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June CONTENTS 2020 • VOLUME 17 • NO.6

features

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DeSoto Magazine’s 2020 Wedding Couples Romancing the Past Weddings in Historic Places

Castles Made of Sand Creating Seaside Romance Don’t Be That Guy Guest Etiquette at Weddings

departments 16 Living Well Shape Shifting

40 On the Road Again Blue Ridge, Georgia

20 Notables Pre-nuptial Planning

42 Greater Goods 72 Homegrown Branding Your Wedding

24 Exploring Art Caught on Canvas

76 Southern Gentleman Dance Like Everyone is Watching

28 Exploring Books Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

78 Southern Harmony Getting on the Music Map

30 Southern Roots The Power of Pollinators

80 In Good Spirits Ramos Slow Gin Fizz

32 Table Talk Broussard’s 36 Exploring Destinations Destin’s Henderson Park Inn

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82 Reflections Planning a Special Wedding

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editor’s note | JUNE

A Season of Hope There’s nothing like weddings to give us hope, whether standing at the altar or watching from the pews. It’s the promise of new beginnings and a lifetime of joy and love — and boy can we use a healthy dose of that these days. Putting together our annual wedding issue reminds me of my simple wedding ceremony years ago, when my husband Bruce and I said our vows in front of a friend’s pomegranate tree in Southern California. One month before the big event, my husband lost his job and we questioned whether to go forward with our plans. We had chosen October because it’s one of the region’s dry months, but wouldn’t you know it, it rained! Was it a sign, we wondered? And then, one hour before the ceremony, the skies cleared, and it turned into the most magnificent day. Bruce and I have been together three decades-plus and consider Mississippi road trips our favorite vacations. That’s us standing at the pinnacle of Vicksburg National Military Park last fall, after a traipse through the Delta. For those of you looking for the perfect place to tie the knot, Pamela Keene offers a round-up of historic homes and plantations this month. A sand castle may be your ideal accompaniment to a seaside wedding, as Melissa Corbin explains in her story about Alabama’s Sand Castle

JUNE 2020 • Vol. 17 No.6

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell ADVERTISING CONSULTANT Melanie Dupree

University. We also take you to romantic places, such as Broussard’s restaurant in New Orleans, celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and Henderson Park Inn in Destin. Rounding out our comprehensive guide to all things matrimonial, Jason Frye offers suggestions for the wedding dance, Jackie Sheckler Finch outlines pre-nuptial agreements (the reasons being not as negative as you might think), and Judy Garrison, who photographs weddings with her husband Len, details wedding etiquette because, as she puts it, “good manners never go out of style.” So, whether you’re planning a wedding, attending an upcoming ceremony, or just need a reason to smile, this issue will fit the bill. Happy Summer, Y’all,

Cheré Coen

CO-EDITORS Mary Ann DeSantis Cheré Coen CONTRIBUTORS Betty Adams Jim Beaugez Deborah Burst Cheré Coen Melissa Corbin Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Judy Garrison Pamela A. Keene Tracy Morin P. Allen Smith Elizabeth M. Tettleton Karon Warren 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

on the cover Sarah Goss & Jake Linton’s wedding took place on May 4, 2019 at Bonne Terre’s White Chapel in Nesbit, Mississippi. Read more about their amazing wedding details on page 54.

Photography by Husband and wife duo Jo Darling Photography

SUBSCRIBE: DeSotoMagazine.com/subscribe

DeSotoMagazine.com ©2020 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 | DETOX PROGRAMS Why Detox?

At Energy Fitness, Tonya Tittle uses a biometrical analysis machine to detect information on biomarkers via electrodes attached to the client, which (among other things) details levels of toxicity. It measures the levels of extracellular water versus intracellular water, which should be at about a 40-to-60 percent ratio. Excess extracellular water indicates a more toxic state. A successful detox allows those numbers to normalize as the program helps carry nutrients in and out of cells and helps create cells that “look like grapes and not raisins, a clear indication of healthier cells,� Tittle says.

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Tonya Tittle


Shape Shifting By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Tonya Tittle

For brides, grooms, and beach-goers alike, it’s detox season! Here’s a look at the different programs, what to expect, and how to maintain results year-round. As weather warms and weddings loom, the desire for spring cleaning goes beyond household improvement – many people crave a refresh for their bodies, too. And detox programs can help achieve that goal. The reasons for detoxing vary. Some people want to reset their eating habits and improve their overall health, while others are preparing for a beach vacation, wedding, or simply the season when skimpier outfits reign. Similarly, there are numerous types of detox programs available to meet different goals, from weight loss to increased energy. Misinformation and confusion abound, however, as more would-be detoxers scour the internet for information. “The ultimate goal for most people who do a detox is different than what they can actually expect,” warns Tonya Tittle, owner and director of training at Energy Fitness in Memphis, Tenn. “Sure, some people may lose a few pounds, but it’s really a catalyst for change, helping to create a better mind-body connection to food and develop new habits.” However, the potential benefits of detox are numerous, usually offering the ultimate goal of eliminating excess toxins in the body. Tittle notes that different types of detox plans can clear the skin; eliminate “brain fog;” promote better sleep and eating habits; lessen pain by decreasing inflammation; enhance overall mood; and flush toxins via the lymphatic system and/or the large and small intestines, helping promote cell turnover for a healthier gastrointestinal system.

Various levels of commitment are also involved. Tittle prefers a science-based, elimination-style nutritional intervention program with supportive supplements (she recommends the Metagenics Clear Change Program, which can be completed in 10 or 28 days). Spa services can also assist. Detoxifying body wraps may help shed inches, while lymph drainage massage is designed to naturally flush toxins from the body. Other detox programs may seek to cleanse the body through nutrition. “Juice cleanses can be great for the skin and reset food portion-size habits, but ultimately they don’t offer enough protein to feed the muscles,” Tittle explains. “On the other hand, eating clean and whole foods in moderately portioned sizes is the key to long-term success.” Therefore, for those who aren’t quite ready to fully commit to a detox program, Tittle recommends simply adding more detoxifying foods (and more often) to your diet: artichokes, asparagus, organic celery, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, onion, green beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kelp, garlic, seaweeds, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion, watercress, radicchio, beet or mustard greens, bok choy, escarole, endive, arugula, bean sprouts, chicory, bell or other peppers, cucumber, and cinnamon. She advises against caffeine-based detoxes, which can disrupt natural sleep cycles. And keep in mind the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it is! In general, detox programs can last from three to 28 DeSoto 19


days, and Tittle explains that everyone builds and releases toxins at a different rate, so the appropriate length of time can vary from one person to another. She advises undergoing a program quarterly, as seasons change, but points out that making better nutritional choices year-round (at least 80 percent of the time) is the real key to success. “It’s certainly easier to make smaller, better choices every day that add up instead of trying to ask your body to detox yesterday!” Tittle says. “Little things add up.” For example, she recommends reading ingredient lists (and making sure you can pronounce those ingredients); eating with others instead of alone, and using smaller plates, to eat less; filling your plate with vegetables first, then protein and healthy fats; and cutting off eating by two hours before bedtime. For those looking to detox for special events like weddings, Tittle suggests starting at least three to six weeks beforehand, since the effects of detox can surface through the skin. In addition, as with any lifestyle change, it’s crucial to check with your physician to ensure that a detox program does not react unfavorably with any medications, supplements, or underlying health issues. Finally, remain realistic and use any detox program not as a quick fix, but as a start on the path toward better choices. “When you think about how long it took to gain that weight, realize that it’s not going to come off overnight, either,” Tittle says. “This is a process. I simply tell people to be kind to themselves.” energymemphis.com

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

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notables | MILES MASON SR.

A Wise Step Before Marriage By Jackie Sheckler Finch | Photography courtesy of Miles Mason

Developing a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle can solve difficult problems later on. First comes love, then comes marriage. So goes the old rhyme. But somewhere between those two major life events should be an important legal matter called a prenuptial agreement, says Memphis lawyer Miles Mason Sr. “A prenuptial agreement makes the future more predictable than otherwise,” says Mason, a divorce lawyer at Miles Mason Family Law Group. “Legally speaking, prenuptial agreements seek to bind parties to a particular distribution of wealth in the event of divorce or death.” Without a prenuptial agreement, “in the event of a 22 DeSoto

divorce, the particular state law in which they both live will control,” Mason says. “In the event of a death, the will and state law where the decedent resided will control.” With a prenuptial agreement, a couple can agree in advance how they would like their property divided in the case of a divorce or death. A misconception that prenuptial agreements are only for the wealthy is not true, Mason says. Such legal documents are important for anyone considering marriage as a way to try and prevent disagreements over what has been accumulated in a marriage.


Prenuptial agreements have become more common in recent years, Mason says. “It may be a function of an aging population.” People marrying later in life or for a second time may have already accumulated assets which could become contentious in a divorce. Or one person’s earning potential could be decreased by the marriage. “There are many circumstances in which a prenuptial agreement is practical from the perspective of the less-properties spouse,” Mason says. “A supported spouse may want protection or compensation from leaving the work force.” For example, the prospective bride may be a 45-yearold woman who earns $100,000 a year. “Your future husband wants you to quit your job and travel with him on business,” he explains. “You may be out of the workplace for 10 high-earning years. It is reasonable for the future wife to want to have financial insurance in the event the relationship ends.” It’s not uncommon that one partner will stop working outside the home to focus on raising a couple’s children. If divorce happens, the stay-at-home parent may find it difficult to get back into the workforce and business world. A prenuptial agreement can help protect the financial responsibilities in such a case. People preparing to say “I do” may have children from prior marriages which makes it important to protect in

writing the future of those children. “A prenuptial agreement will ensure property division at death or divorce is rational and protects the interests of the children,” Mason says. “This is usually done as part of the estate planning process.” Pets also are furry family members to many couples and can spark nasty custody battles when couples divorce. Sometimes the decision of where a pet will live isn’t made without a fight, even to the point of judicial intervention. Because a pet is legally considered personal property, that means a marrying person can use a prenuptial agreement to ensure that a pet will remain that person’s no matter what happens in the future of the marriage. If the pet belonged to either spouse before the marriage, the case is much clearer that it should belong to that same spouse after the divorce. To create a prenuptial agreement, each person needs to get his or her own separate lawyer, Mason advises. Both parties are required to fully disclose all their financial assets and debts. Native Son Born in Memphis, Mason says he loves the city and his family’s history in it. He and his wife, Sharon, live in their native town with two daughters and a son. “Both my family and my wife’s family have been here for over 100 years,” Mason says. DeSoto 23


Mason’s father, the late Jack Mason, was a certified public accountant with his own accounting practice in Memphis for 35 years. Sharon’s father is the late Judge Joe B. Jones, presiding judge of Tennessee’s Court of Criminal Appeals and Mason’s early mentor in law. Mason attended Christian Brothers High School, as did his father, brothers and son. Mason was inducted into the Christian Brothers High School Hall of Fame. “My wife and daughters went to St. Agnes,” he says. “We feel part of the community. Memphis is small enough that every time I walk into a restaurant, I will know someone.” An attorney for 25 years, Mason says the profession was his childhood ambition. “At an early age, I caused problems,” he says. “I loved to read. I was really good at math. I loved negotiating. Drove my parents crazy.” Seeing his parents split up three times when he was in high school helped influence his decision to become a lawyer. “I saw their pain. But they kept me out of it, which was a real blessing.” As an attorney, “service of others is the highest calling, certainly,” Mason says. “But from a personal perspective, I love getting to know and having professional relationships with the other lawyers, judges, elected officials, and just being part of the whole community.” Negotiating for a living is “fascinating,” he says. “I love the stress. Conflict doesn’t bother me. My days are never boring.” memphisdivorce.com

An award-winning journalist, Jackie Sheckler Finch loves to take to the road to see what lies beyond the next bend.

