TTF), a fourth modality, and more importantly, defined a new standard of care on the same day at the American Association of Cancer Research conference. TTF is employed specifically in combination with standard chemotherapy, temozolomide (TMZ), and in newlydiagnosed and recurrent cases of GBM. A new novel treatment involving electrodes called Optune®, a wearable, portable medical device, is classified as durable medical equipment by the FDA. Optune works by creating low-intensity electric fields – called Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) – which potentially slow or stop cell division leading to cell death. Because TTFields do not enter the bloodstream like a drug, they do not significantly increase TMZ-related side effects for newly diagnosed patients. In clinical trials the most common side effects were scalp irritation from device use and headaches.    The procedure is relatively straight forward. Optune patients wear electrodes on the skull and carry a portable battery pack that weighs less than three pounds. Studies so far indicate that 18 hours per day produces the best results. Studies aren’t complete yet on whether or not wearing it longer has better outcomes; however, we know with certainty that wearing it less than 18 hours isn’t optimal treatment.     Optune is approved for patients 22 years or older. For newly diagnosed patients, Optune is used with the chemotherapy temozolomide after surgery and radiation with TMZ. For

patients with tumor recurrence, it can be used alone when surgery and radiation treatment options have been exhausted. In a clinical trial, adding Optune to TMZ was proven to delay GBM tumor growth and extend survival in newly diagnosed patients compared with TMZ alone.    The April 2017 news comes following the findings of a randomized, multi-center, phase III clinical trial which showed impressive results. Approximately half of the people who used Optune with TMZ were alive at two years or longer, compared to 32 percent who were on TMZ alone. In a longterm follow-up of 695 people in the same study, the median survival and median progression-free survival were consistent. Survival at five years was 13 percent for Optune plus TMZ versus five percent for TMZ alone.     Along with Semmes Mur phey colleagues, I participated in certification training and now evaluate patients who are potential candidates for Optune. How does it work exactly? First, I meet with patients to determine if they are a candidate for Optune treatment. The process involves no surgery or hospitalization, and the treatment is administered in a clinic setting. We begin by uploading the MRI images for mapping a patient’s skull to help ensure the proper placement of the electrodes. We place the electrodes and train the patient on how to handle the equipment at home but with our medical supervision. The success of the treatment in part depends on patient’s motivation to wear the electrodes and willingness to learn how to handle the device. In order to get to the 18-hour mark per day, I encourage wearing it at night while asleep and around the house. This way, patients can enjoy six hours per day daily without the device – to go shopping, have dinner with their families or hit the gym. Unlike chemotherapy, the follow-up is much easier since there is no blood work to monitor. The Optune company sends us a report detailing the patient’s use history so patients can avoid extra office visits, and it also provides close oversight from a nurse. It is important to raise awareness about Optune and to let Mid-South patients who are diagnosed with GBM know that another local treatment option exists. While this procedure isn’t a cure, we do know it potentially extends life, and more importantly, gives our patients at Baptist Cancer Center a hopeful treatment option.

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notables } chelius carter

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Preserving the Past By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Chelius Carter

A passion for historic preservation has led architect Chelius Carter to save historic structures throughout Marshall County, including an 1837 structure known as the Chalmers Institute. From the time he first visited Holly Springs in 1996 for a client’s project, Chelius H. Carter, a semi-retired architect now living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, found himself interested in the city’s past. More specifically, the city’s historical buildings. In 2002, he purchased an historic house that would serve as his home, but also would lead to a new program of preservation he couldn’t even imagine when he bought the property. However, long before that program evolved, Carter was busy at work in 2005 on another preservation: saving the 1850 Stephenson-McAlexander Plantation Office from Mack, Mississippi, which originally served as the plantation office of Major Josiah Patrick Milledge Stephenson.

“To our knowledge, it is perhaps the last surviving antebellum plantation office in Marshall County, where there were maybe 200 to 300 of such structures in the days of ‘king cotton,’” Carter says. He talked with Madge Lindsay, who served as director of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, about relocating the office to Strawberry Plains, formerly a sister plantation to Mack. She welcomed the building, and it was soon moved to its new home through the efforts of the recently formed Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. (PMCHS). In the ensuing years through PMCHS, Carter has worked to save other historic structures around Marshall County. For instance, DeSoto 21

he tried to advocate for the preservation of the street facade of Cathrine Hall on the former Mississippi Industrial College campus, but was unsuccessful. “You don’t win all of them,” Carter says. “We’ve had victories, we’ve had losses, but you just keep waging battle and moving forward.” Through PMCHS, he also was instrumental in saving the Chalmers Institute, an 1837 structure, from certain demolition. The building originally served as the Holly Springs Literary Institute before becoming the University of Holly Springs, the first legislatively chartered university in the state in 1839. It closed in 1843, and the building remained vacant until 1847, when it was reopened as Chalmers Institute. Many changes occurred thereafter, but the building sat empty since the 1980s. Carter, W.O. “Bill” Fitch and Tim Liddy purchased the building in 2004, expecting the City of Holly Springs would, in turn, buy it from them with funding from the Mississippi Legislature. In 2005, Carter and Fitch founded Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs Inc., a nonprofit created to bring historic preservation advocacy and educational outreach to the community and to take ownership of Chalmers Institute. Preservation and rehabilitation efforts for the building continue to this day. 22 DeSoto

Returning back to that historic home he purchased in 2002, with his eye for historic buildings, Carter took notice of a shed on the property behind the house. A closer inspection revealed the building was actually the original kitchen and slave quarters. “It became very clear to me when I began to look at buying this house that I thought this structure is actually a little more culturally important and rarer than the main house itself,” Carter says. “It’s really one of the main reasons that I bought that property.” In an effort to preserve this historic structure, Carter and his wife, Jenifer Eggleston, started the “Behind the Big House” program, which interprets the legacy of slavery in Marshall County and Holly Springs through preservation of slave-related buildings around the county. “In our Southern culture, we have the narrative of the enslaved people who were integral to that culture, contributed much to it through building arts, performing arts, music and food,” Carter says. “Our culture is just intrinsically connected. To tell a narrative of this antebellum culture that we all are so enamored with on the silver screen and written word, and to tell that narrative without recognizing there’s this whole other people that aren’t given a voice in that narrative, that’s

not history. If you’re telling history but editing out the parts that aren’t nice, you’re not telling history. That’s cultural genocide.” Carter’s passion for historic preservation is evident in his voice, underscoring his commitment to doing everything he can to keep Holly Springs’ past in the present. “Historic preservation is the tangible evidence of who we are, where we come from and what’s important to us as a cultural nation,” Carter says. “The diversity in our nation’s historic core is invaluable. You cannot afford to build these structures again.” Even as he is looking to pull back and hand over the reins to PMCHS’ new board of directors, Carter is committed to being a part of preservation Holly Springs and Marshall County. “Holly Springs has really great prospects for its future, but it must preserve its past,” Carter says. “Holly Springs has extremely good building stock. It has historic resources that other small towns would kill to have. It just requires some nurturing to keep things moving forward.”


“The diversity in our nation’s historic core is invaluable. You cannot afford to build these structures again.”

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exploring art } bottle trees

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Southern Spirit Catchers By Carey Crawford | Photography by Carey Crawford and Mary Ann DeSantis

Bottle trees are more than decorative yard art – they represent not only a Southern tradition, but also a legend that goes back thousands of years. All around the South, it’s not unusual to see collections of colorful bottles arranged on a tree, either hanging upside down by strings or placed over upward turned branches. The various-shaped bottles may be colored green, blue, and possibly amber. During my childhood in rural north Mississippi, I was aware that some folks had bottle trees, but I never thought they were anything more than a quirky yard decoration. My grandmother would save glass food jars and have me spray paint them different colors so we could make our own bottle trees. We didn’t have any of the traditional colored bottles, so

we made do with what we had. We cut down a good sized tree branch and affixed it in an upright position so that it resembled a small tree. Then we placed the painted food jars upside down over the branches. Although it was quite an attractive addition to the lawn, I don’t remember asking why we did it. The bottle tree is a peculiarity of Southern culture that’s been around for generations. The origin of the bottle tree supposedly goes all the way back to 1600 B.C. in Africa, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, a historical region that corresponds with today’s Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia. Glass bottles came into existence around that time and DeSoto 25

were regularly used as practical vessels. The belief soon evolved that spirits could find their way into bottles and become trapped. Speculation ensued that spirits would enter the bottles at night, become trapped, and would be extinguished by sunlight as the day dawned. Thus, the practice of hanging glass bottles from trees to prevent evil spirits from causing trouble took hold. The eerie moan of wind passing over the mouth of the bottle was believed to be the cry of the trapped spirit, desperate to escape. In the Congo region of Africa, the tradition of the bottle tree was still a common practice in the ninth century. The slave trade of the 17th century brought the bottle tree to Europe and the American colonies. As slavery was more prevalent in the Southeast, the bottle-tree tradition was more common there. Bottles were hung or positioned upside down on the tree so rain could not fill the bottle. Otherwise, evil spirits would not be able to enter the bottle. Also significant was the color of the bottles. Blue and green were the colors most used for bottle trees, but blue was the more substantial color. Blue was a color associated with spirits and ghosts and thus had superstitious properties in the elimination of evil spirits. Many in the South would paint their front door or the ceiling of the front porch a 26 DeSoto

