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JULY CONTENTS 2021 • VOLUME 18 • NO. 7

features

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The Coolness Factor ​In Hot Springs, Ark.

Disney World at 50: ​A Magical Celebration

​Going Coastal: ​A Look at New Hotels

departments 14 Living Well Wheelchair Accessible Beaches ​ 18 Notables ​Comedy Writer David Sheffield

40 On the Road Again ​Moss Point, Miss. 42 Greater Goods 62 Homegrown The Peanut Shoppe

22 Exploring Art Mytho Menagerie 26 Exploring Books ​A Place Like Mississippi

66 Southern Gentleman ​Swimming Holes 68 Southern Harmony ​Fisk Jubilee Singers

28 Southern Roots Sensory Gardens

70 In Good Spirits ​Blues Cat

32 Table Talk ​The Tomato Place 36 Exploring Destinations Como’s Safari Park

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72 Exploring Events 74 Reflections A Bittersweet Farewell

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editor’s note | JULY

Celebrating Summer ​ ​As a kid on Sunday nights I eagerly waited for Tinkerbell to appear on my TV screen waving her magic wand to change everything into living color. It was on an episode of “The Wonderful World of Color” that Walt Disney first introduced viewers to his dream park, Disney World, in what was then the small city of Orlando, Fla. Later, as a wide-eyed high school student, I visited the park, astonished at the incredible details of one man’s vision. And it was only the Magic Kingdom! Today, that park has expanded beyond our wildest dreams and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a host of events and new attractions. If the beach is more your style, there are new hotels to explore along the Gulf Coast and we offer a sneak peek. And don’t worry if you’re confined to a wheelchair for writer Barbara Twardoski lists the many accessible beaches along the coast, plus vendors that rent specialty chairs. For mountain lovers, check out Hot Springs, a town that doubles as a national park — also celebrating an anniversary, its 100th this year. Writer Tom Adkinson explains how the steaming waters emerging in this Arkansas town started as raindrops 10,000 years ago. And that’s just some of the highlights of this, our “Celebrating Summer” issue. We’re going to take you

JULY 2021 • Vol. 18 No.7

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell ADVERTISING CONSULTANT Melanie Dupree CO-EDITORS Mary Ann DeSantis Cheré Coen

to the quirky Tomato Place in Vicksburg and visit the Safari Wild Animal Park in Como, Miss. Jason Frye shares his favorite Southern swimming holes. And there’s much more. On a sad note — but not for her — we say goodbye to our esteemed editor, Mary Ann DeSantis, who retires with this issue. We wish her lots of joy and happiness as she relaxes on her Florida lanai, but we insist she keeps writing her wonderful stories! So, what are you waiting for this summer? Get out there and celebrate the sun.

Cheré Coen

CONTRIBUTORS Tom Adkinson Michele Baker Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Lisa Evans Jason Frye Verna Gates Pamela A. Keene Tracy Morin Karen Ott Mayer Barbara Twardowski Karen Warron Kevin Wierzbicki Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com SUBSCRIBE: DeSotoMagazine.com/subscribe

DeSotoMagazine.com

on the cover

Hot Springs National Park marks its 100th anniversary this year, but the town has much to celebrate, including thoroughbred racing at Oaklawn, which dates back to 1904.

©2021 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 paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well | WHEELCHAIR FRIENDLY

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Gulf County Welcome Center in Port St. Joe, Fla.


Wheelchair-friendly Gulf Coast Beaches BY Barbara and Jim Twardowski | Photography courtesy of Gulf County Tourist Development Council

Beach ramps, mats and specialty wheelchairs allow accessibility to Gulf Coast beaches for everyone. ​ Glorious sunsets, sparkling waves, and sandy beaches make for an irresistible vacation. However, for people who use wheelchairs, maneuvering on shifting surfaces is impossible. Communities all along the Gulf Coast have been busy implementing new services so their shores are welcoming to people of all abilities. ​ Accessible beaches provide ramps or use synthetic mats that grip the surface. Typically, neither reaches all the way to the water because the tides would cover them. To get beyond this point requires a beach wheelchair.

​ Karen Deming founded DeBug Mobility Products along with her husband, Mike, in the mid-90s. “At that time, there were only three companies making beach wheelchairs. I can’t even count how many manufacturers there are today,” Deming says. What was previously a niche market has skyrocketed and the Pensacola-based company ships their products to vendors around the world. ​ Beach wheelchairs have oversized tires that can navigate the terrain and won’t get stuck in the sand. Manual beach wheelchairs require someone to assist the occupant with DeSoto 17


pushing while motorized chairs allow the user to drive independently. ​ Many communities provide beach wheelchairs at no cost to those who need them, but they do ask something of value be left as a deposit such as a driver’s license. Others charge a fee. Generally, these beach wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, some loaner chairs are only offered seasonally. ​ The best option is to rent one. Companies that rent outdoor gear (such as bikes) often stock beach wheelchairs. ​ Anyone borrowing a beach wheelchair should ask for detailed instructions on how to properly use it. Some are only made for use on land and will be ruined if taken into the water. Other models roll on the sand and convert to a floating lounge chair when immersed in the waves. Be sure to confirm when and where a beach wheelchair needs to be returned. After reviewing all the operating instructions, do ask for the phone number of someone who can assist you if there are any additional questions. ​ Beach wheelchairs vary in design. Not every chair has a seat belt. Users might want to bring a long piece of Velcro to loop around their waist for added safety. Some users also prefer to use their own cushion. Most beach wheelchairs are low to the ground and transferring from a personal wheelchair can be difficult which might necessitate additional assistance. ​Planning a wheelchair accessible vacation requires intensive research. Contact a destination’s official tourism office for advice. With advance research a Gulf Coast trip can be a fun beach break for every member of the family.

Based near New Orleans, Barbara and Jim Twardowski write about destinations, cultural attractions, and Boomer trends — including accessible travel.

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notables | DAVID SHEFFIELD

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David on the Coming to America set

A Comedic Journey By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of David Sheffield

After a successful career as a Hollywood writer, Mississippi native David Sheffield comes home to indulge in his passions for fly fishing and writing short stories. Although you may not know the name David Sheffield, you certainly would be familiar with the screenwriter’s works, including “Coming to America,” “The Nutty Professor,” and the recent “Coming 2 America.” However, long before writing Hollywood blockbusters with writing partner Barry Blaustein, Sheffield began his career on a much smaller scale. Born in North Mississippi, Sheffield and his family moved to the Gulf Coast when he was young. After graduating from Biloxi High School, he spent one year at the University of Mississippi before transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi, where he would graduate in 1972 with a degree in theater and radio, television and film. Sheffield then spent time in front of the camera, working as a reporter for WDAM in Hattiesburg. “I was a reporter for a while,” Sheffield says. “I called myself a writer, photographer, editor, and weekend anchor. I was terrible on the air, and that’s when I decided to be behind the camera.”

During this time, Sheffield also was writing musicals for children with his brother, Buddy. Buddy also made his mark on Hollywood with credits for “In Living Color,” Nickelodeon’s “Roundhouse,” and Dolly Parton’s short-lived variety show, “Dolly.” The brothers created the Sheffield Ensemble Theater, a touring company that made the rounds from school to school in a former ice cream truck filled with sets and props. The company was quite successful, visiting 22 states and even making an appearance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. After approximately five years, the duo closed the touring company because the constant traveling became arduous for Buddy, who stayed on the road while David worked to make a living “any way I could writing anything I could,” he says. In 1980, Sheffield got a call from a friend who was working as a men’s room attendant at Studio 54 in New York DeSoto 21


David Fishing in Alaska

City that would set the stage for Sheffield achieving one of his first career dreams. His friend was auditioning for “Saturday Night Live” and wanted Sheffield to write some material to pass along to the producers. His friend called and said the “producer who wears glasses” likes your stuff, but couldn’t remember the producer’s name. After several phone calls looking for said producer — Alan Stern — Sheffield got in touch with Stern, who requested more material. After about five or six weeks, he got the call to come to New York. “I was more than ready for it,” Sheffield says. “I was planning to be a writer at ‘Saturday Night Live’ since the show went on the air. At the show, I met two people who changed my life completely. One was Eddie Murphy, who was 19 years old at the time, and the other was my writing partner, Barry Blaustein.” Both writers clicked and started writing together for Murphy, including such popular skits as the Buckwheat sketches and Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, among others. Following promotions to “SNL” head writers and supervising producers in their third year at the show, Sheffield and Blaustein soon decided they wanted to forgo the hectic schedule of a weekly live show in exchange for writing movies. Soon after their move to Hollywood, their first successful movie was “Police Academy 2,” which led to more offers of work. In 1986, Murphy called Sheffield and Blaustein about an idea he had for a movie that turned out to be “Coming to America.” “Being on the set for ‘Coming to America’ was great 22 DeSoto

fun,” Sheffield says. “[Director John Landis] put us in as extras in a couple of scenes.” The writing duo went on to work with Murphy on “The Nutty Professor,” “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,” and the recent “Coming 2 America,” and have remained writing partners for more than 40 years. After many years of “endless” meetings and the “blur” of working in Hollywood, Sheffield returned to his native state. “I never enjoyed the meeting part,” he says. “I never fit in in Hollywood. Of course, I never fit in in New York, and now I don’t fit in in Mississippi. I just don’t fit in.” Today, at 72, Sheffield has carved out his own place to fit in, a farm outside of Laurel, where his wife Cynthia’s family lives. Here, he can indulge in his love of fly fishing from his front porch. He also continues to write short stories and plays and even hopes to complete a comic novel before he dies. This includes “The Heartbreak Henry,” a play based on his experience working at the Henry Hotel in Oxford while attending Ole Miss. “Now I’m writing a few things that I want to write, whether or not it’s successful or whether or not they get produced or even published,” he says. “I’m indulging myself at this point. It’s never too late to have a good childhood, and I’m working on mine.” A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon Warren writes for many media outlets. When she’s not working, Karon enjoys a good comedy with her husband and children.