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exploring art | LIVE EVENT PAINTING

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Amy Stone

Caught on Canvas By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Barbara Treece and Amy Stone

Memphis ‘live event painter’ captures wedding ceremonies on canvas while they happen. Amy Stone has shared her creative talents in many different ways since graduating from the Memphis College of Art more than 25 years ago. She’s sculpted, worked with pottery, and painted everything from small portraits to murals. As an entrepreneur, she’s had a number of art-related businesses over the years and says, interestingly enough, it was a friend who suggested she become a live wedding painter. Stone says it’s one of the most exciting and rewarding endeavors she’s tackled yet. “The brides love them,” she says of the paintings. “It’s something they can hang in their home and always see.” Every wedding is special, she believes, so she tries to showcase how each one is unique in every painting she creates. “The weddings are always beautiful,” she says. “I haven’t done one yet that I haven’t enjoyed or thought was absolutely gorgeous. They’re all so different.” When Stone first began the live paintings, she would come to each wedding with a blank canvas. But she soon learned that things worked better when she arrived early, took time to scout the layout, and possibly even did a bit of sketching beforehand. “Now, I’ll show up at the venue about three hours early and start painting a little of the way it’s decorated,” she explains. “Then, when the guests arrive, I start frantically painting them all into the painting as fast as I can. Or I paint

as many people as I can get in there during the amount of time allowed.” Stone admits it gets a little chaotic once everything gets rolling, but she’s developed a system where she can paint a lot faster. More often than not, she has it all under control. “It’s about six hours of some of the greatest stress you’ll ever see,” she says with a laugh. “No, it’s really not that bad at all.” She makes sure she knows ahead of time what elements to capture for each big event by sending out a detailed bridal questionnaire before the wedding. “It (the questionnaire) has lots of questions about whether there are certain objects they wanted included in the painting, the focal point for them, and the specific moments they want painted,” she explains. “Sometimes I paint the actual ceremony and other times I paint the reception. It’s completely based on what the bride wants.” On the day of the wedding, she takes photos of everyone in the bridal party to ensure they’re all featured in the painting in one way or another. Many times, there are special requests of things or people to include, and when possible, Stone does what she can to accommodate them. At one wedding, the bride asked to include a dog in the painting. At another, there was a request to incorporate DeSoto 27


family members who had died. (For an additional charge, she does offer a service where she’ll take the painting home and add more details later.) Working a wedding can offer its own set of situations or challenges. Stone says it’s all part of the job and keeps things interesting. “Invariably there will be a drunk guy who comes up and won’t leave you alone or a child who continues to come up, asks questions, and then tries to get into your paint,” she says. “Usually I have my mom or my niece as my assistant and one time a relative of the groom came up and started flirting with my mom.” Another time there was a wedding crasher who came up to her with two of the bridesmaids, so she included him in the painting only to find out later he wasn’t part of the wedding party. She later had to go back and paint someone else in his place. “There’s always some kind of silly little story,” she says, “but weddings are always fun to do.” Stone seems to enjoy all her artistic endeavors. Over the years she’s had several creative businesses ranging from professional face-painting to ceramic handprints for a stork rental business celebrating newborn births. She’s also painted murals throughout Memphis. Stone says that when she was in college she was interested in so many different art forms, she had a difficult time choosing to focus on just one, so she took a wide range of classes. That diversity served her well in the years that followed. One of the common threads throughout much of her artwork is the desire to create memories. She says it’s meaningful to know something she’s created will provide a lasting memory for someone else. “It’s gratifying to know that there is something that’s lasting and will be there long after I’m gone,” she says. “It’s very gratifying.” caughtoncanvasbyamystone.com

Pam Windsor is a freelance journalist in Nashville, Tenn., who writes about music, art, travel, lifestyle, and extraordinary people.

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exploring books | SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF MAYBE

A Big Stack of Maybes By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Jo Watson Hackl

Everything was one big stack of maybes for 12-yearold Cricket, the protagonist in this award-winning book by Mississippi native Jo Watson Hackl. Readers shouldn’t be fooled into thinking “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe” is only for middle school readers just because it won the Southern Book Prize for Children’s Literature and has received accolades from the American Association of School Librarians. Set in east Mississippi’s Electric Mills, a for-real abandoned lumber town, the coming-of-age book addresses some serious subjects including child abandonment and mental 30 DeSoto

illness. But there’s also adventure, art, colorful characters, and, of course, hope. “I really wanted to create a book about hope and resiliency,” says author Jo Watson Hackl, who grew up in Scooba, Miss., on land that once was part of Electric Mills in Kemper County.


Her story resonates with all ages – more than half of the book’s readers are adults – because of the vivid descriptions and a colorful mystery with intricate clues. The young girl at the center of the story charms readers with her spunk and resourcefulness. “Middle grade readers are the smartest readers. They keep writers on their game,” Hackl says. “I knew if I could craft a story to keep them turning the page, it would be a success.” It took Hackle 10 years to produce the book, which she says gave her time to add “layers and layers to the story.” The idea began, however, when she herself was a child roaming those same East Mississippi woods and inventing characters as she explored the remnants of what was once a thriving lumber town. Established in 1913, Electric Mills had a theater, ice cream parlor, hospital, and beautiful homes – most of which was dismantled when the lumber company pulled out at the beginning of World War II. All that remained were the sidewalks and a few pillars, which intrigued Hackl whose family moved to the area when she was 11. In the book, 12-year-old Cricket takes readers on a journey through the overgrown ghost town to solve a 30-year-old clue trail in search of a secret bird room that may or may not have existed, all in an effort to entice her run-away mother to return home. Cricket uses her wits to live off the land during a Mississippi winter and works to solve increasingly baffling clues left by an eccentric artist with a logic all his own. That fictional artist was inspired by Mississippi’s own Walter Anderson and his “Little Room” at the Ocean Springs museum honoring him. Born in Biloxi, Hackl grew up hearing about Anderson and he became her favorite artist. She researched his life extensively, and she’s not uncertain that he may have trekked through Electric Mills when he walked more than 1,000 miles to get home from a Pennsylvania mental hospital. “There is some speculation he followed train tracks to get home,” she says. “If that’s true, I think there’s a possibility he may have come through the area.” Growing up in rural Mississippi fed Hackl’s passion for connecting with nature. About seven years ago, she created Outdoorosity, a free online resource of inspirational outdoor

projects. The site encourages busy professionals, students, and families to lead healthier lifestyles and get outside more often. She also takes her message about the importance of connecting with nature to schools throughout the country. A first-generation college graduate, Hackl has told more than 15,000 students the story of how writing helped her earn scholarships to both Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn. “Writing will take you from wherever you are to wherever you want to be,” she says. “If you need a little courage, turn to writing. It takes a dose of bravery to sit down and write.” After receiving her law degree, Hackl considered returning to Jackson but an offer from a Greenville, S.C., law firm took her to the Palmetto state, where she now lives with her chef husband and three children. She is also a lawyer with Wyche, P.A., whose lawyers have worked to preserve over 100,000 acres of land for future generations. Her roots and love for Mississippi still run deep, however. She visits family often, and after “Smack Dab” was published, she created a book club menu using all Mississippi products. She worked closely with her cousin Elizabeth Joiner of Jackson to produce YouTube videos making dishes such as Shrimp and Vegetables with Comeback Sauce, Smack Dab Punch, Jubilee Jalapeno Cheese Grits, and more. Hackl is currently putting the finishing touches on another book that will feature Cricket’s cousin and will highlight places in the Mississippi Delta. And like her first book, there will be a clue trail and an inspirational message about overcoming fears. “Sometimes it’s time to start taking chances on yourself,” says Hackl. “If there is a theme to my book, that’s it. Do the things you think you can’t, but you’ll find that you really can.” outdoorosity.org johackl.com

Although she grew up in Laurel, Miss., editor Mary Ann DeSantis later spent quite a bit of time visiting her father’s farm near Electric Mills.

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southern roots | ATTRACTING POLLINATORS

The Power of Pollinators Story and photography by Writer: P. Allen Smith

Planting annuals, perennials, and shrubs that attract pollinators help play an important role in the health of the garden. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bumblebees are beautiful additions to the garden, animating space and bringing additional life and color. But did you know that they are also incredibly useful? Actually, they are critical to our survival. Pollinators — those who move pollen from one plant to another to fertilize the plant — are not only important for preserving the health of our gardens, but they play an important role in connecting necessary links in our food chain. In fact, the Pollinator Partnership reports that every one out of three bites of food we consume is brought to us by a pollinator. That’s pretty important! In addition to flower pollination, our small friends play a critical role in the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fibers, raw materials, and half of the oils we consume — in sum, over 1,200 crops we eat are helped by a pollinator. Pollinators are also good for the planet, helping fight soil erosion by keeping plants healthy and proliferating. They 32 DeSoto

even help the air we breathe by increasing carbon sequestration. Nearly all plants (between 75% and 95%) require the help of pollinators for healthy functioning. When we think of pollinators, we often think exclusively of the industrious honeybee. But, there are so many others. The seven hives of Italian honey bees we keep at Moss Mountain Farm, for example, are an important addition to our landscape and organic ecosystem, and these pollinators dutifully work nearly year-round (and without complaint). They bring the most soothing and light buzz to our hollies, flowering shrubs, annuals, and perennials, as well as the herbs, flowers, and vegetables in our Acre Vegetable Garden. There are many other species of pollinators besides the honeybee and butterfly. For example, bats (yes, the ones that fly in the air at night), flies, beetles, wasps (this may also surprise some readers), and even many small mammals are all pollinators.