particular shade of blue to help keep malicious entities at bay. Some referred to it as “haint blue.” Other colors of bottles— such as amber or even clear—may be included on the tree, but blue bottles were displayed most prominently. It was also important that the bottle tree be near the front entrance to the dwelling so as to prevent mischievous spirits from entering the home. The bottle tree was an influence for writer Eudora Welty in her short story “Livvie.” During a stint as a publicity agent with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s, Welty traveled around Mississippi doing interviews and taking photographs of daily life across the state. On her excursions, she came across homesteads with bottle trees greeting visitors out front. Some years later, when writing her short story, she wove the bottle tree tradition into the plot. Even now, modern adaptations of this old Southern tradition adorn the landscape of Southern gardens. Some are ornately fashioned from metal concrete reinforcing rod into the shape of a tree with tines pointing upward and outward on which bottles can be affixed. Others may be simple dowel rods that have been drilled into wooden posts on which bottles can be perched. Still others are designed to be hung from the ceiling of

a porch. Fancy or plain, bottle trees are becoming popular again. One of the most picturesque adorns the entrance of the Ocean Springs visitors center housed at the historic L&N depot. Although the bottle tree originated out of a serious desire for protection against harmful spirits, today it seems to be a nod of respect for a Southern tradition. For others, it’s merely a beautiful and original piece for garden dÊcor. You may not attract bad spirits with a bottle tree, but you will attract curious people and their admiration for this unusual art form. And when you do, be sure to pass on the legend of the bottle tree.

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exploring books} lost mansions of mississippi

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Finding the Lost Mansions By Mary Carroll Miller | Photography courtesy of Mary Carroll Miller and

If you love old homes, Lost Mansions will capture your imagination about Mississippi’s long-forgotten architectural treasures. It all began with a simple set of steps. Greenwood’s Grand Boulevard, a mile-long, oakshaded tribute to the best of Southern architecture, had just a few vacant lots when I was a child. One of those lots held a wide, sturdy brace of curved concrete steps, maybe four or five in all, leading to nothing but open air. No house, no foundation, nothing but the fading memory of a long-gone house. And I was fascinated by them. I would beg my mother to park the car and let me climb up on the steps and try to recreate the house in my mind. She described it as huge and white and lovely, lost in a fire many years before I was born.

The sheer loneliness of those steps haunted me, for goodness-only-knows-what reason. But they also inspired a deep curiosity about architectural ghosts. Not the kind of ghosts that send you fleeing from a cobwebbed old mansion or tickle your spine in a graveyard, but the enduring essence, if you will, that remains after a much-loved house disappears. I’ve stood in a forest, deep in the southwestern corner of Mississippi, and marveled that some of those trees were actually two-story brick columns, still topped with iron capitals, silently guarding the abandoned site of a pioneer family’s dreams. I’ve trudged through muddy pastures, dodging cow patties and briars and DeSoto 29

snakes, to find the bits of bricks and clumps of mortar that mark where once a truly wondrous house stood, before it was deemed out-of-date and bulldozed into oblivion. I have had the rare privilege, fueled by an insatiable fascination with “lost” buildings and an unhealthy lack of restraint, of exploring most of the towns and many of the back roads of Mississippi, always in search of what once was and is no more. My discoveries and the desire to share these forgotten treasures with others led me to write a short magazine article in 1992, which caught the attention of editors at University Press of Mississippi, and we began discussions about a booklength treatment of the subject. After I submitted a list of more than 100 historically and architecturally significant antebellum houses, they gave the green light to the project and Lost Mansions of Mississippi was published in 1996. That book included 59 houses, ranging from well-known sites like Windsor, Concord and Homewood to long-forgotten places such as Clifton, Magnolia Vale and Annandale. The first print run for the book sold out in less than three months and its success led to Lost Landmarks of Mississippi (2002) and Lost Mansions of Mississippi Volume II (2010). Each of these books required several years of research, writing and editing. Whenever possible, I went to the sites where the houses or buildings were once located, searching for any trace of their existence. Those that vanished a century or more ago were usually impossible to locate with certainty. But on rare occasions, I would come across a line of bricks, marking a foundation, or the remains of an outbuilding or a mound of rubble over the spot where a house collapsed in flames or workmen leveled an old structure. Each story felt like a way of hanging on to a tiny bit of Mississippi history, preserving it for future generations. I’m often asked which is my “favorite” house. That’s tough, as each one has a way of capturing the imagination. But there are a few stories which are so poignant or outrageous that they stick with me even after all these years. 30 DeSoto

I find Windy Hill Manor in Natchez especially memorable, both for its historic significance and its tragic decline. It was an elegant Federal-style house on Liberty Road, built by Benijah Osmun in the early 1800s. Aaron Burr stayed there briefly during his flight from justice after killing Alexander Hamilton. The home passed down through a series of families over the next 150 years and was last home to three spinster sisters. Refusing to accept help in their state of genteel poverty, Misses Maude, Beatrice and Elizabeth would not leave the house even as it slowly collapsed around them. When a room would cave in, they would simply lock the door and refuse visitors entrance to that wing of the house. After the last sister died in the 1940s, Windy Hill sat forlorn for two decades. I interviewed the cabinet maker who dismantled the house in 1965. He described his futile attempts to pull the 150-year-old spiral staircase down with a cable hooked to his truck, leading him to take it apart piece by piece. He pushed the last remains of the house into a bayou with a backhoe. When I asked him if he would take me to the site, he sheepishly admitted that it was now so overgrown that he could find no trace that it ever existed. Those kinds of stories will break your heart if you love old homes. But if they spark someone to preserve and restore even one endangered house, it’s all worthwhile.

Mary Carol Miller is a Greenwood native and author of 13 books on Mississippi architecture and history. Her book, “Lost Mansions of Mississippi,” has become a classic around the state.

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into the wild } desoto caverns

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DeSoto Caverns Rock! By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of DeSoto Caverns

Discovered by Hernando DeSoto in 1540, these Alabama caverns have had a variety of uses – from a tribal burying ground to an onyx mine, from a speakeasy to today’s family friendly theme park. From the lights of Broadway to the total darkness of a cave, Jared and Joy Sorensen have carved an international path back to the tiny town of Childersburg, Alabama. They are taking charge of a family-owned cave that failed as an onyx mine but soared as place for family fun and education. Joy represents the fifth generation of the Mathis family to own and operate DeSoto Caverns. Her husband, Jared, sang on Broadway and loved their Manhattan life. A trip to Alabama introduced him to a bigger stage – DeSoto Caverns. After living in Ireland, Greece, and Australia, Joy also

felt the tug of home. The two now operate the family-oriented theme park and historic cavern. “It’s all about reaching hearts,” said Joy Mathis Sorensen. “Families come together for laughter and fun and to see the amazing handiwork of God.” In addition to a magnificent cave, the park includes a mini-fairground with rides, balloon-fight towers, a version of bumper cars and a 360 spinner for the strong of stomach. Potential scaredy cats can preview cave crawling through the cave-crawl experience, although with a 12-story high ceiling in DeSoto 33

the cavern it would only be a crawl for say, King Kong. The most recent renovation made the cave wheelchair accessible and closed a section to encourage bats to move back in. Jared brings his Broadway experience to the caverns with a new stage built inside to host bands and entertainers. The cathedral room, with its high ceiling and football-field length, offers excellent acoustics. Any dad who has spent the night in the cavern with the Boy Scouts can attest to the sound quality with some world-class snorers always getting to sleep first. During “Streetmosphere Saturdays,” plenty of batmans and butterflies flutter past in colorful face paint. Balloon animals and stilt walkers may also appear on these free entertainment days. At age five, Joy began her career at the festivals by weeding the maze before show time. Naturally, the biggest event for the visitors and campers who come to DeSoto Caverns is the cave itself. Trained tour guides walk you through the history and natural history found under the ground. While lighting and light shows display the beautiful formations, the truest cave experience is lights out. Experiencing total darkness, where the hand in front of your face disappears, serves as a healthy shock to the system, and the reason why the Native Americans called it “Healing All.” It started in 1910. Ida Mathis, Joy’s great-greatgrandmother traveled around Alabama and the U.S. as a farming advocate who kept thousands from starving during World War I. Called the “Economic Moses of the South,” she ventured into onyx mining by purchasing what is now called DeSoto Caverns. The cave remains the richest onyx mine in 34 DeSoto

the U.S., but was never exploited due to the cheaper mining operations in Mexico. Even without the onyx, Ida envisioned a future for the cave called Kymulga, or “Healing All,” by the Native Americans. It was a place of final rest for tribal dead, with archeologists finding the bones of someone who would have been seven-foot tall -- probably a leader named Chief Touch the Clouds. The first explorer to discover Kymulga was Hernando DeSoto in 1540. He was so impressed that he left two men behind to develop the area, creating one of the first Spanish settlements in the U.S. Another explorer would not be so lucky. In 1723, I.W. Wright attempted to lay claim to the cave by marking it with his name and taking a nap. Unfortunately, he awoke to a group of angry Native American who gave him eternal rest in the cave, according to cave guide Brady Owings. A scout for George Washington wrote about the cave, making DeSoto the first cavern on record in the U.S. In later years, saltpeter would be mined for the Civil War. During Prohibition, it became a speakeasy and moonshine hub, which would not have pleased Mrs. Ida. It was soon raided, and the moonshiner escaped through the 12 miles of the cave, according to Owings. Allen Mathis III was the first in the family to open the cave to the public. His father informed him as a new graduate that the family owned a cave in Alabama. He brought a dog, slept in the gift shop, and started giving tours. He had to install a shower to encourage his wife to join him. Noting that the cave was being vandalized, he decided the best way to keep people out was to invite people in. He developed the opening and built

many of the attractions still popular today, such as the gemstone panning. “It is a place of storytelling where people can make memories to enjoy for a lifetime,” said Sorensen.