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exploring art | CHLOE YORK AND ERIC QUICK

Bones and rocks in the home of Chloe and Eric

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Eric and Chloe at home

Beautiful Monsters Among Us By Verna Gates | Photography courtesy of Mytho Menagerie

Alabama couple incorporates creatures, mythology, and nature into their innovative art pieces. When the preserved body of a large fruit bat flaps into your line of vision, it is almost instinct to duck while entertaining images of the vampire bat of movies and myths. Hanging at eye level as you enter the home of Chloe York and Eric Quick, the somewhat scary mammal epitomizes the story of the couple and their art. As two students at the Memphis College of Art, the now-married couple bonded over a love of monster movies. The pair prefers pre-computer-generated monsters and special effects that were hand-made, such as the alien in John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic, “The Thing.” Another favorite is

the work of Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-winning creator of “Color of Water” and other visually-striking films. Taking a leap from monster-admirer to monstermaker, Quick morphed into a special effects artist. One of his favorite projects was “Little Shop of Horrors,” where he built the puppets to simulate the alien plant that lands on Earth. In short order, his creatures developed a devoted following and he was shipping internationally. His work for a Theater Memphis production of “Into the Woods” garnered him an Ostrander Theater Award in 2016. Some of the crafted monsters didn’t decorate theaters DeSoto 25


Eric Quick at work with a skull

or movies, but were instead used to express the fears and anxieties of gravely ill children. In a project with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, patients drew monsters that were put into 3-D by sculptors, including Quick. The exhibit included both the children’s drawings and the sculptures created from them. The monsters inspired the couple’s Mytho Menagerie brand that blends magic along with the old folk tales and Greek mythology. Many of their creatures spring from stories of dragons, gorgons, and the kraken. “There are different giant creatures throughout history,” York explains. “People were probably finding dinosaur bones and were trying to explain them. They used the myths to explain humanity and to connect us as humans.” While York still enjoys the myths, some of the monsters have lessened in appeal. “Since I became a mom, I can’t watch scary movies anymore!” she says. The painter of the artist pair, York prefers “happy colors” that brighten the mood. Her aquatic-inspired paintings spring from a childhood spent visiting grandparents in the Bahamas. She lived there with her family for a year, wandering 26 DeSoto

Chloe York painting an aquatic piece

the coastline, collecting shells. The vibrant colors of the cottages and aqua blues of the oceans imbedded deep within her spirit, she says. Bahamian folk artists such as Amos Ferguson influenced paintings such as her “Golden Demon Mask,” “Sea Harpy,” and her brightly colored insect studies. York’s popular “Decorator” series covers silhouettes of figures with nature: shells, flowers, jellyfish, and other small creatures. She has shown her paintings in more than 100 group and solo exhibitions. While she loves capturing nature on canvas, she also focuses on the real thing. Much of York’s art business revolves around specimen art. “You can’t replicate nature with human hands,” she explains. “Even the best fake flowers look fake.” York purchases animals and insects and transforms them into collectible art. She only orders from farms or makers so that she is assured they lived out their lifespans in a humane manner. Occasionally, she scours flea markets for historic taxidermy or other interesting pieces, and then frames these specimens in display boxes. For example, she may receive a box of loose or unmounted butterflies that have been


preserved. She pins them into forms for drying, composes them, chooses a shadow box and background, and creates a unit that highlights the form and color or colors. Sometimes, she will paint a background to accentuate the creature. ​While butterflies dominate her art with their exquisite hues, other animals also fascinate her. In her home and retail front in Homewood, Ala., Ritual and Shelter, customers can find frogs, bats, lizards, and exotic insects. Some of the more fascinating specimens include the red Malaysian toe biter, large stink bug, and the rabbit head beetle. While most of York’s shadow boxes contain preserved specimens, she also focuses on the bones — literally. Skulls of a great variety of size and shape dot spaces in her home and shop. “Skulls are creepy,” she admits. “But they are also beautiful. They tell so much about the animal.” The pair work in a large basement studio in their home near Birmingham. By day, Quick teaches art at Fultondale High School, where he keeps his hand in his theater origins with school plays. A mold-maker, he is expanding his sculpture art by casting multiples of favorite pieces. ​York works full time on the collectibles and her paintings in between taking care of their young daughter, Echo. Their Mytho Menagerie website keeps the pair busy with sales of their collectible specimens, their biggest seller. For inspiration, the family often visits the nearby Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, where the clear water supports a broad diversity of fish, most famously the rare vermillion darter. The tiny fish sports the happy aquatic colors so often depicted in York’s paintings. mythomenagerie.com

Verna Gates is the author of “100 Things to Do in Birmingham Before You Die.” She lives in the Magic City with her puppy, Truffles, and Evinrude the cat who despises him.

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exploring books | A PLACE LIKE MISSISSIPPI

A Sense of Place By Kevin Wierzbicki Photography Credits: Author headshot by Ed Croom Book cover photo by Maude Schulyer Clay Eudora Welty and Margaret Walker: Gil Ford Photography courtesy of the Margaret Walker Foundation.

W. Ralph Eubanks’ new book journeys through the literary landscape that produced so many talented writers. ​​ A tamale joint in Vicksburg, the golden sand beaches of the Gulf Coast, a blues music experience in Clarksdale. For native Mississippians and visitors alike, these are a few of the things that might pop to mind when thinking about things that define Mississippi. ​ But there’s another Mississippi, so to speak: the one written about by famed authors like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, and more recently, Jesmyn Ward. The works of these writers may broaden the reader’s mental image of Mississippi, maybe even to the extent of creating some interesting myths along the way. ​ The new book “A Place Like Mississippi” by W. Ralph Eubanks is a fascinating literary travelogue that visits both versions of the state. Eubanks, a native Mississippian, is the author of such books as “Ever Is a Long Time” and “The House at the End of the Road” and is currently visiting professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. ​An example of how the new book functions is the chapter “A Tale of Two Jacksons.” Predominantly about writer Eudora Welty, Eubanks visits Welty’s old Jackson neighborhood and documents how Welty’s work, not just her fiction but also her photography, was 28 DeSoto

very much informed by place. Eubanks cites Welty’s “A Worn Path,” featuring the memorable character Phoenix Jackson, as an example of how, as Welty herself said, “Place opens a door in the mind.” ​ As well-traveled as he is, Eubanks learned plenty about his home state as he did research for “A Place Like Mississippi.” “There were numerous surprises along the way, the first being Jesmyn Ward’s attachment to the Gulf Coast,” says Eubanks. “Although I had read her essays about attachment to her hometown of Delisle I was not prepared for the way the sensory experience of place was a part of that attachment. I was also surprised to find that I had played near the (Jackson) home of Medgar Evers as a child ― the home where he was murdered ― which is also in the same neighborhood where writers Angie Thomas and Kiese Laymon had grown up. As I wrote in my book, ‘In the silence we create under central Mississippi skies, we also find how


​ “Memphis is also the capital of the Mississippi Delta and a crossroads of the cotton trade. But most important, Memphis is a place of escape, an urban space where people from small towns in north Mississippi can escape into anonymity.” Escape of another sort has definitely crossed the mind of many residents at the Mississippi State Penitentiary’s maximum-security prison at Parchman Farm in the Delta’s Sunflower County. Eubanks, on the other hand, was anxious to get in. He went there to teach and also see for himself this place of such renowned horror that many Mississippi authors of note have written about imaginatively. ​About his first visit to Parchman, Eubanks says, “Having the prison gates clang behind me is a sound I will never forget. There was something haunting to me in that sound, since I realized how many people hear that sound when they enter and never have the opportunity to leave.” ​ He adds, “I thought of all the people who went before me; it was quite humbling. But I also thought about the men who entered with some innate talent, perhaps writing, who could never find an artistic passion because they had to work those immense fields that surround Parchman. Some poured that into music, like Bukka White. But I am certain there were others who could have been writers, yet they never had the chance to nurture their talent.” Since the publication of “A Place Like Mississippi” the state has changed its flag, removing the divisive Confederate battle flag and replacing it with the state flower, the magnolia. Eubanks says the new flag “presents an opportunity for Mississippi to build and promulgate a new cultural narrative, one rooted in truth rather than the deception about the past. The new narrative about Mississippi that I think we should be telling is how the state has produced so many writers. Defining and imagining that future is the challenge for Mississippi’s next generation of writers. I’m certain they’re up to the challenge.” Taken from “A Place Like Mississippi”© Copyright 2021 by W. Ralph Eubanks. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. we are connected’.” ​ One location that appears numerous times in “A Place Like Mississippi” is not even in the state. A mere hop, skip, and jump away from Mississippi geographically, Eubanks finds that the city of Memphis cannot be separated from Mississippi’s “real and imagined literary landscape.” ​ “Memphis is one of Mississippi’s great cities, I often tell my friends,” the author says. “But it is also a liminal space in the American South, one that connects the North and South. It was a way station along the way for African Americans who traveled north during the Great Migration, including writer Richard Wright. Wright saw Memphis as ‘the first lap of my journey to the land where I could live with a little less fear.’

Kevin Wierzbicki has learned about Mississippi primarily with music-focused visits to the state, looking into the lore of the Delta blues artists, the Gulf Coast homeland of Jimmy Buffett and, of course, that kid from Tupelo.

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southern roots | SENSORY GARDENS

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An Oasis for the Senses By Pamela A. Keene Phototography by Choctaw Nursing and Deanie Grave

Choctaw Memorial’s Sensory Garden provides a calming respite for patients and families. Wind chimes, raised vegetable and flower beds, a waterfall, pollinator plants, and blooming trees and shrubs. It sounds like a beautiful park or an avid gardener’s back yard. But for the residents at Choctaw Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ackerman, Miss., this garden is more than a pretty place. ​ It’s the center’s Sensory Garden, created so that residents and rehabilitation patients and their families can safely meet, socialize, and simply relax outdoors. ​“The Sensory Garden has provided us a place for safe and secure outdoor visits when they have been available,” says Nina Foust, activity director at the facility that’s part of Choctaw Regional Medical Center. “Plus, with our paved paths and the pavilion, our residents can use their walkers or wheelchairs to come out to experience the diversity of the garden on many levels.” ​Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate each of the five senses: sound, sight, smell, taste, and tactile sensations. They are also therapeutic for people with physical, mental or emotional needs. Within the past decade, they have become more popular for use in health care and medical settings across the nation. “The Sensory Garden is an invaluable asset to our residents,” says Holly Cornett, center administrator. “In addition to offering a way to enjoy fresh air and physical exercise, it provides a sense of place, improved memory skills, and a calming environment.” Cornett says that staff members have been using the space and its elements to enhance therapy for residents. ​ Several years in the making, the Choctaw garden has been a major project of the Choctaw County Medical Foundation that raised more than $31,000 through grants and donations. Ground was broken in 2019 on what had been a vacant lot behind the center. By the end of 2020 it opened for residents to enjoy from their rooms.