Over the years we have intentionally added more pollinator-supporting plants to the farm, plants that spread across our meadows — even single containers of bloomers. You know what they say about “think globally, act locally!” And it’s not as much work as you may think. I’ve listed some of my favorite pollinators — a mix of annuals, perennials, and shrubs to consider for home and business landscapes and containers. The annuals are: salvia, zinnia, cosmos, Queen Anne’s lace, marigold, larkspur, Bachelor Buttons, sunflower, petunia, and Cuphea (firecracker plant). Perennials are day lily, Monarda (bee balm), butterfly weed, and Shasta daisy. Pollinator shrubs include: Abelia, butterfly bush, althea (Rose of Sharon), rose, and bush honeysuckle. The Pollinator Partnership has done good work in raising awareness. One of the easiest ways to help pollinators is to simply stop using insecticides and herbicides in gardens and lawns. The ubiquitous use of these harmful chemicals poisons our land and water, all the time destroying pollinators and their habitat. And, you can read between the lines on the impact this may have for our families, children, and pets. There are other ways to help support the cause such as purchasing organically grown foods, especially from local farmers, or supporting businesses such as restaurants that source and serve locally produced organics. Check out businesses that have a “chemical-free” approach to their property maintenance,

or even better, patron those that go a step further and plant pollinator-friendly installations in their commercial spaces. Let me share with you a partnership with an Arkansas business doing just that. I hope this will be a model for other businesses in our region. I am working with First Community Bank and their Chairman and CEO Dale Cole, who is a visionary passionate about the health of our region. It was a no brainer when he shared with me his commitment to our communities that we could do incredible work together. Our partnership has installed over 23 “Pollinator Hot Spots,” beautiful pollinator refuges at First Community Bank branch locations. These garden locations help our hard-working friends and the plant life of the surrounding communities. So, it can be done! I encourage everyone to consider what they can do at their home and business to support this critical part of our ecosystem. It’s good for our gardens, our landscape, our food, and our families.

P. Allen Smith, an author, television host, and conservationist, is one of America’s most recognized gardening experts as the host of three national award-winning television shows. Smith uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, as an epicenter for promoting the local food movement, organic gardening, and the preservation of heritage poultry breeds. Tours of his farm may be booked at pallensmith.com/tours.

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table talk | BROUSSARD’S

Broussard’s Creole Rice Calas

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New Orleans Icon Celebrates 100 By Deborah Burst | Photography courtesy of Broussard’s Restaurant

Whether planning a romantic interlude or a grand celebration, lean on a century-old New Orleans legend, Broussard’s Restaurant. Step inside a fairytale, a city filled with chic chateaus and gallant guards, where dreams may come true, and every meal is a cause for celebration. Dining is so grand in New Orleans, statesmen and celebrities travel from across the globe to enjoy one of America’s epicurean delights. Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks in enjoying New Orleans cuisine is narrowing down the restaurant. Be it an intimate table or a regal room filled with family, Broussard’s Restaurant offers a splendid menu, attentive staff, and elegant décor. Broussard’s opened in 1920 on Conti Street in the city’s historic French Quarter, an endeavor that began when

Joseph Broussard, a Cajun born two hours west of New Orleans, moved to the city to seek his fame and fortune and married Rosalie Borrello. The newlyweds moved into Rosalie’s childhood home, known as the Borrello Mansion, a wedding gift from the bride’s parents. The couple lived on the second story while Broussard worked downstairs building a five-star restaurant combining local Creole cuisine with classic French dishes inspired by his formal Parisian culinary training. Today the Anmari family and Executive Chef Jimi Setchim continue the tradition of a French Creole menu inside 819 Conti Street. In addition to its opulent architecture, New Orleans DeSoto 35


gains high marks in romance rankings — and Broussard’s is no exception. Be it proposals, weddings, or honeymoons, the city has garnered many titles, including CNN crowning it the “Most Romantic City in America.” No matter the size of a wedding party, Broussard’s has it all, and the reviews echo the same sentiments. Five stars across many wedding websites with repeated accolades highlighting Broussard’s food, décor, wedding planning, and what many call, “a classic New Orleans experience.” Many couples choose Broussard’s because of the restaurant’s attention to detail. Their wedding specialists help with rehearsals, receptions, — even the proposal. Broussard’s has been known to help hide the ring, prepare that special dish, and pop the champagne. Wedding parties may choose from the elegant designs of the Napoleon Room, decorated in the Empire Style with French doors opening to the courtyard; the Magnolia Room accented by sinker cypress walls and beams; and the rustic French Provencal-style Josephine Room, once part of the Hermann-Grima complex that’s now one of the city’s historic house museums. Couples may prefer to dance the night away in the courtyard draped with the oldest wisteria vine in the Vieux Carré or enjoy the romantic ambiance of candles and flower arrangements under a translucent dome.   Many times, the happy couple and guests leave the church ceremony to make their way to Broussard’s in what’s called a New Orleans Second Line parade. They dance to the beat of a jazz band marching down French Quarter streets holding umbrellas in one hand and sometimes drinks in the other. The wedding photos are extra special with backdrops of ancient brick walls, banana leaves, and kumquat trees. Weddings aside, Broussard’s offers year-round celebrations and special events, and this year marks the restaurant’s centennial anniversary. Setchim is marking this milestone with five seasonal, prix-fixe menus honoring key ingredients that remain integral to the culinary heritage of New Orleans. He sought inspiration inside old cookbooks with recipes that focused on coffee, spices, rice, pecans, and citrus. “I immediately saw a trend, and I wanted to highlight these five important ingredients,” says Setchim, adding they have been a staple on Broussard’s menu, along with being part of the history and culinary landscape of New Orleans. “I am excited to give each ingredient its own special menu with a bit of history to go along with it.” Every three months in 2020, the menu changes. This month, Setchim highlights the spices of New Orleans with entrées such as spiced smothered pork chops and black forest cake with cayenne and dark chocolate ganache. Next up is rice, an eternal staple in both Cajun and Creole iconic dishes. Creole favorites on the July, August, and September menu feature Gulf shrimp étouffée with Louisiana long grain rice. For dessert, Creole rice calas with roasted strawberry ice cream and cane syrup finish the meal. Pecan trees are another staple of Louisiana, a harbinger of cooler weather and delightful treats. The sweet, crunchy nut plays a starring role in the October and November menu featuring beet tartare with pecan-crusted goat cheese and braised lamb shank with Louisiana pecan and fig demi-glace. Citrus trees grow everywhere in Louisiana, and will be a prominent ingredient in many of the restaurant’s December dishes. Citrus will play a part in beverages and the traditional holiday Réveillon menu as well. Broussard’s wedding planners are busy booking appointments for next year’s bridal season. Pay them a visit for a taste testing, a romantic getaway, or toasting one of life’s special moments.

A native of New Orleans, Deborah Burst loves the city’s exceptional cuisine and historic architecture. Even more divine is experiencing both in the same place.

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exploring destinations | HENDERSON PARK INN

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Romance on the Beach By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Henderson Park Inn

Quaint Henderson Park Inn offers a unique romantic getaway in the heart of Destin. Hayden Hritz had just been hired as hospitality coordinator of Henderson Park Inn in Destin when the COVID-19 crisis shut down operations in March. Ironically, social distancing didn’t change what the charming beachside inn offered in regards to weddings. Henderson Park’s wedding package only allows a group of 10, plus the bride and groom. Henderson Park Inn, not to be confused with its mammoth neighbor Henderson Beach Resort & Spa, offers visitors a quieter, more natural experience in the heart of Destin. The Inn stands in contrast to most of Destin’s highrise and chain hotel accommodations, providing a three-story, 37-room hotel that would be more at home in New England than Florida. Even though Destin Commons with its shops, entertainment and restaurants is only a short drive away and the elaborate Henderson Beach Resort is right across the street, visitors receive a more peaceful experience at the Inn. Henderson Beach State Park offers a mile of natural beach on one side and the more residential Miramar Beach stretches eastward on the other. Directly in front of the Inn lies a private stretch of Emerald Coast beach. Henderson Park Inn is reserved for adults, so the quiet ambiance extends inside the accommodation’s Beach Walk Café, lobby, and suites, many of which include Gulf views. Amenities are extensive, and include access to the Henderson Beach Resort next door. “At Henderson Park Inn, we provide everything except dinner, so room nights include a welcome amenity (usually a

baked good from our in-house restaurant Beach Walk Café and a bottle of wine), a chef-prepared and buffet-style breakfast, a picnic lunch, happy hour on the deck, beach chairs, bicycles and access to all the amenities of The Henderson Beach Resort and Spa, which includes a resort-style pool and state-of-the-art spa,” says Jamie Schmidt, marketing director. Because of its romantic amenities and quiet location, Henderson Park Inn was named the “Best Place to Pop the Question” in 2017 by Destin VIP Magazine. “We have been named one of the most romantic inns in the U.S. by TripAdvisor,” Schmidt says. “I believe that’s due to our incredible beachfront location in addition to all the amenities included with a stay.” For those who prefer a small beach wedding, Henderson Park Inn offers a half-hour ceremony package for the bride and groom and 10 guests. White folding chairs, a choice of one of four arbors for the lawn or beach, plus up to four bottles of champagne are included. “It’s very intimate and very unique,” Hritz says. All wedding inquiries and reservations go through the neighboring Henderson Beach Resort, a Salamander property. Although the two accommodations aren’t owned by the same company, the Henderson Beach Resort can handle large weddings on its property, which includes several sites for ceremonies. The larger resort also reserves the right to use the Inn’s beach at sunset, so Henderson Park Inn weddings must conclude at 2 p.m. DeSoto 39