“It’s all about reaching hearts. Families come together for laughter and fun and to see the amazing handiwork of God.”

Joy Mathis Sorensen

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table talk } ciao chow

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A Sicilian and the Southern Fusion By Heather Gausline Tate | Photography courtesy of Mike Carroll

Combining the flavors of Sicily and the American South is a flavorful journey for Ciao Chow patrons in New Albany. Located in historic downtown New Albany right beside the 45-mile Tanglefoot Trail, a previous railroad bed turned into a paved cycling and pedestrian trail, is an authentic Italian restaurant, boasting Southern hospitality at its finest. Everything from the delectable food to the name of the restaurant to the dynamic partners who own Ciao Chow’s is a blend of the Italian and Southern influences acquired by Mike Carroll and Tim Satterfield. Carroll explains that patrons take “a trip to another world once you walk through the door.” Italian frescos grace

one side of the cozy restaurant while a glass case of pearl jewelry balances the opposite side. Charming vintage accents like historic ceiling fans originally from a Las Vegas casino add to the charm as aromas from the open kitchen drift throughout the restaurant. The maître d’ Carroll is the friendly face of the front of the house, while Satterfield is the genius in the kitchen. Some of the signature dishes include Tim’s homemade lasagna, chicken parmesan, and crab ravioli along with a tantalizing array of other Italian/Sicilian dishes. For those craving DeSoto 37

Chef Tim Satterfield

something other than pasta, Southern classics like barbecued pork chops and a 14-16 oz. rib eye also share the menu with the Italian-inspired courses. Tim receives all the credit for Ciao Chow’s name. He wanted something unforgettable that also represented their Italian and Southern fusion cuisine. Ciao means both “hello and goodbye” in Italian, and its homophone “chow,” references casual American meals. Since the proprietors have Italian and Southern connections, they did not want to exclude either. In fact, one of their main goals of their business, besides providing fresh and inspired dishes is to be inclusive of everyone. Carroll passionately states, “In an Italian restaurant everyone is welcomed.” The food at Ciao Chow is consistently high quality, but the atmosphere is cozy and family-oriented rather than fine dining. Multiple generations are seen sharing a meal together just like they would be in Italy. Satterfield echoes his partner: “We pride ourselves on everyone feeling welcomed.” Ciao Chow originally opened in 2012 on Valentine’s Day in Ashland, Mississippi. After closing its doors in June 2016, it relocated to New Albany in September of that same year and just celebrated six years of being in business. Carroll explains the move to New Albany, saying, “The town has always drawn me like a magnet.” Both Carroll and Satterfield have strong family backgrounds in the service industry, specifically restaurants, but how did a Delta flight attendant and a first-generation Sicilian chef from Detroit find their way to northeast Mississippi? Carroll is originally from Ashland, and he grew up helping his parents with their two family-run restaurants before branching out into his own career path, which led him to become a flight attendant in 1986. While working in Detroit, Satterfield’s and Carroll’s paths crossed, and they eventually moved back to Carroll’s hometown. Family is important and many of the dishes reflect 38 DeSoto

their families’ heritages. Carroll’s 90-year-old mother, Betty Ruth Carroll, still comes each week to her son’s restaurant to make all the desserts, including her signature hot fudge cake that she started making in 1959 in her own Ashland restaurant. Satterfield has been a big city cook and chef throughout numerous restaurants in New Jersey and Detroit, but he said cooking in a small Southern town is not different because people like food wherever they live. He is inspired by both of his parents’ native cuisines. Satterfield’s father, born and raised in Sicily, moved to Detroit where he eventually had 14 bakeries throughout the area. His mother, however, is from Kentucky, and one of the dishes he remembers fondly from his childhood is her bean dip. Because he “wanted to give each guest something to start off their meal,” he tweaked his mother’s dip – made with celery, red onions, tomatoes, beans, made-in-house vinaigrette, and a special ingredient – to give patrons something enjoyable while anticipating their next course. Carroll and Satterfield still visit Italy often, and Satterfield’s weekly specials are often inspired from dishes from their visits, such as a flaky poached salmon pasta tossed with fettucine alfredo. As chef and partner, Satterfield explains, “Everything on the menu is what I like.” He did admit that one of his favorite dishes was his Pasta Puttanesca, a zesty vegetarian dish with Kalamata olives and capers. Carroll’s favorite dish is the lasagna, and for a bit of a twist, Satterfield will occasionally create it with Italian sausage. “You know what you like and think you know what other people like,” Satterfield hopes for his menu choices. “The key for Ciao Chow’s is that everything is made in house from sauces and vinaigrettes to Ms. Carroll’s desserts, and everyone is treated like family whether they are weekly patrons or firsttime guests.” Ciao Chow’s is open from 5-9 p.m., ThursdaySaturday. The restaurant can be reserved on other nights for private functions.

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exploring destinations } new orleans

Jackson Square

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Happy 300th! By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Cheré Coen and The Historic New Orleans Collection

New Orleans celebrates its 300th anniversary with a blend of the old and the new. It’s difficult being a travel writer from New Orleans because invariably people ask the usual questions about where to eat, where to stay and what’s my favorite drink on Bourbon Street. Only the last question is easy to answer. The city offers numerous outstanding restaurants and hotels that range from historic to hip, and a world of amazing

possibilities exist outside the French Quarter and that famous street where I never buy a drink (I prefer the indigenous cocktails served all over town). But one thing is for sure: I always recommend viewing the dramatic bend of the massive Mississippi River, the reason New Orleans exists. In 1699, Lemoyne brothers Iberville and Bienville DeSoto 41

Le Missisipi ou la Louisiane dans l’Amérique Septentrionale; ca. 1720; hand-colored engraving by François Chéreau

traveled down the Mississippi River from Canada and claimed the territory for France, but they set up shop mostly along the Gulf Coast. In 1717, when the Company of the West was formed to settle the colony, it resolved “to establish, thirty leagues up the river, a burg which should be called Nouvelle Orleans, where landing would be possible from either the river or Lake Pontchartrain.” In 1718, Bienville cleared an area natives had shown him years earlier, a site that not only offered a strategic port on the Mississippi but allowed shortcuts through bayous to the lake. And so, New Orleans was born. This year marks the city’s tricentennial. Naturally, there’s plenty to celebrate. What’s Old The Historic New Orleans Collection, the keeper and educator of the city’s history, exhibits historical artifacts and documents in its exhibit, “New Orleans, the Founding Era,” until May 27. The free exhibit in buildings that date back to the 1800s showcases the origins of the city and its people and include local items as well as rare pieces from French, Spanish and Canadian collections. One of the goals of the city’s tricentennial committee was to restore historic Gallier Hall, a Greek Revival building built in the mid-1800s to serve as City Hall. The newly opened building includes several paintings, including ones of George Washington, Andrew Jackson and the Marquis de Lafayette, and numerous decorative objects. 42 DeSoto

The St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square remains the icon of the city and one of the oldest basilicas in the country. The New Orleans Archdiocese discusses the role religion played with its exhibit, “The Church in the Crescent: 300 Years of Catholicism in New Orleans,” through June 30 at the Old Ursuline Convent Museum, located inside the circa-1745 Ursuline Convent, considered the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. Rounding out the year on Oct. 26, the New Orleans Museum of Art will display art pieces of Philippe II, the French Duke of Orléans at the time of the founding of New Orleans. Philippe collected more than 700 paintings in his lifetime and, even though many pieces disappeared during the French Revolution, they were later purchased by museums across Europe. “The Orléans Collection,” includes pieces from Philippe’s holdings culled from the Uffizi Gallery, the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum, among others. What’s New Several new hotels have sprung up in the city, including the restored historic Jung Hotel at the upper end of downtown on Canal Street; the Cambria Hotel in the Warehouse District; and the NOPSI Hotel, another historic property brought to life from the city’s former power and transportation company. Coming up next year will be the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center, a Hilton property to accompany the National World War II Museum. Geoffrey Meeker, owner of French Truck Coffee, has

created La Nouvelle Chicory Blend for the tricentennial year. The New Orleans-based coffee roaster also has two locations in Memphis. Toasting the Tricentennial What’s New Orleans without a few signature cocktails to mark the occasion? Ralph’s on the Park by City Park, one of the oldest municipal parks in the nation, celebrates with “Our History Told in Cocktails,” concoctions such as “Death in the Oaks,” an homage to when gentlemen dueled under the oaks of City Park in the late 19th century. Enjoy a cocktail, then tour one of the largest city parks in America. DTB on Oak Street, otherwise known as Down the Bayou, honors the city’s history by creating modern interpretations of classic New Orleans cocktails. Look for DTB’s twists on the brandy milk punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz and a play on the Sazerac called the Louisiana Cocktail, sassafrasinfused Sazerac rye with barrel-aged bitters, Balsam Amaro and a pecan oil drizzle. Tricentennial Events New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival concludes the first week of May and will exude a tricentennial flare, including fireworks on the final day, said Mark Romig, CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. On May 7, New Orleans’ first female mayor, LaToya Cantrell, will be sworn in, and the city presents the Global Summit on Women and Girls in June to offer a global conversation.  The Historic New Orleans Collection offers two seminars this month: “Traditional Herbal Remedies” passed down through generations in the African American community on May 12 and “Early French Mapping of Louisiana” on May 22. There’s more throughout the year but the 300th anniversary concludes with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in the French Quarter. “We’ll end the tricentennial with a big kick-off on Dec. 31,” said Romig. For a list of tricentennial events, visit

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on the road again } fredericksburg, texas

, g r u b s k Frederic Texas

Fredericksburg: Texas Heart, German Soul

This central Texas city in the Hill Country is known not only for its wineries and its German heritage, but also for its beauty and small-town charm.