​ As patients and families began to see each other again, the fenced garden with paved pathways, a pavilion, and benches satisfied social distancing requirements while allowing safe visitation. From time to time, the center brings in musicians for concerts; music can also be piped in. ​ The garden, located on about one-half acre adjacent to the back of the rehab center, includes wheelchair-accessible and stand-up raised planting beds built on legs, allowing people to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers without having to stoop or bend over. Some plants are grown in containers. ​ “We’re currently growing tomatoes and beautiful annuals,” Foust says. “The residents really enjoy coming out to see what’s growing, and some of them even help with planting and picking. They’re encouraged to interact with the elements of the garden.” ​Plants, trees and shrubs with the usual benefits of gorgeous colors and varied scents were also chosen for their diverse textures, and their ability to attract birds and pollinators. Hydrangeas, Shasta daisies, sedum, coreopsis, lavenderbloomed chaste trees, and lemon-lime nandinas grace the area. From the soft gray-green of Lamb’s Ear and the slender blades of ornamental grasses to fragrant red honeysuckle and summer-blooming gardenias, the sensory benefits are evident. ​ Wind chimes, a two-sided water feature with a waterfall, and the sounds of birds visiting bird houses and feeders add the audio dimension to the fenced area. ​“Many of our residents grew up in the country and were always gardening and spending time outdoors in their younger years,” she says. “And as they’ve gotten older, so many things just seem to be taken away from them. The Sensory Garden is a way to give them something back, something they can interact with and participate in.” ​The garden gives patients a change of scenery as well. Blooming flowers and shrubs in the spring and summer give away to the color changes of maples and the interesting bark DeSoto 31


on crape myrtles in the fall and winter. ​The garden also includes a brick paved area near the waterfall for donors to purchase commemorative pavers engraved with the names of loved ones. Donations are still being accepted. ​ “To finally have a place where our residents can be outdoors, get fresh air, and have plenty of room to spread out has been a dream of mine for years,” says Foust, who has been on staff for more than 20 years. “It has been so wonderful to see how the sensory garden has helped patients and families spend quality time together.”

Designing Your Own Sensory Garden Follow a few simple guidelines to create an at-home sensory garden that will appeal to all five senses by planting: • Five things you can see — brightly colored flowers, pollinator plants that attract butterflies, and interesting feeders for birds. • Four things with various textures to touch — soft Lamb’s Ear, a stone wall. • Three things you can hear — wind chimes, moving water. • Two things you can smell — fragrant flowers, herbs. • One thing you can taste — a fruit tree, vegetables. Use your imagination to create your own special place to enjoy time with family or to simply relax on your own.

Atlanta-based journalist Pamela A. Keene is a master gardener and was intrigued by the concept of sensory gardens. It has given her insight into creating her own special place for quiet reflection.

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table talk | THE TOMATO PLACE

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Perfect Tomatoes and A Whole Lot More By Michele D. Baker Photography courtesy of Dan Johnson, @djohns110 on Instagram.

What began as a side-of-the-road fruit stand is now an internationally known eatery in Vicksburg that features picture-perfect tomatoes all day, every day, along with a taste of old-time Americana. ​ Nothing says summer more absolutely (and deliciously) than vine-ripe tomatoes and fresh produce, and the rustic down-home Tomato Place café and store in Vicksburg, Miss., offers guests a chance to experience the flavors that define quintessential Southern recipes. ​ The Tomato Place began in 2001 as a few side-by-side fruit stands off U.S. Hwy. 61 South, selling farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. Over the last two decades, however, it’s blossomed into a popular eatery with a Mid-South grandma’s back-porch

atmosphere. Now a newsworthy pit stop for hungry travelers, The Tomato Places attracts not only locals but also tourists — even foreign guests — who learned about it from international travel guidebooks and TV shows. Hardworking owner Luke Hughes takes it all in stride and still remains passionate about his produce. “I’ve been working roadside stands my whole life,” says Hughes. “I used to grow all kinds of tomatoes myself, and I was eating a lot of tomato sandwiches. I sold my lunch one DeSoto 35


day, and it just grew from there.” Hughes now supports local farmers and backyard growers who bring in small baskets of whatever they picked that morning. “Sometimes I even trade vegetables for some of my famous fruit smoothies,” he says with a laugh. The appeal of the place begins at curbside with blue and red umbrella-shaded tables out front. A delectable aroma of frying fish whets your appetite for the meal to come, and there’s plenty to explore while you wait. Potted pansies hang next to lush ferns, begonias, and geraniums. Inside the small store are fruits and veggies for sale, freshly baked bread, locally packed tea, and Tomato Place hats and shirts. Smoothies in every imaginable flavor — including peach, blackberry, and strawberry banana — fill a large cold case. The food is not the only thing that draws repeat customers, though. Colorfully painted signs, bottle trees, and eclectic decorations adorn the walls and surfaces. An old corrugated-metal watering trough has been repurposed as a decorative koi pond, water spouting through a sun-bleached cow skull. Every nook and cranny is filled with flowers, knickknacks, and genuine Americana. This place is homey, cozy, and absolutely authentic; customers can relax here. “This is a slow food, smell the roses, hear the music, feel the atmosphere kind of place,” explains Hughes. “We believe in real interactions between people and time to enjoy your made-from-scratch meal.” And delicious food it is. Hughes uses some of his mother’s and grandmother’s recipes shaped by flavors picked 36 DeSoto

up on his many travels. “I wouldn’t say my food’s gourmet, but it’s fresh, hot and tasty,” he says. “I never attended cooking school; I’m entirely self-taught. I just try to be original in my recipes, using flavors I enjoy.” The lunch and dinner menu is a scrumptious panoply of poboys, salads, melts and clubs, and burgers and hotdogs. Breakfast consists of eggs, grits, bacon and sausage, omelets, fruit, and bagels. There’s also homemade bread pudding and ready-made foods in the cooler just waiting to be taken home and heated up. Of special note are the fried catfish plate, the Jamaican burger with jerk seasoning and fried yams inspired by a trip to the Caribbean, the twice-cooked “Boo Fries,” and the fried green tomato BLT with avocado slices. Also available in the store and online — some in recycled wine and beer bottles — are homemade sauces, jellies, syrups, chow-chow, pecans, cookbooks, and coffee. The “Mississippi Fever,” an original sweet and slightly spicy tomato and onion sauce created by Hughes especially for his sister shouldn’t be missed because it perfectly complements almost any menu item. The roadside stand attracts its fair share of driveby business from locals, but Hughes believes that before the pandemic half his customers were from other countries. He says Vicksburg draws many Europeans because of its Civil War history, antebellum mansions, and Southern hospitality. “A couple from Holland biking through Mississippi found us in a Dutch travel guide,” he says, shaking his head in wonder. “A South African gentleman comes every year while in


the States on business.” The Tomato Place has also become intergenerational with all ages enjoying the fresh food and the store. “We’re all one big family here, including customers,” says Hughes. “Some of my former employees come back to visit and bring their children and grandchildren. It’s really all about the people.” ​ The Tomato Place is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. TheTomatoPlace.com Vicksburg Tomato Sandwich ​Using a 4-inch or 5-inch round cutter, cut out two circles of white bread. Top one circle with a thick, peeled slice of juicy, ripe beefsteak tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, a squeeze of Vidalia onion juice, and a generous dollop of homemade mayonnaise. Top with the other bread round. Serves 1. Michele D. Baker is a freelance travel writer and blues music lover in Jackson, Miss. She also loves cats, books, and tomato and mayo sandwiches on white bread. Read her work at MicheleDBaker.com.

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exploring destinations | COMO SAFARI WILD ANIMAL PARK & PRESERVE

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Where the Wild Ones Roam in Como Story and photography by Karen Ott Mayer

Lifelong dream results in an animal safari park resembling Africa — but in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. More than a decade ago, a friend and I stood at a table in Ricky Garrett’s Como, Miss., home. A large printed plan spread across the surface, and we listened as Garrett excitedly talked about a dream — his lifelong dream — to build an animal safari park. An almost unfathomable project, we both tried unsuccessfully to comprehend it all. When we left, my friend, who has farmed his whole life, asked only one question: “How much hay does a giraffe eat?” Many years have passed since that night, yet Garrett’s entrepreneurial vision never relented. In the summer of 2019, the Safari Wild Animal Park & Preserve opened its gates, welcoming visitors to one of Mississippi’s most unique attractions.

“My dad has had this dream since he was in his teens,” says daughter Madison Garrett, a co-owner who helps manage the park. Even for Madison, the project felt enormous in its early stages. “Clearing the land, the roads, the fencing...it was a huge undertaking.” Set on just under 500 acres, the rolling open grassland of the Safari Wild Animal Park & Preserve is now home to 300 animal species from the small colorful lorikeet, a type of Australian parrot, to the massive bison and wildebeest. With approximately six-and-a-half miles of winding gravel roads, the drive-through park takes about two hours to visit. And to ease any worries about how to keep animals within the park, Garrett installed 10 miles of eight-foot double fencing that encircles the entire attraction. DeSoto 39


BE SMART AT THE SAFARI PARK

Never Leave your vehicle during the tour. Keep car on the main roads. Only feed park-issued grain. Keep trash inside the car. Reference the animal species guide.

