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June

CONTENTS 2021 • VOLUME 18 • NO.5

features

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Our 2021 Newlyweds

Choosing the “One” ​for Your Wedding Photography

Romantic and Iconic ​Honeymoon Havens

departments 16 Living Well ​Elusive Sleep

52 On the Road Again ​Crystal Springs, Miss.

20 Notables ​Chuck Cooper/Van Atkins Jewelers

54 Greater Goods 68 Homegrown ​WilKat Wood Art

24 Exploring Art ​Artist Megan Grinder

72 Southern Gentleman ​Creative Bachelor Parties

28 Exploring Books ​The Photographer

76 Southern Harmony ​Dale Watson

30 Southern Roots ​The Redneck Rosarian

78 In Good Spirits ​The Sazarac

34 Table Talk Flora-Bama Yacht Club 38 Exploring Destinations ​National WWII Museum

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80 Exploring Events 82 Reflections The Tomato Lottery

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editor’s note | JUNE

June Brides “When you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life, and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweetheart for a wife,” they sang in the 1954 musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” That song may explain why June is such a popular month for weddings — and for DeSoto Magazine’s annual bridal issue. I don’t know whether or not that song inspired my husband and me to pick a June wedding date, but I still feel like a bride 25 years later. And I hope he feels like he got a sweetheart for a wife. As we approach our silver anniversary later this month, we still seek romance whenever we can whether it’s an intimate dinner or a relaxing getaway. Although our ceremony was very small, we knew we wanted beautiful wedding photos. Long after the cake was gone and the dress wouldn’t fit, we’d have only our memories and the pictures from that day. Writer and wedding photographer Judy Garrison offers tips in her feature story for choosing the “one” — the right photographer to fit your budget and your style. As soon as you select your date and venue, the photographer should be the next decision. Planning a wedding also means thinking about a honeymoon, and some of the most iconic destinations have withstood the test of time for romance. Travel writer Debi Lander describes places that have attracted couples for generations in her story, “Honeymoon Havens.”

JUNE 2021 • Vol. 18 No.6

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

Of course, our annual wedding issue wouldn’t be complete without a look at the local brides and grooms who are featured in the 2021 “I Do” section. Seeing their bright smiles always gives us joy and a hope for the future. This issue has lots more to help you enjoy one of the happiest days of your life — from bachelor party ideas to vintage jewelry. And regardless of your marital status, you’ll find stories about books, food, music, art, and gardening that will pique your interest – without a trip down the aisle. Happy Summer!

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

on the cover Abbie Dill & Justin Jackson were married on October 3, 2020 at Cypress Hall in Hernando, MS.

Photography by Brittany Morgan Mitchell .

DeSotoMagazine.com

©2021 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well | THE SLEEP CENTER

When Sleep Eludes Us By Karen Ott Mayer Photography courtesy of Dr. Rubin Naiman; The Sleep Center, North Sunflower Medical Center

Lack of sleep can lead to numerous health problems, but sleep centers may help discover and solve the underlying problem. ​There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, waking and feeling refreshed to start the day. But sleep disorders resulting from both physical and mental issues can disrupt that peaceful interlude. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reported in 2018 that 25 percent of Americans develop insomnia each year. During 2020, the stress of the pandemic led to even more sleepless nights. The Journal 18 DeSoto

of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported in early 2021 that online queries about insomnia increased 58 percent in early 2020. Doctors, respiratory therapists, and pulmonologists point to conditions that drive poor sleep, which in turn can cause greater risk for health problems. Doctors who suspect a patient’s lack of sleep may be contributing to other health issues may refer patients for sleep studies. Across the Southeast, sleep centers offer diagnosis for those tired of staring at the