9:00 - Enjoy breakfast at the charming Twisted Sisters Bake Shop. Sip a delicious coffee drink with something sweet or savory. Try the warm, delicious cinnamon rolls and other wonderful baked goods or savor the mouthwatering breakfast tacos. The bake shop also serves lunch. 10:00 - Walk off your breakfast calories along Main Street where you’ll discover an amazing shopping experience. You will definitely find unique gifts and goodies among the more than 150 shops, boutiques and art galleries. Noon - Lunch at Hondo’s on Main. Enjoy Texas food and music in a laid back and fun atmosphere. Order at the bar, then pick a spot. The menu includes appetizers to share, burgers and stacked enchiladas and quesadillas. They offer live music nightly and a gospel lunch on Sunday 1:00 - While Downtown, tour the National Museum of the Pacific War, dedicated to all those who served in the Pacific War. The complex includes the Admiral Nimitz Museum, George Bush Gallery of the Pacific War, the Plaza of the Presidents, Japanese Garden of Peace, Memorial Walk, and the Pacific Combat Zone. Tickets are good for two days to give visitors time to explore the three museums in the complex, experience the interactive exhibits, and peruse the galleries and gardens. 3:00 - Drive about 18 miles north to Enchanted Rock State Park. Hike to the top and take in the beautiful views of the Texas Hill Country. Park amenities include camping, picnicking, 8.4 miles of hiking and nature trails, interpretive exhibits, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, and gift shop. All trails close 30 minutes after sunset, except the Loop Trail. The Summit Trail may close in wet weather. 6:00 - Dinner at Fredericksburg Brewing Company, the oldest brewpub in Texas. Sip on an award-winning ale or lager brewed on-site. The large menu features salads, burgers, pizzas and sandwiches. Favorite items include German dishes or comfort food such as meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. After dinner, check out one of the area’s live music venues or the Fredericksburg Theatre Company, voted best theatre company in the San Antonio region by

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Award-winning Wines

Fredericksburg, Texas offers many fun activities and sightseeing opportunities, but the local wineries are among the most popular. The Texas Hill Country has more than 45 wineries and vineyards with over two dozen tasting rooms located in town and in Gillespie County. The original settlers in Fredericksburg produced wine using the mustang grape, but today winemakers use many other grape varietals – including tempranillos, viogniers, and cabernets to create award-winning and nationally recognized wines. Texas ranks fifth in U.S. wine production with more than 3 million gallons produced annually. A great way to visit and sample the wine in the region is to book a wine tour with a local company like Texas Wine Tours. You can book half day, full day or custom tours. For more information visit Fall is a great time to visit the area. In addition to the beautiful weather and colorful foliage, the annual Fredericksburg Food and Wine Festival will take place Oct. 25-27. This big Texas-style celebration gives visitors a chance to taste the local food, wine, and beer. For more information visit

To plan your visit:

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greater goods } mother’s day

mother’s day








8 9

1. Oak River leather bags, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 2. Block art, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 3. MudPie pictures frames, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 4. Best mom tray, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 5. Wooden wine stoppers, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 6. Empower necklaces, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. Julie Vos jewely, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Oxford Candel Company candels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 9. Mug and Tea Towel, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR

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greater goods } graduation












1. 100 Days of Scripture, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 2. Lucy’s Inspire To Give prism necklace set, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 3. MBGreene Bags, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 4. Happy Everything nesting cubes, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 5. Collegiate ball caps, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 6. Jewelry and picture frames, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. Collegiate Blessing jewelry, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 8. Graduation mugs and picture frames, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 9. T Shirts for guys, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 10. T Shirts for girls,, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS

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The AirBnB unit at The Wierhouse


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If Walls Could Talk By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography by CherĂŠ Coen (Five & Dime Lofts), Tony & Mary Ann DeSantis (Milledgeville), Brandon photos courtesy of Jamie Wier, and Visit Meridian

Urban dwellers, especially millennials and retirees, have reclaimed historic downtown spaces that were once department stores, banks, and even a city jail for high-end, beautifully renovated loft apartments. DeSoto 49

SoHo Lofts in Milledgeville, Georgia

After finishing college, some artsy-type kids I knew moved to New York City and lived in loft apartments in the commercial districts, often above storefronts or restaurants. The idea of walking downstairs to work made a lot of sense in a place where owning a car is more of a nuisance than an advantage. I was a little envious of those city dwellers who were in the heart of the action but, for me, living downtown in a small Southern city wasn’t an option – especially after urban renewal efforts tried (and in most cases failed) to “suburbanize” town centers in the 70s. Quite frankly, there weren’t many reasons to live downtown. Although the appearance of lofts in the South began in earnest about 25 years ago in some of the sizeable cities, the trend only became popular about a decade ago in small towns. Places with traditional town centers and where original masonry could become a prominent design feature have seen a renovation boom in historic buildings. 50 DeSoto

“It’s now a full-blown industry,” says Bob Barber, an urban planner for Orion Planning and Design, in Hernando, Mississippi. “Many communities are experiencing a burst of activity. Some great stuff is happening in Brandon, Corinth, Greenwood, Woodville, and New Albany.” Loft living is on the rise especially in the South where downtown revitalizations are drawing more people back into the heart of cities. In Meridian, Mississippi, more than 70 loft apartments or condos are located downtown. The floors above the city’s welcome center, just a block away from the newly opened Mississippi Arts Experience (The MAX), houses several loft apartments in a former hotel where millennials often gather in the common areas. “We’re embracing the idea to take back the downtown,” says Dede Mogollon, executive director for Visit Meridian. “The new museum and the renovated Riley Center give people even more reasons to be downtown.”

Even in towns where the nightlife activities end around 9 p.m., the attraction for loft living is still strong. Architect Jamie Wier renovated the old city jail in downtown Brandon, Mississippi, to include five lofts – one in which he and his wife live. “It’s really peaceful and quiet,” he says. “At 9 o’clock everything stops.” Built in the 1850s, the Wierhouse as it’s known now, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Not only was it the city jail, but Wier was told it was used as a hospital for Union troops during the Civil War when most of Brandon was burned. More recently, it was a hardware store and antique shop. DeSoto 51

The Wierhouse, Brandon

The Wierhouse, Brandon

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Preserving the history was a top priority for Wier. He bought two adjoining buildings five years ago for $450,000 but is “still calculating” the cost of renovations. “Unexpected costs came from trying to keep the integrity of the buildings and preserve what we could of the structure,” he says. The results are paying off – the project was nominated for a 2018 Mississippi Heritage Trust award, with the winner to be announced in early June. In addition to the loft apartments, the project includes a restaurant, bakery and speakeasy. The restaurant, Genna Benna, is set to open in late May along with a Georgia Blue Bakery next door. “The speakeasy will be in the basement where the jail cells were,” Wier says with a laugh. “We’re even carrying out the theme with some of the jail bars.” Wier lives in the largest loft --1,300-square-feet – with his wife of nine months and their poodle. The other four are rentals, including one that is an AirBnB. Rents range from $1,000 to $1,500 a month with the AirBnB listed for $110 a night. “Brandon is a great example of what we envision for communities,” says planner Barber who worked with Wier to bring the project to fruition. “A city that promotes this kind of development reeks huge dividends. It re-enlivens these kinds of spaces because people are there 24 hours a day.” Benefits, he says, include increased property values, revitalized town centers, historic preservation, and a restoration of community spirit. “There is not a downside to revitalizing these kinds of spaces for living,” Barber adds. The real reward for Wier, however, is seeing his dream of living downtown come true. “I had a dream, and I saw what the historic area of Brandon could be,” says Wier, a native of Money, Mississippi, who moved to Brandon in 2008. TEMPORARY LOFT STAYS Downtown lofts have also become extremely popular as AirBnB accommodations. Wier rents one of his Brandon lofts as an AirBnB and says it is booked from “now until whenever.” “It has stayed booked since we listed it on the AirBnB site,” Wier says. “It’s amazing and a lot of fun to see the people DeSoto 53