Highly accessible for all ages, the park brings animals literally to your car door. With few internal fences, the majority of the animals roam free, crossing in front of the cars or sticking their heads in the car window for food. “I think what surprises people most is the hands-on interaction with the animals,” Madison Garrett says. “They will come up to your car.” Near the entrance, the petting zoo and lorikeet indoor aviary can be found. Guests can walk into the aviary and feed the birds with nectar. Goats of all shapes and sizes offer kids plenty of feeding opportunities in the petting zoo. Near the end of the tour, the giraffe feeding station offers a final interactive stop with the park’s tallest residents. Guests may feed the animals, but only the park’s specific food which was formulated by Mazuri, makers of exotic pet food. “Most of our animals are grazers so they behave like cows,” says Garrett. “We supplement with alfalfa hay provided by Oxford Farm and Ranch. The grain follows a specialty diet plan for each animal that meets their health requirements. We spent a lot of time working with them to make sure it’s right.” As I drove the park on a pristine spring morning, I immediately noticed several things. The animals, hanging out in groups or grazing, seemed perfectly content and calm. Even when cars passed, they either slowly approached the car or simply gazed nonchalantly. I was struck by how certain vistas, where animals waded in water holes or lounged in groups, felt like a page out of the African plains. If it weren’t for the formal animal species guide to use as a reference, I would have been at a loss to name many of the animals. Arabian oryx, roan antelope, addax, scimitar horned oryx, red lechwe and dozens of other species dot the landscape. Coming across another new animal 40 DeSoto

and guessing the name became part of the fun. Recently, the park added two new cheetahs that have their own enclosure close enough to the road visitors can easily look into their eyes. The rhea and the ostrich may win the friendliest award in the park as they walk quickly to each car, peering their long necks into the interior in hopes of finding a snack. Camouflaged in the tree canopies in another enclosure, the black and white colobus monkeys swing about fairly unconcerned by the passersby. Safari Wild’s animals come from a variety of places including other parks or zoos that may have too many. The park opened at an ironically odd time. “We were worried when COVID hit, but then, we were covered up,” Garrett says. “We had a line of cars in the park and cars all the way down to (Miss. Hwy.) 310.” For most of 2020 the park remained extremely busy as people sought safe recreation away from home. Safari Wild, like other parks in the United States, is subject to USDA regulations and oversight to ensure the animals and environment remain safe and humane. “We have two yearly surprise visits from the USDA and they go through everything from top to bottom including fencing, water, diet, and even the building temperatures at the roof and floor,” says Garrett. Additionally, the Mississippi Animal Board of Health inspects the park for state compliance. As I finished the tour and looked back at the green waving grass and quiet grazers, I couldn’t help thinking...am I in Mississippi or Africa?

Freelance writer Karen Ott Mayer’s own place, Moon Hollow Farm, is located west of the Safari Park and she has no giraffes or monkeys.


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on the road again | MOSS POINT, MISS.

, t n i o P ssississippi MoM 8:30 Experience the feel of a by-gone era at Burnham Drugs, a pharmacy with an old-time soda fountain and deli known for its hearty omelets and biscuits. Grab a breakfast biscuit with ham or sausage and cup of coffee to start your day at this local gathering spot. 9:15 Head over to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center where you’ll catch a glimpse of the unique ecosystem of the river, along with nature trails that highlight many varieties of birds. Better yet, rent a kayak and paddle around the area for the best views. Kayak rentals for up to three hours are available. The Audubon Center building offers indoor galleries as well. 11:15 In keeping with an appreciation of nature, head to the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center with its many displays in the Interpretive Center. If you’re so inclined, go paddling, fishing, do more birding, and/or take a stroll on the boardwalk out into the marsh. Be sure to have your camera ready, as you will likely see lizards, skinks, and other unique flora and fauna. 12:30 Edd’s Drive-In has been in business since 1953. This locally owned and operated 50s-style diner is famous for chili cheeseburgers and fabulous milkshakes. You can enjoy your meal from the comfort of your car or in Edd’s dining room. 1:45 Browse the shops in downtown Moss Point, including the Boot Outlet which contains a vast inventory of boots plus outdoor sportswear and an enormous selection of Carhartt merchandise. 3:00 Explore the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch on U.S. Hwy. 90 and take a swamp boat tour into the marshy swamp to view not only gators in their natural habitat but also birds and other marine wildlife. Tour the ranch itself where some of the oldest and largest alligators live in captivity. 5:00 Just down the street diners can enjoy freshly cooked catfish at the Lakeview Catfish Restaurant. The Lakeview is another Moss Point institution, a place where the locals love to dine. Shrimp, crab, oysters, and steak are also available. Expect casual dining as well as good food and service. 6:30 Take in the sunset and a dessert, especially one of the fruit cobblers, at The Boathouse, a restaurant located at Presley’s Outing on Goode’s Mill Lake. RV camping in a peaceful campground is also available if you want to stay awhile to enjoy the freshwater fishing, kayaking, picnicking, and of course, sunset watching.

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Moss Point Blues

Moss Point is home to a Mississippi Blues Trail marker, honoring Moss Point Blues. The Gulf Coast town produced many African-American musicians, many who traveled the country and overseas performing in prominent bands. For instance, Charles Fairley played with Otis Redding and Guitar Slim; Charles Polk played drums in Bobby “Blue” Bland’s orchestra.

Upcoming Fall Events

Cruisin’ the River Tuesday, Oct. 5 An official Cruisin’ the Coast event, this annual auto extravaganza spotlights classic cars and includes food and entertainment in the downtown area. Fall-de-Rah October/November Volunteers take part in the annual decorating and displaying of all things fall, including lots of pumpkins, scarecrows, and hay. Fall-de-Rah is a 30year tradition. Christmas by the River Saturday, Dec. 4 Get into the Christmas spirit with a lighted and decorated boat parade, fireworks, and a visit from Santa along the river and city boardwalk. cityofmosspoint.org gulfcoast.org pascagoula.audubon.org airboatswamptoursofmississippi.com grandbaynerr.org Compiled by Lisa Evans, a freelance travel writer and photographer.

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greater goods | SUMMER FUN

Summer Fun

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1. Acrylic drink stirs, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 2. Big Green Egg grill & accessories, Complete Home Center, 32 E Commerce St, Hernando, MS 3. Bird house, House To Home, 8961 US-51, Southaven, MS 4. Bogg bag wine tote and party cups, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 5. Cups, Upstairs Closet, 309 E Main St, Senatobia, MS 6. Door hanger, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 7. Door hanger, House To Home, 8961 US-51, Southaven, MS 8. Hats, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 9. Foutain, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 10. Towels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 11. Summer Classics Halo collection, Keep It Casual, 106 S Industrial Rd, Tupelo, MS

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12. Muddy Mae birdhouses, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 13. Mudpie s'more roasting sticks, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 14. Stoney Clover bag, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd Suite 102, Southaven, MS 15. Outdoor banners and garden signs, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 16. Summer essentials, Upstairs Closet, 309 E Main St, Senatobia, MS 17. Swig cooler tote, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 18. Tote, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 19. Weather-safe outdoor decor, Keep It Casual, 106 S Industrial Rd, Tupelo, MS 20. Wood sign, Front Porch Vendor Boutique, 9094 Goodman Rd, Olive Branch, MS 21. Yard art, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 22. Snowballs, DeSoto Snow and Creamery, 5627 Getwell Rd, Southaven, MS

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Hot Springs Mountain Tower View

THE COOLNESS FACTOR IN

Hot Springs By Tom Adkinson Photo courtesy of National Park Service, Arkansas Tourism, Oaklawn Hotel Resort and Spa and Visit Hot Springs

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This picturesque spot in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas is both a city and a 100-year-old national park. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

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MORE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS FOR HOT SPRINGS The Hot Springs National Park’s centennial isn’t the only cause for celebration in Hot Springs this year. Here are three more. • Mountain Valley Spring Water, bottled in glass since 1871, is 150 years old. Hot Springs writer and musician Rebecca Bingham enjoys hearing waiters and bartenders around the world brag on Mountain Valley even before they know her trip began at the water’s source. • The very collectible Dryden Pottery marks 75 years of craftsmanship and colorful glazing. The creative gene now is into its fourth generation of Drydens. • The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, one of the oldest in the world, notches 30 years of cinematic storytelling this year. Dates for 2021 are Oct. 8-16.

Hot Springs Bathhouse Row

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Ashley Waymouth is having a busy, busy year. She’s a ranger at Hot Springs National Park, which is challenging even in a normal year, but 2021 is far from normal. It is the park’s centennial, and Waymouth is the centennial coordinator. Fans of America’s national parks know that Yellowstone was the first national park (1872), but this spot in the middle of Arkansas has an even older claim of federal protection. In 1832 Congress declared the area a federal reservation. The national park designation came in 1921. “We’re small but mighty,” Waymouth said of the 5,500-acre national park. The only one smaller is Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Mo. Hot Springs comes by its name naturally. In its boundaries are 47 protected springs, whose gurgling waters really are hot ― 143 degrees Fahrenheit. They are the only federally controlled hot springs in the nation that are managed for public health and consumptive use. Take a sip or fill a jug at fountains located around the city. A natural wonder of this magnitude has been a magnet for millennia. Archeological evidence shows natives “took the waters” 10,000 years ago, and the Caddo and Quapaw tribes were connected in more recent centuries. The Quapaw name lives on at one of the historic bathhouses that so many people think of first when Hot Springs National Park is mentioned. The Quapaw is one of eight distinctive bathhouses on Bathhouse Row, itself a National Historic Landmark District. Most were built in the early 1900s, and they led the way for Hot Springs to develop a restorative resort reputation. Those early patrons included some whose photos didn’t appear on the society pages of their hometown newspapers ― characters such as gangsters Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bugs Moran, and Frank Costello. Indeed, Hot Springs for many years was known for gambling, drinking, and other questionable pursuits. Today, nobody flinches when the National Park Service chronicles that chapter in this city’s history and the casual nature of law enforcement. (After all, it is true.) As ranger Waymouth notes, “This was Vegas before Vegas.” The deeper and more important essence of Hot Springs, of course, lies in the thermal waters that rise to the surface DeSoto 49