“Our little package has to be done by 2 p.m.,” Hritz explains. “Nine out of 10 times the Henderson Beach Resort reserves the sunset time.” Large resort weddings that occur on the Henderson Park Inn beach maintain a distance from the Inn’s customers, Hritz adds. Since the Henderson Park Inn packages are small, Hritz serves more as a consultant than a wedding planner. The bride and groom plan their own ceremonies, including obtaining a mandatory marriage license from the state of Florida. Hritz offers a handy list of vendors for those needing advice on cake designers, photographers, florists, and other wedding suppliers. “We’re a liaison really,” she says. Plans are in the works for additional packages, Hritz says, including a meal option for receptions. Currently, Beach Walk Café doesn’t offer catering, but Hritz believes the Inn may soon be able to accommodate a group of 12. “Usually, we don’t do catering but we’re trying to be flexible,” she says. Two suites are available at the Inn for wedding guests, the Serenity/Bridal Suite and the Honeymoon Suite. Each contains several windows in a semi-circle space, a king-sized bed, and a seating area, among other amenities. One thing Hritz didn’t anticipate in her new job was a demand for couples wishing to tie the knot without an audience. “We didn’t realize there was such a demand,” she explains of couples wanting a solitary wedding or elopement. “Later on, I think we’ll have a package just for the bride and groom.” Whether a wedding destination or a romantic getaway, Henderson Park Inn remains one of the most romantic sites on the Emerald Coast. Another future plan is to develop a special incentive package for honeymoons and other special occasions, Schmidt says. “We have couples around the world join us to celebrate their honeymoons and anniversaries,” she says. “We are working on a special package for this, but we don’t have all the specifics worked out yet.” hendersonparkinn.com Cheré Coen is a travel and food writer and co-editor of DeSoto Magazine. She writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire.

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on the road again | BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA

, e g d i Blue RGeorgia

8:00 Start the day with a hearty country breakfast at Mercier Orchards, a fourth-generation, family-owned apple orchard. In addition to apples, Mercier Orchards also operates its own bakery, café, market store and farm winery. The breakfast menu is filled with farm-fresh choices like the Mercier Mountain Breakfast — two eggs, home fries, breakfast meat, and breakfast bread — and the Apple Orchard Delight — French toast crafted from the bakery’s apple-cinnamon bread and served with warm cinnamon apples. 9:00 Following breakfast, take a tractor tour of Mercier Orchards, pick your own apples, or shop the market for fresh vegetables, homemade jams and jellies, fried pies at the bakery, or fun souvenirs to remember your trip. 9:45 Spend some time in downtown Blue Ridge, checking out the clothing boutiques, art galleries, and shops filled with locally made goods and souvenirs. You’ll find everything from homemade jewelry and the latest trendy fashions to photography and sculptures from local artists. 11:00 Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for a trip through the North Georgia Mountains. This fourhour roundtrip journey stops in McCaysville, Ga., where you can wander this small mountain town shopping for unique wares and fun treats. The town is literally right by Copperhill, Tenn., so be sure to snap a keepsake photo standing across the state line right in the middle of downtown. 2:00 For a late lunch, Cantaberry Restaurant next to the train tracks is popular for soups, sandwiches and salads. The restaurant is loved for its chicken and wild rice soup, apple pecan spinach salad and Cantaberry club sandwich. For dessert, choose a decadent sweet treat such as a lemon bar or butterscotch rum cake. 3:30 Head approximately 20 minutes outside of downtown Blue Ridge to the Benton MacKaye Trail and take a short hike to the swinging bridge over the Toccoa River. This popular hiking spot contains a great area for an impromptu picnic or a spot to relax along the river. 5:30 For a pre-dinner cocktail, stop by Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill. Don’t let the rustic aesthetic fool you; this place boasts an impressive wine list, regionally crafted beer, and signature cocktails that rival any city watering hole. Our recommendation? The “Escape to Blue Ridge” with Cathead honeysuckle vodka, macerated blueberries, and lemonade. 6:30 Specializing in “Southern-inspired global cuisine,” Harvest on Main is the iconic choice for a farm-totable dinner. The menu is crafted around seasonally and locally grown meats, vegetables, fish, and more. Start with Southern tradition by ordering the pimento cheese and house pickles, and follow it up with locally farmed rainbow trout or pan-roasted Springer Mountain chicken. 8:00 Celebrate a day well spent with a scoop of hand-dipped ice cream from Moo Bears Ice Cream & Hot Dogs. Choose from more than 20 flavors, including pistachio almond, black cherry, Jacked-Up Tennessee toffee and Mackinac Island fudge. What a sweet way to end the day!

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To plan your visit:

BlueRidgeMountains.com mercier-orchards.com brscenic.com cantaberry.com chestersblueridge.com harvestonmain.com moobearsicecream.com

Chester Brunnenmeyers

Upcoming Events:

Dates are subject to change. Seniors/Kids Fishing Rodeo June 5-6, 2020

On June 5, this free event welcomes adults ages 55 and older to show off their fishing skills as they try to land rainbow trout in Rock Creek at the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery. On June 6, kids ages 16 and younger take their turn at catching the big one. Held rain or shine from 9 a.m. to noon each day, participants must bring their own fishing gear and bait. Free lunch and prizes will be provided. Also, both events operate under the Georgia Sport Fishing Regulations, so check on a fishing license prior to the event. fws.gov/southeast/chattahoochee-forest/events

Danny Mellman Harvest on Main Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Blue Ridge Adventure Race 2020 June 20, 2020

Celebrating its 23rd year, this annual event kicks off in downtown Blue Ridge with an eight-hour race starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and wrapping up at 5 p.m. The race contains paddling, biking, trekking, navigation, and orienteering. New this year is a bus ride that will take participants to a secret location never used before in any Blue Ridge race. The event wraps up at Grumpy Old Men Brewery, where participants can enjoy food, live music, free beer, and prizes. argeorgia.com/blue-ridge-adventure-race

Michelle Malone at Live Music is Better June 27, 2020

Back by popular demand, Michelle Malone returns to the stage at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, where she’ll bring her own style of contemporary blues and Americana. With a career spanning 30 years, Malone has collaborated on stage and in the studio with some of music’s most notable artists, including Gregg Allman, Jennifer Nettles, John Mayer, the Indigo Girls, James Taylor, ZZ Top, KT Tunstall, and more. Tickets are $35 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Mercier Orchards

Compiled by Karon Warren

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greater goods | FATHER’S DAY

Father’s Day

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1. Big Green Egg Grill and Accessories, Complete Home Center, 32 E Commerce St, Hernando, MS 2. Pur coffee mugs and tumblers , Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 3. Mugs and Signs, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 4. Kanga Coolers, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 5. Dogfather Cap, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Grilling tools,. rubs and t-towels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 7. Sig Sauer Handgun, Guns & Fine Jewelry, 570 Goodman Rd E, Southaven, MS 8. Hoover Sauce, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 9. Brighton Money Clips, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 10. Blue Q Socks, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 11. Wall signs, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS

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“I do” 2 002d edition

Photo by Sarah Pearson Photography of Starkville, MS

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Madison Bryant

& Chace Holland

The Big Day

November 2, 2019 Cypress Hall in Hernando, Mississippi

The Engagement: Chace surprised Madison with dinner and a visit to the 50 Nights of Lights in Cleveland, MS. He got down on one knee right in front of the big Christmas tree. They then celebrated with family and friends at Madison’s favorite restaurant.

The Old VW Bus: Tin Can Photos provided a VW bus photo booth for guests and the wedding party. Jason Coleman set off fireworks at the end of the evening. The Gown: An A-line, lace gown with cap sleeves and an embellished belt from Low’s Bridal The Cake: Created by Lou Toole The Food: Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering The Music: Derick Culver The Flowers: Butterflies Florist Hernando, MS The Photographer: Crystal and Ben Photography The Honeymoon: The couple cruised the Bahamas for a week, and then spent a few days at Universal Studios Orlando.

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Hannah Watson

& Nicholas Treece

The Big Day

October 12, 2019 The bride’s family home in Belmont, Mississippi

The Proposal: Nick surprised Hannah with a weekend trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. They woke

up early to watch the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, the first place in the U.S. that sees sunlight. He proposed just as the sun began to rise. The Theme: Hannah was inspired by a collection of brass candlesticks from her late grandmother that adorned each table. The soft, romantic feel incorporated blush tones and dusty blue hues. The Gown: Structured satin ball gown featuring a plunging v-neck and a pleated cumberbund waistband from David’s Bridal. The bride also wore a cathedral length veil with lace trim from The Bride and Groom in Columbus, MS. The Cake: The bride made a three-tier cake, that incorporated two flavors of chiffon with fresh strawberry curd. The Food: Creative Elegance Catering The Flowers: Scarlet O’Hara roses, dahlias, garden roses and eucalyptus designed by Wildflowers in Belmont, MS. The Photographer: Sarah Pearson Photography Starkville, MS The Honeymoon: The couple spent the first two nights at the Nest in Oxford, MS. They then traveled to Big Sur, California where they explored the Pacific Coast Highway.

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Taylor Loosier

& Joseph Sparkman

The Big Day

November 23, 2019 Paris Yates Chapel in Oxford, Mississippi

The Little Details: Hannah McCormick created a live painting of the first dance. The couple left in a Rolls Royce provided by Tricia Myers, and the wedding party was transported in trolley cars by Rebel Ride of Oxford.

The Reception: Colonel’s Quarters at Castle Hill in Oxford, MS The Gown: A silk Essence of Australia off the shoulder gown with plunging sweetheart neckline from Low’s Bridal in Brinkely, AR. The Cake: Five-tier white, lemon infused cake with buttercream icing and cascading florals created by Alice Chow. The Food: Castle Hill of Oxford served beef tenderloin, charcuterie, shrimp and grits, fried oysters and late night “chicken on a stick” snack The Music: The Soulsations - RAM Entertainment Memphis, TN The Flowers: White hydrangeas, roses and greenery with cascading orchid by Holiday Flowers and Events in Memphis, TN The Photographer: Brook Dees Visual Stories The Honeymoon: St. Lucia

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Paige Holland

& Will Tindall

The Big Day

February 22, 2020 The Gin in Nesbit, Mississippi

The Homeymoon: The couple relaxed at the all-inclusive Riu Cancun resort in Cancun, Mexico. They toured Tulum Myan Ruins, zip lined through the jungle and snorkeled in the Cenotes.