Five & Dime Lofts in Clarksdale

Five & Dime Lofts in Clarksdale

we get through here… from as far away as New Zealand.” International visitors also find their way to Clarksdale in the heart of the Mississippi Blues Trail. The Lofts at the Five & Dime are located in the historic F.W. Woolworth building, which opened in 1924, and offer apartment-style accommodations that blend modern style and amenities with traditional Southern charm. The Yazoo Pass Café is located on the ground floor while six elegantly furnished lofts are on the upper floors, accessible only by stairs. “Visitors will feel right at home with everything from hot cocoa to a computer printer. What really impressed me were the details — books on Clarksdale and Mississippi, information on nightlife, Delta photos from Depression-era photographers, even the high ceilings that no doubt hail back to the Five & Dime-era had an industrial feel that was so elegantly done,” describes Cheré Coen of Lafayette, Louisiana, who was a recent guest. “Looking up from my bed, I was entranced by the elaborate steel work. I made myself a hot chocolate, crawled into that four-poster bed and enjoyed a good Mississippi read.” Guests staying in Laurel’s Sweet Somethings lofts awake to the aromas of fresh sticky buns drifting up from the bakery by the same name. Open since 54 DeSoto

Meridian’s Front Street Apartments

May 2017, the Sweet Somethings B&B has hosted HGTV crews filming the Home Town series. Owner Joseph Watkins says the lofts have been so popular that he’s building several more above another of his restaurants down the street. Guests at the Soho Lofts in Milledgeville, Georgia, find the former 1890s bank quite comfortable with its New York-style amenities and within walking distance of several downtown restaurants. Former Milledgeville resident Kimberly Hall Martin and her husband, Joseph, purchased and renovated the building, which had been vacant for 10 years, to be a place where they could stay on extended visits. The four sizeable lofts, located above a Verizon store, are professionally decorated with the original masonry incorporated into the design. The Martins have an apartment in the Soho section of New York City, so they named the Milledgeville apartments the Soho Lofts because of the resemblance in architectural style. When I crawled into the huge, custom-made bed at the Southern version of SoHo, I could easily imagine what it might have been like had I joined my classmates in New York. Instead, I called my husband and said, “Let’s ditch the yardwork, and buy a loft… in the South.”

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An unimaginable diagnosis led Sharon McConnell Dickerson to a new career in art that has brought international acclaim.

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From Blues to Bliss Sharon McConnell Dickerson By Andrea Brown Ross Photography by Andrea Brown Ross and Tennessee Arts Commision

When artist Sharon McConnell Dickerson began losing her eyesight, she gained an unexpected insight into the world of art. Dickerson began working on lifecast sculptures in the early 2000s with Blues Hall of Fame legend John Hammond. Lifecasts are the exact replications of a human form or object. One of Dickerson’s more recent casts, and likely final cast, replicates the hands of blues musician Johnny Winter. In the years in between, Dickerson has experienced a close-up look with dozens of blues artists, in spite of her loss of eyesight. In fact, it’s her loss of eyesight that was a catalyst for her unique journey. DeSoto 57

Sharon McConnell Dickerson

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“God decides,” says Dickerson when she explains how artists seem to be serendipitously chosen to participate. “The opportunity comes from the musicians themselves. “A lifecast sculpture is such a personal piece. It’s more than their music and photos. It’s the human recording of their expressions and life lines. Their spirit is captured. It’s intangible, and so evident of their lives, not like a death mask,” elaborates Dickerson. Her opinion is based on the feedback from family members and others that have experienced her life casts. When the late T Model Ford’s wife saw her husband’s lifecast for the first time in an exhibit, she cried. His wife just cried and touched his face, shares Dickerson. She even shared the story about how he got a scar on his face. Another time, a blind musician saw the life cast of KoKo Taylor, of whom he was a huge fan. As he ran his hands over her face, he teared up. “So this is what my girl looks like,” Dickerson recalls him saying. Much like blues musicians who lament life’s trials and tribulations, Dickerson’s own life took an unexpected turn that led her to an artistic path. While working as a flight attendant on private planes for corporate magnates and industry leaders, including then real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, she awoke one morning in Chicago and couldn’t see very well. Only in her 20s, she was beginning to lose her eyesight. She would eventually be diagnosed in the late 1990s with Uveitis, a degenerative eye disease. Realizing she would eventually have to make a career change, she decided to consider sculpting. “At that time, I had had narrowed down my choices of where to start the next chapter of my life: Bozeman, Montana; Caramel Valley, California; or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ultimately, I decided to move to Santa Fe,” she says. As Dickerson sought private tutorials from friends who were famous artists in their own right, she valued their feedback on her work. Perhaps her greatest mentor has been the internationally renowned artist Michael Naranjo. Inspired by his Native American heritage, Naranjo creates beautiful bronze sculptures without the use of his right hand or eyesight, as he was permanently injured during the DeSoto 59

Dickerson and R.L.

Vietnam War. “Michael really motivated me and gave me hope. He was my reference as to what could be possible. In fact, he gave me my first show, which included eight bronze pieces there in Santa Fe,” remembers Dickerson. As Dickerson continued to fine tune her own artistic style and her eyesight continued to fade, she decided it was time for another move. Her love of another artistic expression – music – would lead her to Como, Mississippi in December 2006. “God brought me here. I was moving closer to the blues, the culture, and the people I loved,” she explained. “I’m inspired by the blues. I wanted to learn more about the men and women behind the music I loved.” Como is home to a handful of blues artists such as Fred McDowell, Othar “Otha” Turner, Jesse Mae Hemphill, and Napoleon Strickland. Como was also home to Dickerson’s future husband, David. They met in 2008 and eventually married. Opportunities continued to present themselves for Dickerson to create her lifecast sculptures. To date, she has created masks and hand casts for more then 60 blues performers, including Bo Diddley. The process of creating the life casts is the same process used by special effects artists, according to Dickerson. Molding materials, like the ones dentists use to make dental impressions, are used. “If you make a good mold, you get a perfect cast,” says Dickerson. She prefers her subjects to be straight up, not lying down, as she applies material to their faces. And she doesn’t use straws for the nostrils as other artists do. “This is an exact science. You only have about 3 minutes to apply the materials. The material is very sensitive and time is of the essence,” she emphasizes. 60 DeSoto

From there, Dickerson follows a series of steps that creates casts as unique as the musicians themselves. The oldest musician she cast was Otha Turner. Turner, known in the world of blues for his handmade fifes, was 96 years old at the time. Dickerson worked on his cast just weeks prior to his death. “It was a memorable day. The Public Broadcasting Show, ‘Mississippi Roads,’ was here taping. It turned into an all day event,” she shares. “I presented Otha’s family with his bronze mask at the first Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale (Mississippi), in which he did not perform,” continues Dickerson. She has also donated some of her original casts to Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. They are located in the Ewing building on campus, across from the Grammy Museum. Dickerson’s exhibits have toured throughout the United States and twice in France. She currently has an exhibit at the recently opened Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Museum (MAX) in Meridian, Mississippi. Her exhibit is an audio tour in which patrons will get to touch the masks. “People will have the chance to feel what I felt. There’s just certain things your eyes won’t pick up. I like people to have that tactile experience,” she says. “It’s been a two-year process. I’ll have some of my bronze masks on display, and Otha will be there, too,” Dickerson shares. While her exhibit will run through the end of August, guests also will find Dickerson on the museum’s list of Legends. According to the museum, “to be considered as a Mississippi Legend, artists must have a strong connection to the state of Mississippi — either by birth, moving to the state at a young age, or calling Mississippi home for a significant portion of their career.” As Dickerson’s currently pursues other artistic endeavors, in particular with fellow artist, Terri Massey, she treasures the experiences that have brought her to this point, both personally and professionally. “My life has gone from blues to bliss!” she exclaims.

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By Gerry Glenn Jones Photography courtesy of Chad Mellon and used with permission from Todd Richardson

Restored beyond its original grandeur, the once dilapidated Sears distribution center has a new life as the Memphis Crosstown Concourse – a mixed-use vertical urban village. DeSoto 63

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Who says the dead can’t be brought back to life; the Memphis Crosstown Concourse building is a perfect example of a modern reincarnation. This behemoth – located at 1350 Concourse Ave – contains 1.2 million square feet of space and is a direct descendant of the Sears distribution center which opened in Memphis on August 27, 1927. Its demise came in 1993. Although the Great Depression was looming at the doorstep of America, that didn’t stop the mail-order giant, Sears, Roebuck & Company, from planning for the future. While some businesses were cutting back to prepare for whatever uncertainty lay ahead, Sears continued to build large mail-order processing warehouses for their thriving mail-order business. Most had retail capabilities, also. Like many other U.S. cities, Memphis was growing and thus, was chosen by Sears to build its eighth catalog distribution warehouse, which would also serve as a retail outlet. It was located at Crosstown, which was at the time, a suburban neighborhood. The cost of the original Sears construction was $5 million, and on opening day, over 25,000 shoppers visited the center, and when it reached its pinnacle in business, around 45,000 catalog orders left the facility every day. Not only did it have this distinction, but it was also the largest building in Memphis at that time, with over 600,000 square feet of internal space and more than 1,000 employees. The Art Deco-style building consisted of 10 floors, with 14 floors in the tower. This was an elaborate style that was not just found in buildings, but was also seen in the manufacture of jewelry, ocean liners, cars, movie theaters, furniture and many other luxury items made at that time. It appeared first in France in the early 20th century, and can be seen in many New York skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the General Electric Building and many others. Over the years, Sears made five additions to the building. In 1983 the Sears Crosstown retail business closed, but the distribution center continued until 1993 when it closed also. Its demise was caused by the development of other large retail stores that carried a large variety of clothing, hardware, leisure products, as well as food items under one roof, and at a discounted price. The building sat abandoned for 17 DeSoto 65