The Bugler private dining space at Oaklawn

in such great volume. Waymouth enjoys describing one amazing fact about the springs. The water that you sip or soak in today fell to earth as rainwater approximately 4,400 years ago ― about the time the pyramids of Giza were being built ― and began a descent of 6,000 feet into the earth. BATHHOUSE ROW REDUX Two establishments on Bathhouse Row remain open for bathing enjoyment. They are the previously mentioned Quapaw and the Buckstaff, which has been in continuous operation since 1912. The others have different uses. The Superior is a restaurant and brewery that uses thermal spring water, the first brewery inside a national park. The 1892 Hale Bathhouse now is the nine-suite Hotel Hale that opened in 2019. The Fordyce Bathhouse, which Franklin Roosevelt visited, is the national park’s visitor center, the Lamar Bathhouse serves as the Bathhouse Emporium retail store, and the Ozark Bathhouse is the Hot Springs National Park Cultural Center. Bathhouse Row blends so seamlessly with locations that are not part of the national park that it sometimes puzzles visitors. “One of the most frequent questions I hear is ‘Where is the national park?’” said Bill Solleder, marketing director for Visit Hot Springs, noting that he sometimes can answer by telling the person to take a step to the left or a step to the right to enter or exit park property. “Our national park simply blends in with the city,” he 50 DeSoto

said, explaining why there is no entrance gate or tollbooth. Both Solleder and Waymouth quickly note an aspect of Hot Springs National Park that many people don’t expect. Just as with many other national parks, this one is a back-tonature destination with 26 miles of trails. Downtown itself is effectively one big trailhead, according to Solleder. Two routes that are easy to reach are the Hot Springs Trail and the North Mountain Trail. Access is up Stephen’s Balustrade (grand staircase) right behind the Fordyce Bathhouse. The 10-mile Sunset Trail is the park’s longest. The destination for many hikers is the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, operated by a concessionaire inside the park. It rises 216 feet to an elevation of 1,256 feet and offers a view of the entire park and expanses of the Ouachita Mountains. BIRTHPLACE OF SPRING TRAINING Solleder points to another kind of trail that showcases a different piece of Hot Springs history. It’s the Hot Springs Baseball Trail, which exists here because Hot Springs gave birth to baseball’s spring training. Points on the trail explain how the legends of early baseball got ready for a new season and enjoyed the city’s therapeutic springs, casinos, horse tracks, and other attractions. A 160-foot-long mural highlights Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Lefty Grove. Visitors often find the spot where Ruth launched baseball’s first 500-foot-plus home run, which measured 573 feet and landed on the fly inside an alligator farm attraction. For at least two decades before the national park was


created, horse racing was big in central Arkansas at multiple tracks, but by 1920, Oaklawn in Hot Springs was the sole survivor. Its glass-enclosed and heated grandstand could seat 1,500. Its architect later designed Wrigley Field in Chicago. HOTEL AT OAKLAWN – A COMPLETE RESORT Thoroughbred racing remains a significant visitor draw for Hot Springs. More than a million fans a year visit Oaklawn for the race season that stretches from late January to early May. The big race is the Arkansas Derby every April. Oaklawn’s racing heritage dates to 1904. A casino later enhanced its appeal, and 2021 saw a major addition with the opening of a 198-room luxury hotel and spa. The formal name is the Hotel at Oaklawn, but its tagline could be “complete resort” because racing, gaming, lodging, spa therapy, and fine dining are all in one place. Check out the Bugler for an excellent meal overlooking the racetrack and infield. Along with the hotel addition came a 1,500-seat event center, which will host concerts. If anyone needs an antidote to the shouting and adrenalin of a horse race, visit Garvan Woodland Gardens, a 210-acre oasis of beauty and quiet at the edge of the city and along 4.5 miles of Lake Hamilton. Its attributes include 160 types of azaleas, a 4-acre Asian garden, photogenic bridges, and Anthony Chapel, a stunning wedding venue. ​ Looking beyond the beauty of Garvan Woodland Gardens, Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith encourages visitors to explore the area’s lakes, golf courses, mountain biking trails, and panoramic vistas. ​ “People constantly tell me how surprised they are with all that Hot Springs has to offer,” he said. ​ That’s a fact that has been true for centuries.

Tom Adkinson, who has soaked his cares away in Hot Springs and not lost money at the track, is a Marco Polo member of the Society of American Travel Writers. He wrote “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die” about his home city.

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Going Coastal New Hotels on the Coast

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The Pearl

Cool new hotels have sprung up along the Gulf Coast from Bay St. Louis to Gulf Shores. By Cheré Coen Photography courtesy of Hotel Legends, The Pearl and The Lodge at Gulf State Park

When Sara Cure Clark got married, like many Southerners she wanted a large wedding. At that time, her hometown of Bay St. Louis lacked large-scale accommodations so she spread her family among Baytown Inn, a boutique hotel in town, and Hollywood Casino. “There was no place to house people,” Clark says of the lack of one accommodation to house them all in one place. Clark is the third generation of a Bay St. Louis oyster fishing family, but she always remembered the town’s need for more hotel rooms. Hurricane Katrina damaged a building at the corner of Main and Beach Boulevard in the heart of Bay St. Louis, so her family purchased the lot and began plans for a boutique hotel offering 59 guest rooms. The Pearl debuted Dec. 30, 2020, and joined several new hotels that have recently opened their doors along the Gulf Coast. DeSoto 53


The Pearl Pool

Perch Restaurant Patio Deck at Lodge at Gulf State Park

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THE PEARL

​ Upon entering The Pearl’s lobby, visitors will spot artwork indicative of the Mississippi Coast: images of crabs, fish, and oysters, along with dreamy coastal landscapes. The décor offers a nod to Bayou Caddy Fisheries, the family’s long-running business that dates back to 1959. “That’s why it’s called The Pearl,” Clark says, adding that her family spends much of their time harvesting oysters. “It pays homage to my family’s industry.” ​ Artist Rick Dobbs of New Orleans created the hotel’s branding and logo development plus incorporated photos in each of the guest rooms that represent aspects of the fishing industry. For instance, there are shots of people bedding oyster reefs or shucking oysters. Painter and illustrator Billy Solitario created the hotel’s oil paintings, including the massive fish behind the front desk and the fiddler crab nicknamed 'Charlie Daniels.' “My favorite pieces of artwork are of our two oldest boats, the Joey C and the Cindy C,” Clark says, vessels named for her dad, Joseph Cure, and another family member, Cindy Cure, two of the company’s four owners. “Because without our boats we couldn’t be here today.” ​ In addition to the boutique-style rooms, the hotel houses Smoke restaurant, where renowned Chef Jeffrey Hansell of Covington, La., takes aim at developing both classic and innovative barbecue dishes. Hinge focuses on craft cocktails including pre-Prohibition style drinks such as the Vieux Carré, Aviation, Sazerac and a unique take on the Old Fashioned. ​ The second floor contains 17 rooms plus a courtyard and pool. The pool bar serves popsicles, beer, and a limited menu. ​“It’s a nice little tucked-away oasis,” Clark says. ​ The Pearl also features a small hospitality space that seats 30 to 35 people and may be catered by partner restaurants. Sliding glass doors open to the pool area. ​ The hotel opened at a good time, Clark says. “Bay St. Louis is growing, it’s bustling, it’s vibrant. People are coming from all over.”

THE LODGE AT GULF STATE PARK

​ For those Gulf Shores visitors who wanted a lodge experience with Gulf views, The Lodge at Gulf State Park fit the bill nicely. The state-owned and operated DeSoto 55


Hotel Legends

property was built in 1974 across from the expansive, multi-use park, allowing visitors to enjoy both beach and park trails. ​ Hurricane Ivan heavily damaged The Lodge in 2004, which offered an opportunity to not only replace the aging structure, but to build something remarkable. Funds were obtained from the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill, and the state partnered with the University of Alabama to create a model hotel of sustainability. The new building was rebuilt farther from the water’s edge in order to restore and maintain delicate sand dunes and the habitat of the endangered Alabama beach mouse, among other wildlife. All of the buildings – from the lobby and restaurants to the lodge containing guest rooms – are designed to provide maximum light and Gulf breezes to reduce energy consumption. The HVAC system moves condensation from guest rooms into the pool. ​ The Lodge features 350 rooms with no single-use bath products or plastic. Instead, glasses are provided and recycling encouraged. There are several dining options, including fine dining and craft cocktails at Perch, which overlooks Gulf waters. The 21 acres of the hotel property contain native plant landscaping. A walkway takes visitors across Beach Boulevard where guests can rent bicycles and ride or hike the 28 miles of hiking and biking trails inside Gulf State Park. The park also allows picnicking and fishing. Another newcomer to the beach since Hurricane Ivan is the fishing pier located next to The Lodge. It was damaged 56 DeSoto

in last year’s storms, but the first 725 feet has been renovated and is now open to visitors and anglers, said Kurt Fedders, marketing and social media manager of The Lodge.