The Decor: Bride of Boaz wedding planners in Hernando, MS created a simple and rustic setting at the Gin. The Music: DeepBlu Entertainment - DJ Justin Jaggers The Gown: Low’s Bridal in Brinkley, AR The Cake: Brown Baguette in Southaven, MS The Food: Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering The Flowers: White roses and hydrangeas, with eucalyptus and dusty miller by Trish Snider Hernando Flower Shop. The Photographer: AMPV - Ashlea Marie Photography and Videography Hernando, MS

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Jordan Nunn The Big Day

& Luke Latham

June 15, 2019 Red Barn Reception Hall in Hernando, Mississippi

The Wedding Theme: Rustic elegance with pops of rose petal pink for the girls and navy suits for the guys. Silver accents, lanterns and candles set the mood.

The Honeymoon: The couple spent a week in NYC. They visited the 9/11 Memorial, attended a Yankees game and took a night cruise around Manhattan.

The Ring: Original design from Custom Jewelers in Southaven, MS The Gown: High neck, beaded Madison James gown from Engagements in Grenada, MS. Included a long train and cathedral veil. The Cake: Shelley Lashlee in Olive Branch, MS created a 4 tier white cake for the couple along with a chocolate cake for the groom adorned with a picture of the couple’s dog, Haven. The Food: First Choice Catering served barbecue chicken and salad bar. The Music: DJ Aaron The Flowers: Cindy Vick from Batesville, MS arranged the bride’s bouquet with white and pink roses, white hydrangeas, pink tulips, snap dragons, lamb’s ear and greenery. The Photographer: Brittany Mitchell Photography from Olive Branch, MS.

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Sarah Goss

& Jake Linton

The Big Day

May 4, 2019 Bonne Terre’s White Chapel in Nesbit, Mississippi

The Engagement: Sarah caught more than a fish after a day of fishing! After hours of fishing on the land where Jake grew up, Sarah finally caught the first fish. Jake came over to help unhook the fish and ended up on one knee with a ring and a promise of forever.

Wedding planners and Decor: Bride of Boaz Bride’s Gown: A bell gown with simple lace detail from David’s Bridal Flowers: A mix of peonies, hydrangeas, lamb’s ear and eucalyptus created by Blossoms in Batesville, MS. Photographer: Husband and wife duo Jo Darling Photography The Cake: Brown Baguette of Southaven, MS created a dessert bar featuring assorted cakes, cookies, fruit tarts, brownies, key lime pie and banana pudding. The Food: Bonne Terre’s chef served the couple’s favorite New Orleans dishes including Jambalaya, crawfish dip and assorted cajun finger foods. Music: Laramie played at the ceremony, and DJ Wyatt rocked the reception.

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NOTTOWAY, White Castle, La. BRANDON HALL, Natchez, Miss.

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SHADOWLAWN B&B, Columbus, Miss.

Romancing the Past By Pamela A. Keene

Photography Courtesy of Nottoway, Shadowlawn B&B, Brandon Hall, Montrose Antebellum and Cedar Oaks

Historic homes and former plantations make idyllic backdrops for the ultimate dream wedding. Sweeping tree-lined driveways, large porches graced with elegant fluted columns plus landscapes with tall magnolias, swaths of azaleas and well-groomed lawns: These are the things that can add elegance to Southern weddings. The South is dotted with beautiful historic homes, many of which were former plantations that have found a new purpose as wedding and event venues. DeSoto 59


MONTROSE ANTEBELLUM Holly Springs, Miss.

hollyspringsmsgardenclub.com/weddings When a bridal party chooses Montrose in Holly Springs, Miss., the property becomes theirs for the weekend, from Friday evening until Sunday morning. “Montrose was created for a bride in 1858, and it’s still serving brides today,” says Lisa Childers, wedding planner. The original plantation owner Alfred Aaron Brooks built the home as a wedding gift for his daughter. The Greek Revival redbrick home has two-story white Corinthian columns and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “The setting is amazing no matter what time of year and it offers many wonderful places for the ceremony, the reception, and photos that will last a lifetime,” says Childers. “We have preferred vendors, but brides can also bring in their own caterers, florists, bands, and whatever to make their day special,” says Childers, who, in addition to her job, is a member of the Holly Springs Garden Club which maintains Montrose. “T hey can host rehear sa l dinner s, bridesmaid brunches, and their wedding all on one weekend, which is perfect for bridal party guests and families coming from other areas, often from out of state.” The property, owned by the City of Holly Springs, includes an historic arboretum, one of many settings for bridal events. Inside, a two-story curved staircase descends to a double parlor that can be used for a ceremony or reception. Proceeds from events at Montrose Antebellum contribute to the continuing preservation and restoration of the plantation.

SHADOWLAWN B&B Columbus, Miss.

abrideidea.com Shadowlawn Bed & Breakfast in Columbus, Miss., brings Southern antebellum charm to life. Its sweeping porch with six towering fluted columns is often the setting for weddings. A full-service wedding provider, Shadowlawn hosts indoor or outdoor weddings and receptions, bridesmaid events, and rehearsal dinners on site. Also a bed and breakfast, Shadowlawn can accommodate members of the wedding party for overnight stays. Or 60 DeSoto


the couple can spend their honeymoon night in the spacious Master King Suite, with a double-jetted whirlpool, stately antique furnishings, and 13-foot-high ceilings.

CEDAR OAKS Oxford, Miss.

cedaroaks.org Cedar Oaks in Oxford, Miss., is a partnership between Oxford’s Historic Properties Commission and the Cedar Oaks Guild. Built in 1859 and nearly destroyed by fire in 1864, the home was saved by women’s clubs in the town and moved to its current location in 1963. Now owned by the City of Oxford, the historic home hosts events, including weddings. “Cedar Oaks, in a pretty residential neighborhood, is very distinctive when it comes to antebellum homes,” says Martha Huckins, president of the Cedar Oaks Guild. “So many antebellum homes are privately owned, so having an intimate wedding here is very special.” The home can accommodate inside weddings of up to 75 guests; outdoor venues can host up to 200.

NOTTOWAY White Castle, La.

nottoway.com As the So uth’s largest extant antebellum mansion, Nottoway is located on the River Road Scenic Byway on the edge of the Mississippi River. The AAA Four-Diamond property is a member of Historic Hotels of America. “For five guests or 500, Nottoway has all that you need to create the perfect backdrop for your big day,” says Kirsten Acosta, director of sales and catering at Nottoway. “Setting Nottoway apart from other venues, the resort offers wedding couples the unique ability to stay on property, with 40 hotel rooms available to wedding guests.” The former sugar cane estate in White Castle, La., continues to be a showplace that transports guests back in time in an elegant historic setting complete with modern amenities. Multiple venues range from the Grand Pavilion and the adjacent Randolph’s Ballroom to the elegant White Ballroom where the original owner’s daughters married nearly 170 years ago.

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MONTROSE ANTEBELLUM, Holly Springs, Miss.

BRANDON HALL Natchez, Miss.

brandonhallplantation.com Guests arrive at Brandon Hall in Natchez, Miss., by coming down a winding, tree-lined gravel road and through an elaborate iron gate. “There’s no doubt that you’re coming for a very special occasion when you pass through the gate,” says Kaiser Harriss, who owns Brandon Hall with his wife Ashley. Harriss returned to his hometown of Natchez specifically to purchase the historic plantation and create a wedding business and bed and breakfast with his wife and his mother, Pam. “Pam’s the wedding coordinator; she’s been doing this for several decades and she knows how to help brides have an unforgettable experience,” he says. The 45-acre plantation was built in 1856 for the son of Mississippi’s first native-born governor. “It was always a political and social home, a place where people gathered for receptions and parties,” Harriss says. “Brandon Hall is still that way, a welcoming and fashionable place that people seek out for one-of-a-kind events.” The home’s porches make a grand statement with 32 fluted columns adorned with decorative capitals. Nestled in a parklike setting next to the Natchez Trace Parkway, the landscape includes hundreds of traditional Southern plants, from stately live oaks to azaleas and camellias. Terraced gardens, a front-yard pond, and a gazebo add to its charm. Wedding guests can also stay overnight in a variety of different rooms. “Plantation weddings transport guests to a different world, and we’re seeing many brides choose to celebrate here from other parts of the country,” says Pam Harriss. “Their event becomes a destination wedding that captures the mystique of the South, and that’s our goal – a memorable day that’s stress-free.”

BELMONT PLANTATION Greenville, Miss.

belmontplantation1857.com Tall magnolias surround the 9,000-square-foot Belmont Plantation in the Mississippi Delta’s Greenville. Built in the mid-1800s, it’s filled with elaborate decorative plaster molding and ceiling medallions created by European masters, massive wooden pocket doors, and high ceilings. “One of the many assets of having a wedding here is that the mansion is so distinctive and ornate,” says Camille Collins, Belmont’s CEO. “It is indescribably 62 DeSoto


CEDAR OAKS, Oxford, Miss.

a very beautiful place for a wedding, from the huge porches and verandas to the gorgeously appointed gardens. Many brides choose to feature the décor of the mansion, only adding very simple floral displays and arrangements.” The L-shaped home’s four large downstairs parlors can be configured to host seated dinners or buffet receptions, or events can take place in the spacious back yard under a tent. “Belmont is so versatile that we can accommodate weddings from 50 to 500 guests,” Collins says. “Additionally, because we are a bed and breakfast, many of our brides choose to stay here with their bridesmaids, family, and guests the night before their wedding.” Belmont has eight suites, and it can house up to 26 people for overnight stays, she says. “When a bride chooses a plantation wedding, she’s making a statement to her guests,” Collins says. “Here in the South, we know about hospitality and elegance. And when you invite people to your wedding at a plantation, they know it’s time for a party. It’s an occasion they certainly don’t want to miss.”

Pamela A. Keene of Flowery Branch, Ga., is a journalist/photographer who writes for magazines across the Southeast. She specializes in features, travel, gardening and personality articles.

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Cas t l e s Made of Sand By Melissa Corbin Photo courtesy of Janel Hawkins

Gulf Shores’ Janel Hawkins creates sand castles to incorporate into proposals, weddings and other special events.