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years, before Crosstown Arts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was formed in 2010 to facilitate its redevelopment. Arts and culture would be the catalyst for change. Todd Richardson, co-leader of the project, explained the vision for the project was created by a conglomerate group of people brought together to complete a yearlong feasibility study. When the deal was being worked out to use the original Sears structure for prefabrication into the Crosstown Concourse, planners realized it could be much more than a retail structure. By combining education, health care, arts, retail, office and community living into what the developers called a mixed-use vertical urban village, it became “a city inside a city.” At a reported cost for renovation of $200 million, the project outweighed the original Sears construction by $195 million dollars. “Construction on the building is mostly complete,” says Richardson. “We have two new structures next door to Concourse that are under construction; a 425-seat performing arts theater and gymnasium for Crosstown High School. There are also some office spaces and retail spaces inside the building that aren’t totally finished yet.” According to Richardson, t h e Crosstown Concour se is a private development headed by himself and McLean Wilson, who do not use the term CEOs, but rather consider themselves coleaders. He also stated that Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, and the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission have been receptive and supportive of the project from the beginning. The directory of the building lists the following as businesses already open: Area 51 Ice Cream, A Step Ahead Foundation, Cheryl Pace, Church Health, CBU, City Leadership, The Curb Market, Crosstown Arts, Crosstown Back Pain Institute, Crosstown Back Pain Institute, Crosstown Dental Group, Farm Burger, FedEx office, Focal Point, French Truck Coffee, G4S, Gloss Nail Bar, Juice Bar, Madison Pharmacy, Mama Gaia, Memphis Education Fund, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, MTR - Memphis Teacher Residency, Mempops, NexAir Crosstown, Next Door - American Eatery, The Poplar Foundation, The Pyramid Peak Foundation, DeSoto 67

So Nuts Confections, Suntrust Bank, St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital, Tanenbaum Dermatology Center, TeachforAmerica, Tech 901, Temple Israel Crosstown, The Urban Child Institute and the YMCA. “The Parcels apartment community on the upper floors contain 265 apartments, which are 97 percent leased,” said Richardson. “Since Concourse began construction, a few new businesses have either moved into the surrounding neighborhood or made plans to move to the neighborhood soon, including the Tennessee Karate Institute, brg3 architects, Black Lodge, My City Rides, Alzheimer’s & Dementia Services and The Atomic Tiki.” Says Richardson. In addition, overnight and short-term rental options are offered in furnished apartments through Layover at Concourse. A variety of events – from cooking classes, live music, and art receptions – are already going strong. A schedule of upcoming events is on the Crosstown Concourse website. With any project of this magnitude, additional businesses usually migrate nearby. Richardson added, “This fall, Crosstown High will welcome its first batch of students; all ninth graders selected by lottery. The school will add a grade per year until it’s a full-service high school. In addition, in the fall, the Crosstown Arts Performing Arts Theatre will open its doors on the north side of the building.” He also commented on parking and security, “There are 1,900 spaces onsite — 1,200 of which are in a garage next to the building. Ample handicapped and short-term parking options are available, including a mixture of one-hour and 68 DeSoto

two-hour spots for our retail and restaurant patrons. Also, G4S Security Solutions provides security for building and campus.� Some of the other amenities include close vicinity to the interstate highway systems, availability of nearby bus and trolley transportation and access to the Vollintine-Evergreen (V&E) Greenline. The unique reincarnation of a once dilapidated building, which has been restored beyond its original grandeur, is worth a visit. You can shop, eat, listen to live music, take a class, or just spend the night in a luxurious loft. After all, you’re coming into a city within a city. For information on Crosstown Concourse, visit

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homegrown } southern chef

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Stuffed pork loin with Southern Chef’s Garlic Butter Seasoning

Tomahawk ribeyes with Southern Chef’s Gourmet Steak Seasoning

Spice of Life By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography by Adam Mitchell

Southern Chef founders find their niche focusing on backyard barbecues and family inspired seasonings. Conversations at the Lookadoo home in East Memphis center around blending, spices, and honoring mothers-in-law! The numerous testing and tasting parties that flow from the kitchen to the deck make it not only a busy place, but also a fun “lab” for bringing new products to market. The blended family of David and Jan and their son and daughter congregates in the home’s heart, the kitchen. Guests are so frequent that they just arrive. Weekend dinners morph into tasting parties. After all, everybody likes to give an opinion. And the topic? Meat on the grill and the seasoning that goes with it. David, 50, and Jan, 46, married in 2014 and started a second career in 2016, a company called Southern Chef. It

currently markets five meat seasonings in shakers. “Our niche is corporate gifts,” David says, “the kind you give your best clients.” The two met when they worked together as financial advisors. Jan is at First Tennessee Bank and David now works for Principal Financial Group. Their other shared interests include barbecue and cooking. “We started dating and I dragged Jan to contests. We competed in gumbo, chili, and wings. We enjoyed it,” says David, winner of six awards in various barbecue contests over the last eight years. “Jan and I were on the team that won third place in Memphis in May in 2017.” The awards validate the couple’s expertise. Cooking is a generational family enterprise. “It’s nice that Jan and I DeSoto 71

Grilled stuffed pork loin with Southern Chef’s Garlic Butter Seasoning

Baby back ribs seasoned with Southern Chef’s Granny Mary’s BBQ Rub

Bacon wrapped filets with Southern Chef’s Gourmet Steak Seasoning

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both grew up cooking with our families. Our grandmothers and mothers were incredible Southern cooks,” David says. And they’re passing on the skill to their middle schoolers. “The kitchen is our lab,” David says. “Our daughter Jordan is more involved in cooking and our son Matthew is more involved in eating.” Then he laughed and added, “Actually, they’re both always involved.” Located in Memphis, Southern Chef, an LLC, specializes in dry seasonings that are applied to meat before, during, and after cooking. “We produce quality products and we’re focused on family,” says David, explaining the company’s vision. The two original products are Granny Mary’s BBQ Rub, which is named after David’s mother, and Gourmet Steak Seasoning. Packaging is in individual glass shakers selling for $7.99 and $8.99. Labeling is an attractive white-on-black combination; the company logo is a crossed knife and fork. “Feedback has been great. People send us pictures of Granny’s Mary’s Rub on deviled eggs and sprinkled on popcorn,” David says. Trial tests on a new product, Garlic Butter Seasoning, show it “is great on French bread and also great on seafood,” David says. Two more products—similarly tested, tasted, and pronounced delicious— likewise are up in 2018. Jan’s mother is honored with one of them, Yia Yia’s Poultry Seasoning (her nickname is pronounced Ya Ya). David describes the marketing process this way: “We’ve got to live it, test it, play with it, and have tasting parties. Any given weekend, our kitchen and deck are full of people trying out what we’re doing.” Julie Caldwell, Jan’s high school friend and an optometrist in Crawfordsville, Arkansas, has come to many tasting parties with her husband Jerry, a civil engineer. She remembers getting to know David before he married Jan. “David made a good impression on us. We’re very glad that Jan snagged him,” she says with a smile. Describing a typical tasting party, Julie says, “David is a great cook. Jan is too. He makes the outside stuff and Jan, the inside stuff.” Julie appreciates in particular David’s descriptions. “He explains how to taste what we’re trying. The sweet is on the front of your tongue and the spicy or kick or hot is on the back of your tongue.” She finds Southern Chef seasonings quite versatile; they work well with chicken and on a sausage and cheese tray. Michael Mendez, owner of an industrial equipment business in Loma Linda, California, met David at Memphis in May in 2010. A self-described “backyard barbecue guy and lounge lizard,” Mendez comes annually to the city’s signature festival “specifically for the barbecue.” He finds the yearly trip well worth it. “I talk barbecue, eat barbecue, and have fun with good friends and good people,” says Mendez, commending Memphis for its Southern hospitality and good cooking. Although Mendez does not compete as does his friend David, he appreciates the Southern Chef wares. “The steak seasoning of black pepper and garlic is very good. It’s a perfect combo on a steak. The barbecue rub is sweet with a little heat on it,” he says. Back home in California, Mendez cooks for friends. “I use David’s products and everybody is fascinated by the taste.” Mendez then paused and chuckled as he complimented his friend, “Yeah, David makes me look good and he makes it look easy.”

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southern gentleman } home renos

DIY or DI-Why? By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of and

Do-It-Yourself projects can be more difficult than they seem on television. The secret to success is knowing the difference between a simple weekend project and one that should be left to the pros. They make it look easy, don’t they? The smiling host on HGTV or DIY Network talks right into the camera about how simple it’s going to be to remove this wall and open up the kitchen and dining room, allowing light to flow and parties to coalesce better than ever. A time-lapse video shows the offending wall disappear bit-by-bit while electrical outlets are relocated, a crew installs a new laminated veneer lumber (LVL) header, patches in some new hardwood flooring and stains it to match. Then – less than a minute later – it’s like a brand-new kitchen and no one has resurfaced those ugly old cabinets yet. 74 DeSoto

I think you know where I’m headed with this, so say it with me: home reno projects just aren’t that easy. I spent years in a custom cabinet shop transforming sheets of plywood and medium-density fiberboard into kitchen cabinets, vanities, fireplace surrounds, home theatres and libraries, and even with a shop full of tools, there were times when the simplest projects became a struggle. Now, a decade removed from it and with only a small collection of hand and power tools (and no shop in sight), DIY projects are just that: projects. They require more effort and, seemingly, more work.