HOTEL LEGENDS

​ Barrington Development restored what used to be an apartment building at 674 Beach Blvd. in Biloxi before Katrina roared ashore. The new incarnation opened Oct. 1 last year as Hotel Legends, a 132 all-suite hotel with a retro style. The décor, including vintage images from the archives of Getty Images, harkens back to the glamour of the 1940s and 1950s, says Tessy Lambert, director of public relations. ​ “High-rolling luxury suites made for silver screen intrigues, sumptuous and sophisticated dining, classic cocktails and vintage-style entertainment are sure to make every guest feel like a Legend,” she says. “Every room is equipped with Gulf and downtown Biloxi views complimented by vintage décor, premium comfort beds, oversized showers, a 50-inch bigscreen TV and in-room wet bars.” There’s plenty of legends dotting the walls, including Jayne Mansfield and Elvis Presley, both of whom spent time on the Mississippi Coast during their lifetime. ​ Amenities run the glamour gamut. There’s the infinity pool with a dancing fountain coordinated to the music from Hollywood’s golden age, a pool bar, meeting spaces, and coffee shop. The Sapphire Supper Club, with its glowing tables and craft cocktails, is modeled after the supper clubs from the 1930s


Lodge at Gulf State Park guestroom

Lodge at Gulf State Park Lobby

The Pearl Lobby

and ’40s. ​ The hotel is also conveniently located next to the Hard Rock Casino and close to Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and MGM Park. Visitors may also stroll along the new establishments on Howard Avenue, part of Biloxi’s downtown renaissance. “Downtown Biloxi has always been a lively area,” Lambert says. “Still, with more non-gaming boutique hotel options like Hotel Legends designed with nostalgia in mind, I believe it will only enhance the reputation of this beautiful town, and that can’t help but spawn more growth and visits to the area.” pearlbsl.com lodgeatgulfstatepark.com hotellegends.com

Summertime means heading to the Gulf of Mexico for DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen. You can follow her travels on her blog, WeirdSouth.com.

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DISNEY WORLD AT a Magical Celebration

By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Walt Disney World®

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Walt Disney World has grown immensely in the five decades since it opened but the magic is still there, especially as its golden anniversary celebration begins. ​

The most magical place on earth is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and those “kids” who were among the first to visit Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in the early 1970s are now returning with grandchildren in tow. The family experience is what Walt Disney always wanted for his theme parks — a place where the young at heart of all ages could laugh and play and learn together, as his brother Roy remarked at the opening day dedication.

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The Star Wars: Galaxy Edge

​ “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” — as Disney has named its 18-month anniversary observance — will mark the major milestone with new experiences at all four theme parks that now comprise Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. ​“Back in ’71, there was one park, the Magic Kingdom, which was a smaller scaled-down experience,” says Disney historian Aaron Goldberg, who remembers his own first visit to Disney World in the early ’80s as a 6- or 7-year-old. “In some ways, it’s vastly different with more options now, but the core Disney magic is still there. The customer service and smiling faces are still there.” ​ One of those original smiling faces on opening day, Oct. 1, 1971, was DeSoto writer Pamela A. Keene, who was a sophomore at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., at the time. She and some classmates were recruited to dance in the opening parade after several weeks of rehearsals. ​ “We danced all the way down Main Street to Cinderella Castle,” remembers Keene, who later worked on weekends at Disney’s Fantasyland while she was a student. “I thought it was the most wonderful thing that happened to me to get to work there.” ​ At the time, Keene found it hard to believe that a second Disney venture — the first being Disneyland in California — was opening almost in her backyard. “It is amazing to think how it has since become an international destination,” she says of the Orlando park. “It was a magical place to work, and I think the heart of Disney is still there.” While the magical experience still exists, some things 60 DeSoto

have changed. Visiting Disney World, or any of the theme parks, requires a lot more planning than it did 50 years ago when families could just show up at the gates. Today, reservations must be made in advance and park hopping (visiting more than one park in a day without paying an extra fee) is currently not allowed. ​ “One of the major changes from 1971 to today is you really have to plan the trip now. Fifteen or 20 years ago you could wing it, but you can’t do that anymore,” advises Goldberg, author of the books, “The Wonders of Walt Disney’s World” and “Buying Disney’s World.” ​ Florida lifestyle blogger Melody Pittman took her daughters to Disney World in the late ’90s and recently returned with her two-year-old granddaughter who was visiting from Pearl, Miss. ​ “I miss the spontaneity at Disney,” she says. “It’s much more structured now. You have to have reservations for everything. I had friends drive from West Virginia and couldn’t get in because the park was at capacity.” ​ Even with the reservation system, tighter attendance caps, and high admission prices, crowds keep coming. In its 2021 Summer Travel Index, the website TripAdvisor named Orlando the highest ranked U.S. destination for Americans traveling this summer based on its traffic and booking data. Most of them will visit a theme park while in town. ​ Goldberg says Disney World relies heavily on the nostalgia factor to attract repeat guests. “I feel they can almost do whatever they want and people will still come,” he says. “They really market to bring people back every year.”


A MAGICAL ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

​ After the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, other theme parks — EPCOT (1982), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (1989), and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1998) — became part of the Walt Disney World Resort. Plans are underway to mark this milestone anniversary with special events, entertainment, and new attractions at all four parks. The parks will transform into “Beacons of Magic” at night with an “EARidescent” glow, paying homage to Disney’s most famous ambassador, Mickey Mouse and his distinctive ears. The mouse and his spouse, Minnie, will be sporting sparkling new attire, custom-made for the occasion. ​ Shimmering EARidescent décor will appear — as if by magical pixie dust — beginning with Cinderella Castle, the iconic centerpiece in Magic Kingdom Park. The castle received a royal makeover in 2020 with new gold bunting, golden embellishments, and a 50th anniversary crest. ​ Magical fireflies will gather around the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, emanating a warm light and reminding visitors of the magic of nature. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will evoke the golden age with reimagined exhibits and rides. New lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, resembling stars in the nighttime sky and symbolizing optimism. ​ EPCOT will unveil another new attraction in October with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Guests will dive into the flavorful world of Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning film, “Ratatouille,” where they will seemingly shrink to the size of Chef Remy and scurry through Gusteau’s famous restaurant. ​ Open since 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios draws the most crowds, and reservations are definitely needed for the two major rides, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Guests can also build their own custom lightsabers in Savi’s Workshop. In 2022, a new out-of-this-world experience will be offered when the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens for a twonight immersive adventure. ​ “Without a doubt, Galaxy Edge is the most popular attraction,” says Goldberg. “You can see on social media how people line up for hours. I have done it, and it was pretty remarkable even for those who aren’t ‘Star Wars’ fans.”

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Animal Kingdom - Tree of Life

A 21st CENTURY PARK WITH A NOD TO THE PAST

​ The Star Wars: Galaxy Edge may be the most visible example of how technology has updated the Disney World attractions over the last five decades. Technology has also made day-to-day operations more convenient, especially for guests. ​ Mira Tempkin of Deerfield, Ill., noticed the technology was the biggest change from when she took her three children in the 1990s to a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom last year with her granddaughters. ​“Before we arrived in the park, we could plan our Disney Experience on an app, which let us sign up for three specific ride times. My granddaughter and I decided together which rides we wanted to go on first,” she explains. “We had a 9 a.m. time for It’s a Small World and we walked right on. Once inside the park, we could grab a fast pass with an exact time to board a ride. Both cut down our wait times substantially and made for a better in-park experience." ​ Although some of the rides she remembered from previous visits had been replaced, she agrees the magic was still there. ​“I loved watching my children’s faces as they embraced the Disney magic that you could feel throughout the park,” she says. “It was again magical watching the experience through the eyes of my grandchildren.” ​ That same magic fascinated a young Goldberg, who eventually made a career writing about Walt Disney World. When he visited in his 20s, he became even more fascinated. “It blew me away that all this could come from one man’s mind,” he says. ​ He recommends looking beyond the glitz to see things others overlook, like the red sidewalks and the symbolic numbers. “Disney is in the details,” he explains. “Everything you see there is deliberate. Everywhere you look, there is a purpose. There is so much thought and effort put into the details.” 62 DeSoto


​ A barrel near Peter Pan’s attraction hides a fire hydrant, the Emporium’s 1901 signage signifies Walt Disney’s birthyear, and sidewalks are painted red to make surrounding colors more vibrant. And if you forget when Disney’s Magic Kingdom first began, just look up at the recently renovated Fire Engine Company No. 71, a numerical nod to the opening date. ​ “Walt’s attention to detail has been cultivated and honed by the storytellers — the Imagineers — who help carry on his legacy,” adds Goldberg. ​ DisneyWorld.com/50 DisneyParksBlog.com

Mary Ann DeSantis, who lives an hour away from Walt Disney World, still believes in magic especially Disney magic.

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homegrown |

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THE PEANUT SHOPPE


Working for Peanuts By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of The Peanut Shoppe

The Peanut Shoppe, a downtown Memphis institution since 1949, still thrives on Main Street as a labor of love for its owners and a snack-happy haven for hungry passersby. ​ Everyone recognizes the mascot of the Planters Peanut Company, the monocle-wearing, cane-toting Mr. Peanut. And, in Memphis, Tenn., several generations have been just as familiar with the retail store that Planters opened on Main Street back in 1949 to sell its famous roasted peanuts — one of many such outposts that cropped up around the country. ​“They were in all major cities, and they were all called The Peanut Shoppe — at one time, around 200 of them,” explains The Peanut Shoppe’s current owner, Rida Abuzaineh. “Now, there are only six locations left in the country, including this one.” ​ Memphis once had another Planters store, owned by