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Musician Jimi Hendrix once wrote, “And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea eventually.” Professional sand sculptor and owner of Alabama’s Sand Castle University, Janel Hawkins would have to agree. Hawkins spends hours creating elaborate castles for proposals, weddings, and other special events, but like the ceremonies they accompany, these castles made of sand aren’t permanent. “If you have the right techniques, sand will be strong but it will never last,” Hawkins says. Unlike her subject’s impermanency, couples come to her in hopes of celebrating their entire lives together, commemorating the event with a Hawkins original. An architect, builder and sometimes even guardian of such wonders, Hawkins successfully carves her special niche in the community one bucket of sand at a time. Graduating with degrees in business and psychology from Florida State University, the 20-something actually found her calling her freshman year. She answered a Craigslist ad for a would-be sandcastle teacher with no prior experience. “I thought that was great because I didn’t have any previous sand sculpting knowledge, even though I’ve lived on the beach my whole life,” Hawkins says. Hawkins tried out and was offered the sculptor’s position for the Destin-based company. She went on to manage the company before eventually moving back to her hometown of Fort Morgan, Ala., where she started Sand Castle University. Now in her fourth season, Hawkins admits there’s no one else in the area that does what she does in her small community that spans the areas of Fort Morgan, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores. For people seeking sand castles experience in Florida’s Panhandle, she refers them to her closest competitor in Perdido Key, Fla. Regardless, those who do create sand castles in and around Gulf Shores respect each other’s turf or shore, she says. “We all have our own styles.” Her list of building tools is forever evolving to include everyday items like vegetable oil spray that acts as a lubricant so that when clients pull the mold off, the castle’s sides are smooth and ready to be transformed. Cake spatulas, straws, and plastic shovels are other go-tos. A melon baller works well to carve out the front door to a castle. But, the most important tool she insists is imagination. 66 DeSoto


During high season, you’ll most likely catch Hawkins pulling her cart of tools out to the beach where a family, girls weekend getaway, or even a company’s team-building exercise awaits. That’s one of the beauties of Sand Castle University. She comes to the clients and documents the occasion throughout the castle-building lesson with a GoPro time-lapse video, which she later emails to the participants. There’s a myriad of finished castles beaming from past participant’s beachfront “property” on the Sand Castle University Instagram page. Among them are castles by budding sculptors from Hawkins classes as well as her professional handiwork commissioned by ESPN, and from the many proposals and wedding ceremonies in which she’s been honored to take part. She remembers a certain bridegroom surprised by his future wife with a “Beauty and the Beast” castle with the words “Will You Marry Me” scrolled upon its entrance, complete with an enchanted rose and pedestal, of course. “If there’s a fairy tale castle, I’ve probably looked it up at some point,” she says. Hawkins drew out a few sketches for the groom-to-be with varying details dictating the castle’s price. After deciding which castle fit his ideas, Hawkins got out to the beach on proposal day four hours prior to his popping the question. But, as any romantic fantasy contains a few twists to the plot, her “Beauty and the Beast” castle did not disappoint. “Usually there are families around and asking questions,” she explains. “I was running out of time, yet needed to sit down for a minute. When I turned around this little girl had her hand on the tower. I yelled, ‘Stop, please don’t touch that!’ She was crying and the parents were so mad.” Hawkins rushed to remove the tiny fingerprints from the tower, annoyed that even after explaining someone had paid hundreds of dollars for her masterpiece, the spectators were inconsolable. It was then that Hawkins started protecting her workspace with traffic cones “People are usually pretty respectful of my art while I’m doing it,” she says. She also now asks that people within a 20-foot radius of the castle vacate the area prior to proposal time. They usually graciously oblige, she says, almost like they’re in on the big reveal. DeSoto 67


In the end, the prospective groom’s romantic “Beauty and the Beast” castle set him back $750 — mere dollars per-square-foot, and quite the unique proposal story. Beach weddings present creative ways to incorporate a Hawkins design into the ceremony. Couples often take sand from the castle as a memento, and some use the sand for their union ceremony, which is normally done with candles. Each takes a cup of sand and then together pours the sand into a larger or common container. While she’s never had a florist come to the site during the castle’s build-out, she often pays the wedding’s florist a visit so that she may utilize the bride’s flowers in her creations. Planning with a cushion of time for the actual build is crucial, as Hawkins needs daylight to work. Naturally, afternoon and evening weddings are her sweet spot. With those gorgeous Alabama sunsets, she’s not really had issues with convincing a bride otherwise. “A lot of times I’m an afterthought,” says Hawkins who ideally needs 2-to3 weeks for consultation and planning. On average though she says she normally gets two weeks, and it’s rare to get a year’s advance notice. Yet, she’s only done one with a single day’s notice. “If I’m available, it’s all good,” she explains, adding that she refuses to cancel on pre-bookings. Regardless, she recommends a weathercontingent, back-up date which she’ll reserve free of charge. Just as the Tibetan Buddhist’s sand mandala ritual teaches that everything is ephemeral, Hawkins’ sculptures must be smashed during sea turtle season, which occurs May to October. Some turtles along the Gulf Coast are protected by the Endangered Species Act which prohibits any disturbance of the nesting turtles, hatchlings, and/or their nests. If there are holes or obstructions caused by the building or take-down of the castle, the turtles get disoriented. So, after the ceremony, happy couples often partake in the castle’s destruction with the entire thing captured on Hawkins’ GoPro keepsake. 68 DeSoto


During a recent sand castlebuilding class, Hawkins grabbed a nearby seagull feather and perched it atop a student’s personal architectural endeavor as if to add a punctuation mark – its crowning glory rest assured. She smiled and reflected upon the fact that she is not her target demographic. “I’m not the marrying type. But, if I were, eloping would be my choice.” The tide pulled the castle remnants out to sea creating a blank canvas for another day of castles made of sand. sandcastleu.com

Melissa Corbin is a Tennessee-based journalist writing about the people and places that make their corner of the world unique. She’s as comfortable sleeping under the stars as she is on high-threadcount. Follow her adventures on Instagram @ melcorbin.

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Don’t Be

That Guy

By Judy Garrison Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern Photography

Good Manners Never Go Out of Style

Put away the iPhones

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In 1922, Emily Post understood the necessity of guidelines for every occasion and published Etiquette in Society, an immediate blockbuster. Synonymous with manners, Post might cringe at some of the modern wedding practices and conduct at these 21st century soirées. Although many of Post’s wedding rules have loosened or been abandoned, her fundamental truths about how to act at a wedding or any other of life’s gatherings have not changed. Always attempt to please the greatest number of people because good manners never go out of style.


Have a blast

Allow the photographer private time with the couple.

The good, the bad, and the ugly… wedding photographers who have seen it all offer advice for being a considerate guest. Come Monday, the conversation should not revolve around you. The festivities at last weekend’s wedding caused even Cinderella to blush with envy. The bride was heart-stopping in a lovely vintage gown, and the handsome groom was obviously so much in love, “but (and this is where it all goes wrong) could you believe those embarrassing moves the best man did on the dance floor?” Don’t be that guy that outshines — or eclipses — the bride and groom. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,000. Every cent has been carefully allocated between the venue, caterer, photographer, florist, and multiple others to ensure that this moment in time is as close to perfection as humanly possible. And to enjoy it all, invitations are sent to the couple’s closest family and friends, an honor no guest should take lightly. As wedding photographers, my husband and I have seen our share of the good, the bad, and the ugly at weddings. We have filed every single one of these moments in our brains to share with our clients and all who celebrate at weddings. From the moment you receive an invitation to the last second of the reception, be the best wedding guest by observing correct etiquette and following some simple advice.

Yes, I’ll be there. The invitation in the mail signals the beginning of the social affair of the year. Return your acceptance card through the postal service immediately. The couple depends on your nod to secure numbers needed by the caterer and venue long before the wedding day. Don’t text or send a message via Facebook; it might be easier, but it’s tacky. And, while you’re at it, go ahead and make plans to mail the wedding gift (or order via their registry) so that you won’t have to lug it to the wedding. Gifts should be sent whether you attend the wedding or not. Let’s go shopping! Whether it’s casual, semi-formal, or formal, dress according to the bridal couple’s request. The most popular, semi-formal; however, casual weddings sporting bedazzled Keds and flipflops are on the rise. In regards to color, never wear white and avoid wearing the color of the bridal party. I love a party! Can I come? You have children, a significant other, or close friend, and you wonder if you can bring them. Refer to the invitation. If it doesn’t say “plus one” or guest or children, that’s a “No!” “Wedding Crashers” was a great movie, but that’s where the idea should end. DeSoto 71


Respect and enjoy all traditions

She (and he) is off limits! No matter if you are family or friend, don’t push your way into the bridal suite to see the bride (or groom) before the ceremony. The hours before the ceremony have been planned down to the minute. Stylists are busy preparing the bride and the entire wedding party, gifts are being exchanged, photographs are being taken, and frankly, this is the time when the bride needs time to exhale. Months of planning have come down to this very moment; she deserves a little reflection. In fact, don’t text the bride or groom on the wedding day for any reason. If there’s a problem, talk to the wedding planner or anyone besides the couple. Even good intentions cause stress, and that’s the last thing to add to the couple’s shoulders. Don’t be late. The ceremony is the most important part of the day. Ideally, arrive 30 minutes before the ceremony time on the invitation; if it’s a large wedding, play it safe by arriving even earlier so you’ll have a good seat. Be on time for the vows; avoid an awkward entrance. Fashionably late doesn’t apply to weddings. And, don’t skip the ceremony. It’s the main event, and as much as you might like to ditch the ceremony and show up at the party, it’s looked upon as rude. Respect traditions. Some wedding traditions are as old as time itself. Familiar ones like exchanging rings, wearing a veil, tossing the garter, or wearing something blue are always popular. But what about religious traditions? The Jewish ceremony takes place underneath a chuppah, and the reading of the Ketubah lays out the marriage contract. In Latin weddings, the groom gives the bride 13 gold coins, symbolizing Christ and his apostles. Some Christian weddings include the braiding of three strands of rope, representing the bride, groom, and God, and when braided, become one. A Celtic tradition of cords or colorful fabric is wrapped around the couple’s joined hands, signifying the literal tying of the knot. No matter if the expressions be religious, cultural, or secular, appreciate the experience by honoring the couple’s traditions regardless of your faith or belief. Put your phone (& camera) away. Be present at the ceremony. Focus your attention on the bride and groom, not on getting that iPhone shot to share on social media. The professional photographer should not have to compete with iPhones, cameras, video cameras, or 72 DeSoto