Now that spring has sprung across the South, the time for DIY is here. Hopefully we can all keep our projects under control and keep them from becoming DI-Why-did-I-do-This, DI-Where-did-the-budget-go and DI-Why-don’t-I-just-goahead-and-call-the-plumber situations. As we work in our yards, on our decks, on that tile project that’s been on hold for two years, we have to know our limits. So ask yourself two questions: What can I do with the skills, abilities and tools I have, with the time I can dedicate to the project, and within my budget? And, here’s the most important one, when is it best to call for help? The first question addresses some key issues: the skills, abilities, tools, time and budget available. Which is all to say, “Know Your Limits.” Before starting any project take an honest look at the project – and yourself – and assess whether you have the ability to complete the task. Are you looking to create a fire pit area in one corner of your yard? That could be simple – landscaping timbers, weed cloth, a gravel base, your fire pit or fire pit kit – and doable in a weekend, or it could become complex enough to demand some expert help. Want that fire pit to be fueled by natural gas or propane? Great, can you properly install the plumbing between the gas head and your tank (read: non-explosively and within your area’s coding requirements)? Want to have a brick or paver patio instead of gravel? That’s fine if you know the best way to build your base, lay a pattern, and cut your material so it fits right and tight; otherwise you’ll need to bring in the pros. Deck projects have quite the range as well. Painting or resealing is relatively simple, as is replacing old boards and performing other small maintenance tasks. But what if you want to expand the deck and add another six feet to it? Depending on the deck (is it elevated or on the ground) and your experience (have you done any framing or are you just a

garage DIY hobbyist), it’s a task of varying degrees of difficulty. All you may need are materials and time and you can put it together in a jiff. Or you could find yourself building a deck extension that sags, leans, sinks or even falls off after only a few weeks. For anything where the health, welfare and safety of you and your friends and family are concerned – say that deck expansion or removing a wall to open up your kitchen and living area like the featured house on some DIY show – it’s best to at least consult with a professional. Do you know how to determine if a wall is load-bearing or not; will you need a header, or support columns? How about tying in the hardwood, tile or patching in the carpet when the wall’s gone? What will you do about that electrical outlet? When it comes to dealing with the mechanicals – electricity, plumbing and HVAC – it’s best to leave all but the simplest fixes to the pros. Installing a new ceiling fan is an easy job on an 8-foot ceiling, but something entirely different on a 10-or-11-foot ceiling. Replacing a leaky faucet is easy, whereas replacing a garbage disposal falls more squarely in the “call an expert” side of things. If there’s a chance you could burn down the house, flood everything and ruin the carpet or hardwoods, or go without air conditioning in the hot, humid summer, then step aside and let a master at the craft take a shot at your home reno remedy. Otherwise, watch your budget, keep an eye on your time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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southern harmony } forest fire gospel choir

Forest Fire Gospel Choir By Pam Windsor | Photography by William Aubrey Reynolds

An unusual name, partially inspired by a house fire, gives this Nashville-based rock band a soulful sound that is attracting fans throughout the South. They started out at Nashville’s Belmont University as friends who share a love of great music. Today they make up Forest Fire Gospel Choir, a dedicated rock band that has been steadily adding tour dates and building a strong fan base throughout the South. Known for soulful lyrics, guitar riffs, and strong songwriting, the group has a unique sound that comes from bringing together the musical influences of each of its members. 76 DeSoto

“We come from different parts of the country,” explains guitarist Sam Hunt, “so we have very different kind of cultural upbringings and we really work hard to embrace that and see what that blend sounds like. It’s been a big journey of self-exploration for us.” Hunt, Will McGee, Will Lynde, and Nick Fields all came to Belmont to study music or music business and have a deep appreciation for rock music in one form or another.

“Several of us come from the same background of having grown up on classic rock or soul music, essentially what you would expect all our fathers to have listened to,” says guitarist Nick Fields. “And then as far as our musical tastes go, Sam would end up being the odd man out of having appreciated more of the L.A.-based rock scene like Queens of the Stone Age and stuff like that. So we’d have three likeminded opinions as far as what we enjoy and want to create.” They began exploring their sound and the kind of music they wanted to make with an early recording session at lead singer and bass player Will McGee’s lake house in Arkansas. It’s part of where the name of the band originated. “It’s in a really rural part of Arkansas right across the street from where I grew up,” he says. “And I had a house fire when I was a kid. It was a painful part of my past, but it was interesting bringing all these people there right in the heart of it. The name kind of popped in my head a couple of days later.” The “choir” part of Forest Fire Gospel Choir relates more directly to the music. “I just love 60’s and 70’s rock with the big background vocals on it,” McGee goes on to say. “It’s very soulful like the kind of stuff you hear on “Gimme Shelter” and other old popular songs. We put a lot of work into getting harmony to sound great. It’s fun when we use the instrumentation of a song, when we can have a lot of energy there, and kind of match it and push it over the edge with all of the harmonies.” Part of what gives the group such a strong foundation is their friendship. They live together in a big house complete with a basement studio they designed themselves.

“One of the biggest things for me that’s awesome about this band,” notes keyboardist Will Lynde, “is how we all interact with each other. We’re all friends. We make music a lot of the time, but sometimes we just hang out, play games, and have a good time.” That close relationship has made traveling a lot easier with the band doing a lot more shows on the road. “We get along so well that we can handle those long van rides together,” McGee says. “We have a lot of the same hobbies, we love playing old video games. It’s pretty regular if we’re taking a long road trip we’ll hook up a Nintendo in the back and play all kinds of games. We take care of each other and we goof off together, so it’s a non-stop party.” They’re family. And newest member, drummer Daniel Closser, has been warmly welcomed into the fold. Closser, who went to school at Vanderbilt and has more of an indie music background, has been able to add his influence to the band. “It’s been really fun to be able to add my modern influence spin on stuff and have it be appreciated and morphed into something cool and new.” There’s a lot that’s cool and new for Forest Fire Gospel Choir. The band traveled to Austin in March to perform at South by Southwest, and has a number of tour dates already in place for later this year. And they’re working on new music. “We’re making our own recordings now and they sound really good,” says McGee. “I think the rest of the summer we’ll be recording new songs, rolling out more singles, and playing as many kickass shows as we can.” There’s also a music video in the works that McGee describes as Memphis-inspired and “really fun.” They’re having a good time and are excited about the future. “One of the things I think is really important to the sound of this band is we’re always pushing the envelope and taking ideas a little farther out, together,” McGee says. “I think the way we’re able to do that, we’re always going to have something new.”

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in good spirits} kentucky iced tea

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Kentucky Iced Tea By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Jim Beam Distillers

Summertime and the living is easy… and it’s time for ice tea with a kick!

Summertime and thoughts turn to sweet iced tea. It is the South, after all. Another Southern drink that’s heavenly over ice when temperatures rise is bourbon, and when the two meet for a date, it’s a delicious marriage. And it’s so easy to create. Most bourbon iced tea cocktails contain three to four ingredients: brewed black tea that’s sweetened and chilled, simple syrup and bourbon with mint, lemon or other flavors as garnish. Some mixologists add other liquors such as limoncello for added flavor. Bryan Price, mixologist at the Grand Hotel in Natchez, starts with the tea, emphasizing that brewing his own sweet tea makes all the difference. “When it comes to making a bourbon tea, it’s all about the tea and it’s all about the bourbon,” Price said. “When you mix it with bourbon you can’t go wrong. Here in the South everyone loves bourbon. It’s as Southern as you can get.” Geoffrey Zakarian of the Food Network uses fresh orange juice and a clover honey syrup for his orange bourbon iced tea and the network’s popular Chef Bobby Flay prefers blackberries for his blackberry-bourbon iced tea, pouring brewed tea over mashed blackberries, sugar and mint which meld together for an hour before being used in the cocktail. What you choose as the tea makes a difference as well. Flavored teas, such as Orange Pekoe and Celestial Seasonings Peach, send the drink in certain flavor directions. Add some lemonade to the mix and you’ve got a bourbon Arnold Palmer. The Mirror Room at the historic Hotel Bentley in Alexandria, Louisiana, prefers peach but uses Peach Schnapps in its Peach Tea, along with Maker’s Mark bourbon, tea, lemon juice and mint. Here are recipes for the cocktail by two old-time Kentucky bourbon distilleries. Jim Beam of Clermont utilitizes the flavors of peach schnapps liqueur for its Kentucky Sweet Tea. Woodford Reserve of Versailles (that’s Kentucky, not France, although they pronounce it Ver-sales) offers its take on the Arnold Palmer.

Kentucky Sweet Tea

1 part DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps Liqueur 2 parts Jim Beam bourbon 3 parts sweet tea Lemon wedge Direction: Build over ice in a tall highball glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Note: It’s preferable to create the tea the Southern way by dissolving sugar in boiling water, then adding the tea bags once the sugar is dissolved. The amount of sugar you add depends on the preferred sweetness.