Jim Burge, but that closed at the end of 2017. Now, Abuzaineh runs the city’s last remaining location, and even that is under threat due to the changing face of downtown. ​ Though the Main Street shop has seen several owners at the helm since 1949, Abuzaineh (the fifth to take charge) has been the longest running. He officially assumed the business on Elvis’ birthday, Jan. 8, in 1993, and co-owns it with his sisterin-law, Suhair A. Lauck. His daughter, Nura, helps out while attending college, making the business a true family affair. ​ “I moved here from California to take over the business,” Abuzaineh recalls. “When we came to Memphis, Nura was four years old, running up and down the aisles and DeSoto 65


playing in the back room. Since then, I’ve been the operator, the manager, janitor, cashier — you name it, I did it!” ​ A civil engineer by trade, Abuzaineh may have had a lack of experience in the peanut biz, but he did have a food background as a corporate restaurant manager in California. Even more importantly, he was committed to giving the business his all. He started updating the offerings, expanding to chocolates, candies, and mixed nuts in addition to the peanut lineup. He also added unsalted versions of all salted products to appeal to different tastes and diets. ​“Since I took over, I have added at least 70 new items, and the way we do gift items has improved over the years,” Abuzaineh says. “The quality of the product is the most important thing for me, because the customer deserves it. And when the customer leaves happy, he will come back happy again to you.” ​It also helps that the unique retail space (a shotgun-shack strip of a shop at only eight feet wide and 62 feet deep) wafts the unmistakable smell of roasted peanuts and popcorn to pedestrians and trolley passengers on Main Street, leading to plenty of drop-in business as well as returning regulars. Abuzaineh notes that The Peanut Shoppe has even attracted attention from food-focused TV shows on the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and PBS. ​ No matter who comes in, Abuzaineh is ready with open arms, friendly chat, and, if needed, an education in the finer points of peanuts and the other delicacies he sells in-store. ​ “We have a lot of peanut lovers in Memphis,” Abuzaineh says. “But if someone walked in and said they wanted ‘regular peanuts,’ there’s no such thing! Everything has a name: in-shell, hulled, chocolate-covered, Spanish, spicy, garlic, 66 DeSoto


smoky. The Virginia redskin peanuts are now No. 1 in sales; it’s hard to explain, but they’re the best I’ve tasted.” ​ Now with an online store to serve customers far beyond Memphis, The Peanut Shoppe offers a plethora of items, from mixed nuts and dried fruits to chocolates and saltwater taffy. To suit holiday shoppers, Abuzaineh has also added seasonal favorites, including imported Middle Eastern desserts like baklava. ​This online presence helped when 2020’s pandemic-related shutdowns so deeply affected businesses in downtown Memphis and around the world. But Abuzaineh stresses that profits are not his only focus; he’s interested in connecting with the community and demonstrating the passion he maintains for his business to this day. ​“We’ve sacrificed a lot in order to stay open,” Abuzaineh says. “We never close our store on time. But when you love your business and you love your trade, you build your own platform and show people who you are. You have to prove to them you are there for the community, and I did prove that.” ​In the coming months, Abuzaineh will be facing another challenge — and calling on the community for its support — as The Peanut Shoppe’s building was purchased and will be undergoing construction after 2021 ends, leaving the small store’s future in question. Ideally, Abuzaineh’s family will be able to find a location downtown that will accommodate them, and customers will follow the longstanding business to its new address. ​ “This is the oldest landmark on Main Street, so when it’s closed, a part of history is over,” Abuzaineh explains. “We have the Downtown Memphis Commission and shop lovers coming in to help, and we need a miracle. But we ask everyone to not let The Peanut Shoppe die.” memphispeanutshoppe.com

Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an awardwinning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.

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southern gentleman | SWIMMIN’ HOLES

Swimmin’ Holes:

An Old-fashioned Rite of Passage By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of John Starrett and Visit Jackson County Florida

Looking for fresh-water swimming holes where you can cool off this summer? These Southern waters offer a refreshing dip and a little nostalgia. ​ I was 7 or 8 years old when I dammed up Snap Creek with the help of my grandfather. With flat rocks, round rocks and one good-sized log, we worked to make a swimmin’ hole. That summer, he and my grandmother taught me to shuffle cards and play rummy; he also told me stories about being a kid – where he hunted, what chores he had to do, how fixing up a swimming hole was about the best thing that a bunch of poor holler kids could do back then. So, we built one. Or we tried to. The stream was too shallow and we needed rain. What we built was more of a splashin’ hole, which was good enough for me. I stripped to my Underoos and played all afternoon. My grandfather 68 DeSoto

even took off his shoes and socks and waded too, and for a few moments, we were just two kids in the swimming hole together. ​ That splashin’ hole was a sorry affair, but something in the idea — a swimming hole in the creek nearby, right down there at the river, by a waterfall no one really talked about —was awesome. It still thrills my 7-year-old self and the adult me, so as I travel around to write guidebooks and stories, I’m always looking out for a place where I can shimmy into my board shorts or skin it back to my boxers (or less) and go for a dip. Here are a few places I’ve found around the South where you can swim in proper swimming holes, crystal clear waters, natural springs, and other spots to splash the day away.


​ idnight Hole, Great Smoky Mountains National Park M ​ You can go for a swim along Deep Creek near Bryson City, N.C., and there are several places where the Oconaluftee and Little Pigeon Rivers make for fine swimming on the North Carolina and Tennessee sides of the park. But look north, to the Cataloochee/Big Creek area of the park for an easy hike with a great payout: Midnight Hole. Six feet deep, perfect for swimming, Midnight Hole earned its name from the deep bluegreen color of the water. It’s picturesque and popular, so take a photo or two before you go for a swim. To get there, take Big Creek Trail 1.4 miles, then look for the white blaze and short side trail on the left-hand side of the path. Families and other hikers frequent Midnight Hole, so if you’re going for a swim, be modest or careful or both. ​ Lake Tiak-O’Khata, Louisville, Miss. ​ More than a swimmin’ hole, Lake Tiak-O’Khata is an experience. A pair of restaurants, a lakefront motel and cabins, plus an RV park make this a destination. And you come for the lake, of course. The 100-acre Lake Tiak-O’Khata has a sandy beach and designated swimming area where water slides and piers give kids and adults plenty of options for how and where to play. Feel free to fish in the rest of the lake, but the water’s fine and if the fish aren’t biting (or if you just want to say they aren’t biting), then it’s time for a swim. ​ Little River Canyon, Ala. ​In the Little River Canyon National Preserve about 90 minutes east of Huntsville, the so-called Hippy Hole has been something of a swimming hole tradition for generations of Alabamans. Martha’s Falls takes a short drop into the plunge pool that is the Hippy Hole, and folks swim, float, and frolic here, so bring your sunscreen, your pool toys and lunch, because you’re going to want to stick around. Oh, and that name, Hippy Hole? Rumor has it some long hairs smoking funny cigarettes used to frequent this spot for swimming in nature’s original bathing suit, so you might want to make a little noise as you get close to this swimming hole.

​ dge of the World, Amicalola River, Ga. E ​ Near Dawsonville, Ga., the Amicalola River Trail — called the Edge of the World Trail by locals — leads you three miles into the wilderness to this swimming hole that mixes some small rapids with lazy pools where you can float the afternoon away. It gets popular, so arrive early, especially if you want some unspoiled photography or some solitude while you take a dip. ​ The Ozarks, Ark. ​ Arkansas is positively loaded with swimming holes, but there’s no better place than the Ozark Mountains to find a place to dive in. Blanchard Springs Recreation Area might be one of the best known as this is a great spot to swim, fish, hike, picnic, and take in the scenery. Gunner Pool, northwest of the town of Mountain View, is a picturesque spot: a crystalclear mountain spring and natural swimming hole surrounded by tall bluffs. And along the Buffalo National River, you’ll find a dozen spots to take a dip, but check out Buffalo Point for the swimming and the views. Blue Springs Recreation Area, Fla. ​In a county park a few miles from Marianna Jackson’s Blue Spring, a first-magnitude spring that pumps around 85 million gallons of freshwater a day, forms the 202-acre Merritt’s Mill Pond. You can swim in the mill pond, but the best swimming is in the headwaters where the water is absolutely crystal clear and the bowl makes for a fun spot to splash. Don’t forget Merritt’s Mill Pond. You can take a dip there if you want or you can hop in a kayak and explore. Cave divers come from the world over to dive in the underwater caverns here.

Jason Frye writes about the South from his home on the coast of North Carolina. His newest book — “Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip” — is out now. Follow his travel and dining adventures on Instagram where he’s @beardedwriter.

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southern harmony | FISK JUBILEE SINGERS

Fisk Jubilee Singers By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Fisk University

A handful of Fisk University students sang to save their school 150 years ago, starting a legacy that echoes around the world today. On Oct. 6, 1871, nine students at Fisk University in Nashville set off to do something that had never been done before and save their school in the process. They planned to visit small towns across America and perform live music. The historically Black university was struggling financially, and the students hoped to raise money to keep it afloat. Not only were concert tours unheard of at the time, but the students would also be singing African American spirituals, the music of former slaves. Six years after the end of the Civil War, it was unclear how people in a once deeply divided country might welcome them. And yet, these brave young men and women set off on their journey. Not everyone welcomed them in those initial concerts, but in time the students began getting high praise, as well as standing ovations. In 1872, they were invited to perform 70 DeSoto

for President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House. The group that became known as the Fisk Jubilee Singers raised $20,000 that year to support the school. But the tour was also the start of something bigger, a musical and historical legacy that continues some 150 years later. “The (original) Fisk Jubilee Singers were responsible for establishing a very unique form of American music and then sharing it with the world,” says Dr. Paul T. Kwami, who is the ensemble’s current music director. He attributes much of their success to the unique approach founder and original choral director George White took to arranging their music. “One of the things he did was teach the students to sing Western classical music,” Kwami explains. “Then, with the help of the students, took old spirituals — songs these students


learned from their parents and grandparents — and arranged them and transformed them into art forms of choral music that could be presented at concerts.” Kwami says that music laid the groundwork for other music genres we have today. “The Negro spiritual grew out of the time of slavery when Blacks were on plantations making music. And of course, with the Fisk Jubilee Singers making this music popular, it led to the growth of other forms of American music. For example, blues, jazz, country music, gospel music, and even hip hop. I sometimes describe our music as the mother of these other forms of music.” Kwami, who grew up in Ghana, West Africa, has made sharing the history and extending the legacy of the Fisk Jubilee Singers his life’s work. As a child he sang African American spirituals in schools and churches, and even played them on his piano. But he wasn’t familiar with the Fisk Jubilee Singers until he came to the United States and enrolled at Fisk University in 1983. He sang with the group as a student for two years, then later returned as music director in 1994. “It is honestly a humbling position for me,” he says about coming full circle. He believes the 19th century students’ efforts to save Fisk University through their music is an important part of American history. Fisk was one of a number of Black colleges created in the 1800s. “Right after the Civil War, the American Missionary Association, and other Christians in those days, believed they could help freed slaves by providing them with an education,” Kwami says. “However, shortly after Fisk was established (in 1866), the school began to experience financial difficulties.” White’s idea to have the students sing to raise money wasn’t popular at the time. Both the administration and many parents

were against it. But the students were determined. “I’ve read the stories of their travels and realized how great a sacrifice these students made, giving up their education to raise money to prevent the alma mater from being shut down,” Kwami says. “Some of their stories before coming to Fisk were very sad. No one today would have thought in those days that these young people would become members of this legacy that we still talk about today.” Kwami remains dedicated to making sure their sacrifice, and all they accomplished, is never forgotten. Today, under his leadership, the Fisk Jubilee Singers continue to travel and perform. They arrive at venues to responsive crowds who know their story and are eager to hear their music. “We’ve had some concerts where just walking on stage the applause makes us feel as though we were at the end of a great concert,” says Kwami. “And when this happens it just packs a lot of fire within us. And that carries through the whole concert.” This October the Fisk Jubilee Singers will celebrate their 150th anniversary. And while they’ve received multiple awards through the years and are members of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, it’s especially fitting that their latest album “Celebrating Fisk (the 150th Anniversary Album)” won a Grammy Award this past March for Best Roots Gospel Album. It only serves to underscore their legacy, as well as to celebrate their future. fiskjubilleesingers.org Pam Windsor is a music, feature, and travel writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