flashes. Having your devices show up in the professional photos is not how the couple wants to remember their day. And, silence your phone. Once the reception begins, snap away. Let the photographer do the job. Photography is an investment for the couple, a hefty investment. And, for the professionals to do their job, guests need to get out of the way. Do not hover over the photographer or stand behind them with cell phones and cameras shooting over their shoulders. It’s important that all eyes are on the photographer, not on Uncle Bob or Aunt Susie. Stop sticking phones and iPads out in the aisles during the ceremony; the photographer only has one chance to get that first kiss. Don’t shout poses to the bride and groom, and for heaven’s sake, stop messing with the bride’s dress. Most photographers have a person in charge of fluffing and straightening. Forget the afterceremony photo shoot of the bridal party; go enjoy the reception. You’ll have the opportunity to relive every moment in about six weeks when the images are delivered. Get out on that floor! In other words, have a great time. You are an important part of this experience, and the bride and groom have gone to great lengths to make sure you enjoy yourself. A live band or charismatic DJ? Hit the dance floor. Request tunes. Mingle with other guests. Enjoy the open bar, but know your limits; don’t embarrass yourself or the couple, and never, ever grab a bottle from behind the bar. Time to leave. It’s good to stay for the entire reception; of course, 80-year-old Grandma Liz can leave early if she wants. Keep dancing until the very end. However, before calling it a night, it’s important to speak to the couple (or a family member). Acknowledge the beauty of the wedding and thank them for including you. Your happiness means they made it as wonderful as they imagined. Writer Judy Garrison and her husband/photographer Len Garrison love love. For that reason, rather than taking the weekend off, they spend their time traveling, photographing, and curating some of the greatest love stories of the 21st century. View their work at www.seeingsouthernphotography.com.

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homegrown | WEDDING INVITATIONS

Custom Personalized Notecards

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Grace Anne Byrd

Branding Your Wedding By Elizabeth M. Tettleton | Photography courtesy of Grace Anne Byrd and Sheri Scruggs

Tell your love story from the save-the-date to the thank-you cards with custom-designed stationery. The internet is flooded with options for brides. From blogs to Pinterest, professionals and amateurs, brides can become quickly overwhelmed when being told what they should want when it comes to wedding papers and stationery. Instead, they should be getting assistance in discovering what they truly need. It can be an undertaking that comes with a hefty price tag, especially because brides are usually looking at professional services for stationery for the very first time. Two Oxford-based stationery designers Sheri Scruggs of p. press papers and Grace Anne Byrd of Grace Anne Byrd Designs help couples craft images that depict their unique styles and can brand the wedding from start to finish.

Know Your Budget “You have to decide what is most important to you,” says Scruggs. “Knowing priorities dictates where you use your budget.” Your budget for your overall wedding is important to establish, but deciding a specific budget on save-the-dates, invitations, thank-you cards, enclosures, etc., is most crucial to determine in the beginning phases of the journey, Scruggs emphasizes, especially if stationary is one of the top prioritized must-haves. “I don’t want to show a bride something she can’t afford,” says Scruggs, who has a PDF packet she emails to brides who reach out to her. “It helps me establish with her DeSoto 75


Personalized Notecards

what the real cost of what ‘she’s seen before’ actually is before we meet in person.” Scruggs has found this approach helps her brides reduce frustration and not waste time, and they can both gauge if meeting for a consultation will be beneficial. Her company provides options for a range of budgets. By offering digital printing and outsourcing to other printers, she says she is able to offer brides exceptional rates. Artists Bring Details Artist Grace Anne Byrd provides hand-calligraphed images. Her work is uniquely “you” and is an example of personalization for a signature life event. “Every piece of artwork starts as a conversation with the client to nail down what’s important to them,” says Byrd. “How I can perfectly encapsulate words and artwork will become a treasured work of art for them for years to come.” She offers four types of calligraphy, and specializes in hand-calligraphed envelopes, papers, cards, and enclosures, but she also takes her art to a larger format that continues to narrate the couple’s love story long after the wedding day. “These custom pieces of artwork have contained scripture verses from the wedding service, wedding vows, lyrics from the first dance, or a quote that is meaningful to the couple,” Byrd explains. One piece of Byrd’s work that has caught attention on social media was the laundry room of a friend she recently hand painted. “In years past I’ve tried making wallpaper from a collection of handpainted watercolor patterns,” says Byrd. “When I wasn’t able to make the wallpaper designs transcribe to wallpaper like I wanted, my friend asked me if I could just paint a pattern on her laundry room wall.” Getting What You Pay For In the business world, “you only get one first impression” with your next client, and the same can be said for every detail of a wedding when communicating with guests. Some styles of paper printing dictate the thickness and type of paper required, but aside from that, the weight, touch, and feel make a more significant impression on the recipient. Scruggs understands that this realization is not something that translates for brides without them being able to feel the product in their hands. “I require an initial consultation,” says Scruggs. “I have found that you cannot translate quality online, through photos or through email.” 76 DeSoto


And there’s a distinct difference between ordering a save-the-date from an online printer versus a quality printing house that solely prints as their craft. “I don’t print anything from my home,” says Scruggs. “I outsource to quality vendors I trust that handle those aspects. I create the layout, the design, and mediate the order, but I’m not printing and pressing in my own home.” Scruggs then has items dropshipped directly to the client, or to herself and then delivers to the client. Essentially, p. press is the intermediary and the quality control that the “do-it-yourself ” option doesn’t provide. Invited guests, quite literally, will feel the difference. ppresspapers.com Etsy: GraceAnneByrdDesigns

Wedding Invitation History

Wedding invitations have come a long way since the days of the town crier, which is how guests were invited in the 1700s. Anyone who heard the announcement could attend the ceremony. Although the days of the town crier invites are gone, many other long-ago customs for wedding invitations still survive today. As more people learned to read, wealthier families often commissioned monks to write the wedding invitations. Calligraphy from monks was highly coveted, and they often added a family crest to the invitation so that those who were virtually illiterate could identify the family. The delicate piece of tissue paper with the invitation is actually a hold-over custom from the 1600s when metal plate engraving was invented. The engraving would easily smudge, so a small piece of paper was placed on top of the invitation. That custom continues to be commonly used today. And what’s with two envelopes, another tradition still used today? Before the 20th century, hand delivery was the only guaranteed way a wedding invitation would arrive. Many of these deliveries were by horseback, and the envelope did not arrive in the cleanest condition. Thus, the double envelope idea was created. Once the courier reached his destination, he handed the invitation to a servant, who then removed the outer envelope and handed the inner envelope along with the invitation to the master or mistress of the house. Source: www.weddings.lovetoknow.com

Based in Oxford, Elizabeth McDaniel Tettleton is a freelance writer and the leader and co-founder of The Oxford Comma creative writing workshop group. She is also an event planner for the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

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southern gentleman | WEDDING DANCE

Dance Like Everyone is Watching By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of backyardballroom.com

The first step to a happy marriage might just begin on the dance floor at your wedding. My wedding day was gorgeous. A perfect October day on the coast of North Carolina. Blue skies, photogenic clouds on the horizon, nary a hurricane in sight. We had our ceremony – short and sweet – and a cocktail hour – just enough time for one sip and 100 photos – then our introduction and first dance. Oh, that dance. As a former middle school teacher, I can say with certainty that I’ve seen better moves in a gym decorated with crepe paper and one too many dark corners than anyone witnessed in Southport, N.C., on Oct. 20, 2006. My wife and I, we dance at Phish shows. If you don’t know Phish, think Grateful Dead with fewer tie-dyes; think The Allman Brothers with sillier lyrics; think 10,000 people dancing like those giant blow-up noodle things that car lots use to try to 78 DeSoto

get you to stop in for a test drive. That’s what I look like when I dance: a windsock puppet flailing in the breeze, following no particular rhythm or rhyme or tempo, just moving for the sake of moving. Frankly it’s embarrassing. Oh, it’s freeing when you’re in the crowd at a concert and the lights and music conspire to whip everyone into an ecstatic frenzy, but to dance like this at your wedding? No bueno. Let’s just say that if I had decided to whip out some Phish moves for our first dance there’d have been no honeymoon. That’s not to say we didn’t try to learn to dance. We did. But 20 minutes into our complimentary one-hour intro


session at Babs McDance, my wife-to-be and I both knew that we’d be doing the eighth-grade shuffle in front of 100 of our nearest and dearest; we decided to be fine with that. So, when Bob Dylan’s “Bye and Bye” played, we assumed the center of the dance floor and attempted a simple box step. Which we managed until the first chorus. That’s where things fell apart. We lost count. Blushed. Kissed. And scooted close – so close my eighth-grade teacher self would’ve slid onto the dance floor and politely reminded us to leave a little daylight between each other – and began to Frankenshuffle. You know the move. You’ve done the move. Her hands on your shoulder, or, scandalously, clasped loosely behind your neck. Your hands on her waist, or, if you’re feeling your oats, on her hips, or, if you’re hopeful things are going to go that way later, hands on her lower back, pulling her so close she could count your pocket change with her hip. Through all of this, your feet barely move. Essentially you lean to the left, lift your right foot ever so slightly, reset your right foot and repeat on the other side. Advanced shufflers might attempt a glacially-slow turn. Which we did. In the months building up to the wedding a friend attempted to teach us to Shag, but the silky smooth six-step was too much for us to handle. We tried a Foxtrot and a Waltz to no avail. And in the middle of it all, the videos of coordinated dances – wedding parties doing the Thriller dance down the aisle, couples reenacting whole choreographies from movies and music videos as they made their entrance, father-daughter dances that showed signs of professional ballroom dancers in

someone’s family tree – emerged. We watched a ton of these videos. We laughed at a few. We stared in awe at others. We agreed that this was not for us. In the years since our wedding, I’ve come to regret not learning to dance, not learning at least one set of steps that I could do with my wife and make the whole world disappear for the length of a song. I’ve seen Shag dancers in North and South Carolina disappear into a melody and dazzle onlookers. I’ve stood by in bars in Louisiana while a zydeco band plays and the dance floor is awhirl. In Texas and Wyoming, I’ve watched cowboys take their ladies’ hands and lead them in nimble steps or hold them close when the tempo calls for it. In Chile and Peru and France and The Netherlands, I’ve stayed off the dance floor and left room for hip-shaking, quick-stepping, silly and sensual dancers and wished I had the confidence or the moves to match theirs. So, Southern Gentlemen and Gentleladies, if there’s one piece of wedding advice I can give you it’s not about how to live in bliss or how to make things last – those answers are yours to figure out – it’s this: learn to dance, and on your wedding day, do it well. And every anniversary thereafter, every moment you’re standing in the kitchen making dinner and your song comes on, grab your partner and dance. Jason Frye dances like no one is watching and prefers to dance when no one is watching. Maybe one day he’ll dance on Instagram, but you’ll never know if you don’t follow @BeardedWriter.