Woodford Reserve Palmer

1 1/2 ounces Woodford Reserve Lemonade Iced Tea Lemon wedge Direction: Fill a tall glass with ice. Add all ingredients and stir well. Garnish with the lemon wedge.

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exploring events } may Memphis In May Beale Street Music Festival - May 4 - 6 International Salute to Czech Republic - May 7 - 13 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - May 16 - 19 Great American River Run - May 26 901Fest - May 26 For more information, schedules and tickets visit or call 901-525-4611. Beneath the Surface: Life, Death & Gold in Ancient Panama Through May 6 Pink Palace Museum Memphis, TN For ticket information call 901-636-2362 or visit Picturing Mississippi Exhibit Through July 8 Mississippi Museum of Art Jackson, TN 200 Years. 100 Artists. 1 Mississippi. For ticket information visit or call 601-960-1515. Legends of Motown: Celebrating The Supremes Through September 3 GRAMMY Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS For more information visit or call 662-441-0100. The Annual Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce Golf Scramble May 3 Greenwood Country Club Greenwood, MS Registration includes cart and green fees, box lunch, complimentary beverages all afternoon, and a goody bag. Prizes for the Top 3 net and gross. All proceeds go to benefit the YELL youth leadership program. For more information call the Chamber office at 662-453-4152. Smokin’ On The Waterway May 4 - 5 Tombigbee Waterway Burnsville, MS 3rd Annual BBQ Cookoff (not a KCBS sanctioned event) near the Tombigbee Waterway at Burnsville, Mississippi. For more information call 662-872-9028. Que on the Yazoo May 4 - 5 Downtown Greenwood, MS Que on the Yazoo will feature live music and activities for BBQ enthusiasts of all ages throughout the weekend. There is no admission fee. NO COOLERS!For more information call 662-453-7625 or visit

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Jockeys and Juleps May 5 916 Billy Bryant Road Collierville, TN 3:00pm Big hats. Bourbon. Bluegrass. And a live broadcast of the Kentucky Derby! Southern Reins is celebrating its 3rd Annual Jockeys & Juleps Derby Party at their wonderful new facility in Collierville horse country. For more information visit Jerry Clower Festival May 5 Historic Downtown Yahoo City, MS 10:00am - 5:00pm Arts & Crafts, Antique & Classic Car Show, Kidz Zone, Silent Auction, Lots of Delicious Food, LIVE Entertainment and SO MUCH MORE! For more information visit 2018 Annual Mississippi Music Awards May 5 Landers Center Southaven, MS You will enjoy many amazing artists and bands! Proceeds from the Mississippi Music Awards will benefit the Mississippi Youth Chamber Orchestra, the Money Match Program and the many programs the Mississippi Music Foundation sponsors to mentor and support Mississippi musicians. For more information, call 662-429-2939 or visit Author event with Rick Bragg: The Best Cook In The World May 6 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 12:30pm Rick Bragg returns to Greenwood at the tail end of Que on the Yazoo weekend to share a meal and tell tales from his momma’s table. Join us for lunch at 12:30, followed by book signing and speaking. This is a ticketed lunch event, so reserve your seat today! For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit Natchez Festival of Music May 8 - 26 Natchez, MS Enjoy magnificent music in beautiful Natchez Tuesday through Saturday evenings all through the month of May! For more information visit or call 601-807-2593. Esperanza Bonanza May 9 - 12 Marion, AR For more information visit or call 901-484-7752.

Creative Aging’s Senior Arts Series May 9 Theatre Memphis Memphis, TN 1:30pm The Side Street Steppers playing rare and popular music from the 1920s and 30s and Memphis Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, with musicians from across the globe. Minimum donation of $5 cash or check at the door or advance purchase tickets available online. For more information visit or call 901-272-3434. 2nd Annual DeSoto County ACS Birthday Bash Fundraising Dinner May 10 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS 6:30pm - 8:30pm Must be 21 or older to attend. Check in begins at 6pm with the event beginning at 6:30pm. Dinner provided by LongHorn Steakhouse. Auction items. Tickets are $35/person. For more information contact Whitney Goewey, Community Development Manager at or call 901-725.8624. 5 Star City Fest May 11 - 12 Senatobia, MS 5K run walk, local art, kids zone, live music, steak cook-off, BBQ contest and classic car show. For more information call 662-562-8715. 60th Annual Memphis Greek Food Festival May 11 - 12 Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Memphis, TN OPA! A two-day annual Greek Festival offering a unique opportunity to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of a country that influenced so much of our own nation’s civilization. For more information visit or call 901-327-8177. Mayfest May 12 OldTowne Olive Branch, MS 9:00am - 4:00pm A fun-filled day with events including a 5K run, food vendors, games, arts & crafts, live music and kids entertainment. For more information visit or call 662-893-0888.

Bishop Gunn Crawfish Boil May 12 Bluff Park Natchez, MS The inaugural Bishop Gunn Crawfish Boil’s music lineup includes Bishop Gunn, Walter “Wolfman” Washington & The Roadmasters, Banditos, Magnolia Bayou, and Lucas. For tickets visit or by phone at 877-987- 6487. 47th Annual Gumtree Festival May 12 - 13 Tupelo, MS Tupelo’s annual juried arts festival featuring over 100 artists on display, songwriters’ competition and children’s activities. A 10k race is also held as part of the weekend. For more information visit A’Fair May 19 Courthouse Square Hernando, MS Presented by the Optimist Club of Hernando. The A’Fair kicks off at 7:30am with the Laurie L. Wylie Memorial 5K Race. Art and craft vendors with handcrafted pottery, watercolor, oil painting, photography, sewn and embroidered items, woodcraft, jewelry and more. Several vendors conduct demonstrations to show how their crafts are made. For more information call 662-280-8875 or visit Cooper Young Garden Walk May 19 - 20 Cooper/Young Intersection Memphis, TN 9:00am - 5:00pm Tour 75+ urban gardens, guest speakers, educational booths, food, and more. For more information visit Summer Symphony at Live at the Garden Featuring The Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Wynona May 26 Botanic Garden Memphis, TN Guests are encouraged to bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs and coolers for food and beverages to make their experience that much better. They are also urged to stay for the firework finale. Gates open 5:30 pm, show starts at 7:30 pm. For more information visit or call 901-576-4107.

Pour Mississippi Craft Beer and Music Festival May 12 Downtown Cleveland, MS 2:00pm - 7:00pm Enjoy over 20+ regional and international breweries in downtown Cleveland, plus amazing food trucks and live music. One price gets you a wristband, souvenir cup, and all the tastings you can want. For more information visit DeSoto 81

reflections} pearls of beauty, pearls of wisdom

Pearls of Beauty, Pearls of Wisdom By Rebecca Bingham

In 2002, I moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, a bustling tourist destination with a healthy population of active retirees. When the local newspaper started printing my weekly travel articles, a number of civic and social groups invited me to speak at their meetings. One group of ladies who regularly gather for lunch invited me to join them. When I arrived, the grand dame of the bunch – who was celebrating her 80th birthday – whispered in my ear, “I need to speak to you privately after the meeting.” She was not smiling. Feeling like a kid who had been summoned to the principal’s office after class, I wondered what I might have done wrong or maybe even had failed to do that would cause my friend to approach me in such an ambiguous way. I could hardly eat. And my presentation to the group was one of the most difficult of my career because I was so mentally distracted. Eventually, I concluded my talk, and the wait staff arrived to clear the table. Guests were saying goodbye to one another. My friend stood at the rear door, motioning with her head for me to join her around the corner in a vacant room. She still wasn’t smiling. I followed silently, waiting for the shoe to drop. “You probably don’t realize this, Rebecca,” she said, stone-faced, “but I have a daughter about your age from whom I’ve been estranged for nearly 15 years.” (Yep, I thought. Here we go.) “And ever since I’ve known you, you have hugged me every time I see you. Initially, these hugs were source of great pain and irritation to me because they were a constant reminder of the relationship which I desperately wanted, but did not have, with my own daughter. 82 DeSoto

“Over the years, however, a curious thing happened,” she explained. “My heart began to soften, and I actually started looking forward to those hugs. You transformed what started as a source of pain and irritation in my life and layered with love until it finally became a thing of beauty.” With that, my friend reached into her purse and pulled out a small black velvet drawstring pouch, which she pressed into my hand. Eyes now brimming with tears, she continued, “I want you to have these pearls as a token of my appreciation. When you look at them, remember that each pearl started as a source of pain and irritation to an oyster, but was gradually covered over until it became a thing of beauty. And if you ever get to a place in your life where you are nursing pain and irritation, I want you to put on these pearls, look at yourself in the mirror and remember that like this strand of pearls, we are bonded together by the beauty and bounty of love, which never fails.” A few months later, my friend passed away, and I don’t know whether she reconciled with her daughter. What I do know is I have worn these pearls every day since then.

Rebecca Bingham is a full time international travel journalist and photographer for newspapers, regional lifestyle magazines and online publications. When not traveling, she plays cello in a professional string quartet.

DeSoto Magazine May 2018  

Beautiful historic Southern architecture and the arts.

DeSoto Magazine May 2018  

Beautiful historic Southern architecture and the arts.