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in good spirits | BLUES CAT

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Blues Cat By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Cathead Distillery

Summertime blues take on a whole new meaning with this blueberry and herb-enhanced cocktail from Cathead Distillery. ​ One of the best things about summer is the proliferation of berries and herbs fresh out of the garden, many of which create delicious — and colorful — cocktails. Blueberries and basil, for instance, spice up vodka in one of Cathead Distillery’s most popular recipes. The Jackson, Miss., distillery combines fresh crushed blueberries, a nip of basil, simple syrup, and lemon juice for its decorative “Blues Cat.” ​ “Aside from it being one of our original cocktail recipes — going on 11 years old now — it’s a tried-and-true crowd pleaser, easy to drink, and can appeal to a sophisticated palate as well,” says Richard Patrick, co-founder of Cathead Distillery. ​After mixing the ingredients in a cocktail shaker to create the Blues Cat, it’s imperative to infuse the combination with lots of ice for a cool refreshing drink, Patrick says. “I prefer pellet ice when crafting a refreshing cocktail,” he recommends. “Ice, in general, is a big factor for any summertime cocktail, and pellet ice in particular adds a little more depth and mouthfeel.” Blues Cat calls for regular Cathead Vodka, but for other fruity summer cocktails try Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, which received a 2021 Good Food Foundation Award in the spirits category alongside two other Southern distilleries, Blue Sky Distillery and Roulaison Distilling Co. A fun way to enjoy the award winner is to blend watermelon in a food processor and mix with the Honeysuckle Vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup, then top it off with fresh mint. It’s enlivening enough to cool off even the hottest day. Or mix Honeysuckle Vodka with frozen strawberries, rosé wine, simple syrup, and lemon juice for a unique Frosé. The newly released Cathead Bitter Orange is another great complement to summer’s best, especially with fruit bought at farmer’s markets or roadside stands. These fruit additions can also work as substitutes to basic syrups. ​ “Always use fresh ingredients,” Patrick says. “I recommend, especially with Cathead Bitter Orange, utilizing fresh fruits for sweetness as opposed to a simple syrup.”

​ In addition to the new Bitter Orange Vodka, Cathead launched this summer Cathead Sparkling, a line of ready-todrink canned cocktails. And there’s more great news coming, Patrick says. “We’re also excited to be adding some new bourbons to our portfolio this summer.” The following Blues Cat recipe shows how easy it is to utilize fresh produce for a cool summer cocktail. Patrick insists that making great cocktails at home should be as simple as combining a few mixers such as these. “Keep ingredients to a minimum,” he says, “and stock frequently used items, like lime and soda water, so you can make cocktails at your leisure.” And isn’t that just what’s called for on a hot summer afternoon? For more great ideas, check out Cathead’s numerous recipes on its website. catheaddistillery.com Blues Cat 2 ounces Cathead Vodka 10-15 blueberries 5 basil leaves 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 1 ounce simple syrup Directions: Muddle blueberries, basil, lemon juice, and simple syrup in cocktail shaker. Add Cathead Vodka and ice. Shake well. Strain and serve over ice in a cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh blueberries and basil.

DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen loves basil and blueberries and finds this combination the perfect summer cocktail.

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exploring events | JULY Hernando Farmers Market Saturdays through October Courthouse Square Hernando, MS 8:00am - 1:00pm Voted Mississippi's Favorite Farmers Market and 13th favorite in the nation by American Farmland Trust. This Mississippi Certified Market encourages & promotes access to fresh local foods. For more information call 662-429-9092 or visit cityofhernando.org/farmersmarket.

Unknown Child Exhibit Through December 31 DeSoto County Museum Hernando, MS The Unknown Child Exhibit honors the memory of 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. Stunning black-and-white photographs, interactive images and holograms of the faces of the lost children are part of the display. For more information visit desotomuseum.org or call 662-429-8852.

Grammy Museum Mississippi presents MTV Turns 40 Through June 2022 Grammy Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS The first major exhibition to be curated by the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi team, MTV Turns Forty will explore the history of the iconic music brand—from the role of native Mississippian, Bob Pittman, in the concept and execution of an idea that revolutionized the music industry and, to why, nearly four decades later, people across the world still scream, “I want my MTV.” MTV Turns Forty is sponsored in part by the Maddox Foundation. For more information visit grammymuseumms.org or call 662-441-0100.

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Celebrate Your Independence Fireworks & Festival July 2 City Park Olive Branch, MS Gates open at 4:00pm Live music, kids zone, food vendors and more. Fireworks start at 9:15pm. For more information call 662-892-9200.

First Friday Back Porch Party July 2 - MS Youth Symphony DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS 7:00 - 9:00 pm Enjoy live music, food and cash bar the first Friday of every month. No admission required. For more information call 662-404-3361 or visit desotoartscouncil.com.

Grand Fireworks Display & Festival July 3 Latimer Lakes Park Horn Lake, MS Gates open at 4:00pm Food vendors, kids zone, live music from the 41st Army Band 7:00pm - 9:00pm. For more information call 662-342-3468.

Fireworks Extravaganza & Festival July 4 BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove Park Southaven, MS Gates open at 4:00pm For more information call 800-653-8000.

4th of July Celebration with Hank Williams Jr. July 4 Natchez Bluff Natchez, MS Hank Williams Jr. with special guest Steve Earle & the Dukes. Gates are open at 1:00 PM and music will begin at 3:00 PM. Food and beverages will be served and you may bring your own chairs. Following the music will be a fantastic firework show overlooking the river! For more information visit www.visitnatchez.org.


34th Annual Slugburger Festival July 8 - 10 Corinth, MS Slugburger eating contest, carnival, The Voice contest, beauty pageant, car show and more! Live music from Prowler & Band of Jones, Ben Mathis, AC Isbell & the Spunk Monkees. For more information call 662-287-1550.

Live at the Garden presents Little Big Town July 17 Memphis Botanic Garden Memphis, TN For ticket information visit liveatthegarden.com or ticketmaster.com.

Summerland Tour July 22 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:00pm Featuring Everclear, Hoobastank, Living Colour and Wheatus. For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.

Blues on the Back Porch July 24 - Duwayne Burnside Holly Springs, MS 7:00pm Blues on the Porch is a summer music series that brings Hill Country Blues musicians home to Holly Springs, to play on local porches. For more information visit bluesontheporch.com or call 662-278-0388.

Three Dog Night July 29 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:30pm For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.

The Beach Boys July 29 Graceland Sound Stage Memphis, TN 7:30pm For more information visit gracelandlive.com or call 877-777-0606.

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reflections | A BITTERSWEET FAREWELL

A Bittersweet Farewell Story and photography by Mary Ann DeSantis

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” - Winnie the Pooh ​ My dream job came along in July 2017 when I was invited to be the editor of DeSoto Magazine ― Exploring the South. No one was more skeptical than I was about working “virtually,” but thanks to forward-thinking publishers and a great team of writers, we’ve managed to produce one of the best little magazines in the Mid-South. I can truly say putting together every issue was fun — it never felt like work. ​But as the legendary Kenny Rogers once sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,” I made the difficult decision to walk away from my dream job. Health challenges last year started me thinking about retirement. Then, losing dear friends before their time also sparked the realization that maybe I should have some extended playtime before I reach my final deadline. The time is right to turn over the reins to my talented co-editor Cheré Coen who will take the magazine to a new level of excellence. All the cards (as Kenny would say) fell into place to make the July issue my last as an editor. ​Letting go is not easy when you love seeing a print publication come alive each month. As I reflect on my 40-plusyear career, I realize there has never been a time when I didn’t have a looming deadline. The pressure to produce words and sentences into readable, interesting stories actually began when I was a journalism student at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Then, it was on to a newspaper job 76 DeSoto

and a public relations career — always with those ominous cutoff dates. ​ Retirement is a weird word. When I say it, I visualize my grandfather sitting on his front porch in Laurel, Miss., watching the cars pass — and waiting for one of his grandchildren to stop by. I don’t have children or grandchildren so that won’t be part of my routine. You might find me on my back porch — probably reading or birdwatching — but overall, I think retirement is a lot different for my 1970s generation than what it was for my grandparents. Now it’s all about being an “active” senior and giving back to your community, both of which I plan to do. And you’ll still see my byline occasionally. ​ This column is very late… I actually missed my deadline because I just didn’t know how to say goodbye. And then I realized the character in the first book my mother ever read to me, Winne the Pooh, summed it up the best. How lucky I’ve been… to have a career I loved and to work with so many amazing people, especially Cheré, the DeSoto Magazine owners Paula Mitchell and Adam Mitchell, and the many talented writers who became friends along the way. I could not have asked for a better ending to my story. As a retiree, Mary Ann DeSantis plans to improve her golf game, travel, and re-read all of her favorite classics, including “The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh.”


The Great American Off Road Trip. Happy Birthday America!

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Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine July 2021  

A cool issue dedicated to hot entertainment and a celebration of Summer.

DeSoto Magazine July 2021  

A cool issue dedicated to hot entertainment and a celebration of Summer.

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