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southern harmony | EMPTY ATLAS

Getting on the Music Map By Jim Beaugez | Photography courtesy of Best OK Designs and J.B. Lawrence

Southern indie rockers rediscover creativity and partner with top talent for their latest release. Just when Jackson, Mississippi-based singer-songwriter Micah Smith thought things were all over for Empty Atlas, a new chapter unfolded for his indie-rock band. On the eve of releasing their debut album, Hestia, in 2016, Empty Atlas decided its album-release show would be its last. But there was no drama to the decision. Front man and songwriter Micah Smith simply wanted to tour more often, 80 DeSoto

while his bandmates had responsibilities that kept them close to home. Smith didn’t realize that Brennan Michael White, the next lead guitar player for Empty Atlas, was at their farewell performance. Nor did he know that bassist Alex Ingram, who played in an early version of the band, would move back from Nashville at the same time. He surely didn’t realize drummer


Robert Currie Hansford, whose band opened for Empty Atlas’s second-to-last show, would play a role. “At the end of December 2016, we got that group together and really haven’t stopped playing since,” says Smith. “We’ve had a really good time getting to tour all through the Southeast and recording new music.” Empty Atlas’s music centers on the storytelling of Smith, whose melodic instincts and emotional heft put him in the same category as songwriters like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cuties and Matt Berninger of The National. His bandmates deliver the rhythmic muscle to carry the weight of the songs and the sonic inventiveness to illustrate the depth of his lyrics. Smith calls the band’s latest release, Kairos [Carved in Stone Records], the “spiritual successor” to Hestia, which dealt with different notions of what home means to people. Also loosely conceptual in nature, Kairos deals with the search to rediscover creativity for the sake of creating. Both albums, although not autobiographical, follow seasons in Smith’s own life. Hestia arose from the existential question marks he encountered when he decided to get married and what it meant to create a home and a family. “I started thinking of these questions about what home means to me and why it’s so important,” he says. “[But] for other people, it’s not the same situation. Some people view home as this thing to run away from, not run to.” Four years later, Smith was rediscovering music as a means to create, rather than an end in itself. As the songs for Kairos took shape, he realized they also dealt with the personal reckonings that come from going all-in on one path. “It’s really about the idea of finding joy in the act of creating and in the act of making these connections with people, and about what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to be happy,” he says. The first single from Kairos, “Maximal,” wrestles those themes in the foreground, around the centerpiece line, “I never set the goal, so it’s always out of reach.” The main character casts aside relationships he’s built in order to commit to dream no matter the consequences, and having that blow up in his face. “[Goal chasing] is kind of a losing game in itself, because as soon as you set one goal and hit it, your desire is to set a higher goal for the next thing,” he says. “And it doesn’t necessarily work that way. “If all you care about is where you’re going to be in five years, then you’re going to spend five years trying to be somewhere and not actually be in places.” To achieve the album’s punch and clarity, the band called upon the mixing skills of Tyler Spratt, who contributed to the Imagine Dragons album Origins, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and worked with The Revivalists on their Platinum single “Wish I Knew You.” Just as Empty Atlas was finishing the album, the North Carolina-based indie label Carved in Stone Records heard about the band and contacted them. Smith says the more they talked, the more it became clear how much they cared about the band’s music. “We talked to a couple indie labels before about the potential of putting something out, but every time it just felt a lot like, ‘Well, what can you do for me?’” he says. “It just felt really crappy to get treated like a commodity before we ever signed anything.” Smith admits that what record labels can offer today is vastly different from the days when labels controlled the distribution and promotion of music. In the streaming era, many talented musicians have become savvy marketers, as well. “It’s just nice to have somebody else in your corner to help, and that is definitely what they were offering.” Jim Beaugez is a freelance music writer based in Clinton, Miss. Follow him on Twitter @JimBeaugez.

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in good spirits | RAMOS GIN FIZZ

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Shaken, Not Stirred Story and photography by Cheré Coen

The famous Ramos Gin Fizz requires several minutes of shaking to produce its beautiful frothy head. One of the most popular cocktails hailing from the spirited city of New Orleans is the Ramos Gin Fizz, made popular by Henry “Carl” Ramos at his turn-of-the-20th-century bar, The Imperial Cabinet Saloon. There’s some argument as to whether Ramos created the drink or it was the brainchild of friend Philip Machet, who owned a package liquor store in Baton Rouge. “Machet was an enterprising sort, and as a way to encourage business, he created a new drink from gin, cream, egg white, lemon juice, and soda water,” writes Elizabeth M. Williams and Chris McMillian in “Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans.” Machet offered this unique mixture to customers and soon the demand for the drink outpaced the sales of his store’s liquor, not to mention his ability to serve the drink to so many customers, the authors attest. So, Machet sold the recipe to Ramos. When Ramos opened the Imperial in New Orleans, he sold the original gin cocktail but added his own ingredients. Because of the cream and egg whites, intense shaking for several minutes is required for the drink to produce a frothy head. Ramos hired “shaker boys” to vibrate cocktail canisters for eight minutes per drink to produce the required result. The drink became a sensation — sometimes selling up to 5,000 in a week. During one Mardi Gras, there were 32 bartenders behind Ramos’ bar. Ramos served his last Gin Fizz in 1919, when Prohibition began and bars and saloons were forced to close. The moment Prohibition started, Ramos published his secret recipe in the New Orleans Item-Tribune, according to the Bourbon O Bar at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, which serves the Ramos Gin Fizz. Ramos died in 1928, his drink so renown his obituary was published in TIME magazine. Today, the Bourbon O Bar continues the tradition, not only serving the drink but shaking the concoction for six minutes via a shaker machine.

“It’s (the machine) the only one of its kind in the French Quarter,” says Camille Harley, the Bourbon O Bar mixologist. “‘The Joy of Mixology’ says to blend the Gin Fizz in a blender, but it doesn’t quite get as frothy.” The prolonged shaking makes all the difference, Harley insists. “When you shake it this long, it forms a meringue. It’s very frothy, very fresh.” Harley offers one last piece of advice for the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz. “The biggest thing is to add soda water last,” she says. According to the owners of the Bourbon O Bar, the following recipe is the exact recipe Ramos published in the New Orleans Item-Tribune with one exception. The bar uses simple syrup instead of Ramos’ use of powdered sugar. Ramos Gin Fizz

1/2-ounce gin 1 tablespoon simple syrup (1:1) 1/2-ounce fresh lemon juice 1/2-ounce fresh lime juice 1 fresh egg white 1-ounce heavy cream 3 drops orange flower water 1-ounce club soda, chilled Tools: shaker, strainer Glass: 8-ounce juice glass    Directions: Combine the first six ingredients in a shaker with one square cube of ice or three regular pieces of ice. Shake vigorously for at least six minutes. Pour the soda water into the glass, then strain the shaken mixture on top.

Cheré Coen is a native of New Orleans and thus, a lover of cocktails. Her roots hail back to Mississippi, however, which may be why she loves Four Roses bourbon as much as Faulkner.

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reflections | ONE WEEK WEDDING

Planning a Special Wedding in One Week By Betty H. Adams | Photo courtesy of Betty H. Adams

The ceremony was rushed to accommodate the groom’s military assignment, but the community wouldn’t be left out. In my senior year at Louisiana College, Robert L. Adams sent a letter asking me to wed. Not only was the letter a pledge of undying love but a list of logical reasons why this wedding should happen within a week. Bob followed up with a phone call, of course, explaining that his first duty assignment after graduating Navy’s Officer Candidate School was being sent to the Philippines for three years. If we were married, the Navy would allow me to join him as soon as I graduated and pay my way there. I anxiously headed home to Bogalusa, La., to plead my case with my parents, who took wedding vows seriously. I waited until morning at the breakfast table to state my case for a wedding the following weekend. There was complete silence until my Dad asked if I was prepared to spend the rest of my life looking at Bob across the breakfast table. “You must be sure,” my Dad says, “for in this family there is no divorce. Murder maybe, but no divorce.” My Mom and I decided to have a simple service in our living room with our immediate families present. Our minister would perform the ceremony, Mom the paperwork, and Bob sent me money for two simple gold wedding bands. Back at school Mom called and said, “This isn’t going to work.” I thought she was calling off the wedding, but instead she wanted to move the ceremony to the church because half the community wanted to attend. That weekend, flowers were delivered, my dear cousin arrived to sing in the ceremony, a photographer showed up, and a friend of the family created a wedding cake with a bride and groom on top that my sisters later used on their wedding 84 DeSoto

cakes. There are some perks to living in a small town where everyone knows you. That night when the music swelled and I walked down the aisle on my father’s supportive arm, I knew I had made the right choice. The church was decorated with flowers, the pews were filled with family and friends who had loved and supported me my whole life, and Bob and his father waited at the altar. Bob looked so dashing in his new naval uniform of dress blues. The ceremony went off without a hitch and the simple reception was as elaborate as most receptions in Southeast Louisiana were at that time. Bob and I left for our three-day honeymoon in his father’s white Ford. His Dad never did get “Just married” off that car for my cousins had used shoe dye instead of polish. Our brief honeymoon consisted of me finding an apartment near campus and getting Bob ready to travel to the Philippines. Conservative Louisiana College had a firm rule that married women could not live on campus even though my husband would be on the other side of the world serving his country. A funny postscript happened years later. My daughters came across the article of our wedding in my hometown paper. It was a huge spread because I had worked for Mr. and Mrs. Houser’s newspaper every summer. When their former staffer got married, they treated it as if it were the society event of the year. For me, it was.

Betty H. Adams lives in Lafayette, La., where she writes her memories.


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