Stephanie Edwards, RT

ceiling during the night. These centers may be a first step in determining the cause of insomnia. Stephanie Edwards, director of respiratory and sleep therapy at The Sleep Center of North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville, sees patients from all walks of life. “We all know the feeling when our brain won’t turn off,” Edwards says. “We can’t sleep because of all that’s happening in our life.” When setting aside the active brains, one primary physical condition drives poor sleep, Edwards says. “The majority of our patients are suffering from sleep apnea,” explains the registered respiratory therapist. “Sleep apnea can be caused by several underlying conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes or lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).” Edwards believes people don’t realize the full health implications from lack of sleep, especially when caused by stress. “Untreated sleep apnea can affect the body in so many ways. It can affect the kidneys, heart, and diabetes, more than you know.” During 2020 across the globe, people found more time to sleep due to fewer strict schedules but also carried new stress and worry that kept minds reeling. “People suddenly found time to sleep more even with the stress,” says Rubin Naiman a psychologist, clinical assistant

professor of medicine and the sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center, as well as founder of NewMoon Sleep. An author and speaker, Naiman has reached audiences through national magazines, books, and major media networks. While he approaches sleep from a mind-body-spirit integrative view, his clinical training and experience lend a practical, realworld view. He agrees with Edwards’ observations, adding that dream disruption is equally important. “What wakes us isn’t what keeps us up,” he says. “Dreams might wake us, but our thoughts keep us awake. “We have a dramatic disregard about dreaming. We need to call attention not to just sleep but dreaming as well. Much sleep loss is actually dream loss.” Naiman’s large body of work focuses on REM/ dreaming and how this links to health. In his piece published in Aeon in late 2020, he writes, “Because most so-called sleep disorders are also REM/dream disorders, much of what we consider sleep loss is also REM/dream loss. Millions of Americans who suffer from insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from compromised REM/dreaming.” Having published countless pieces about sleep and dreams, Naiman recognizes the vital role dreams play. “Dreams recognize that something deep inside us can be trusted. There is intelligence in dreams.” DeSoto 19


Naiman notes that some people avoid dreams or are afraid to dream and suffer insomnia. “Sometimes, we’re afraid of the unconscious. We’re afraid to let go of the waking in order to sleep because falling asleep feels like dying.” On a practical level, Naiman adds that alcohol and THC interfere with dreaming, and ultimately, sleep. ​ Edwards says sleep disorders know no age or geography, as evidenced by the patients that travel from around Mississippi and Tennessee to the Sleep Center in Ruleville. “We see a wide range of patients, even a few in the 14 to 25 age range,” she says. “From there, the majority fall between 25 years and 75 years old.” ​ Edwards describes the Sleep Center as more like a hotel designed to be comfortable and help patients sleep during the study. The center is open daily, supported by a pulmonologist and gives rapid COVID-19 tests and follows all CDC guidelines. ​“If someone calls and is just curious but not ready to visit, we can mail them more information,” Edwards explains. “Or, we can schedule a tour of the center.” Turning to new ideas about sleep may help those struggling with insomnia when turning out the light. With professionals ready to offer advice and treatment, that good night sleep can return.

When not sleeping, Karen Ott Mayer can be found writing or gardening at her north Mississippi farm.

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notables | VAN ATKINS JEWELERS

The Cooper Family

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Inside the Oxford store


Something Old, Something New By Tracy Morin | Photography courtesy of Van Atkins Jewelers

With two locations in North Mississippi, Van Atkins Jewelers stands out with a specialty focus on finding, refining, and selling one-of-a-kind estate jewelry pieces. It might surprise the dedicated customers of Van Atkins Jewelers, located in New Albany and Oxford, Miss., that jewelry wasn’t always the focus of this specialty retailer. In its pre-WWII beginnings and then later as a small-town department store, it sold items from clothing to cologne in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. However, when he was just a college freshman, current owner Chuck Cooper started to change the business trajectory in a big way. ​ “I’d started selling candy in the store at 10 years old, but during my freshman pre-med year at Ole Miss, I added jewelry in 1980,” Cooper recalls. “When I graduated, I was accepted into medical school, but I didn’t go ― I liked retail!” ​In retrospect, Cooper’s initiation into — and success in — the world of jewelry sales seemed fated. He’d introduced fine jewelry to the store because his girlfriend (later his wife) worked for a jeweler. Cooper bought $1,200 worth of gold chains, wildly popular in the ’80s, to display in-store with a minimal markup. When they sold fast, he took that money and reinvested it in his new passion. ​ “I worked strictly in gold, then started buying a diamond or two from a new contact, a diamond seller in Memphis,” Cooper says. “Jewelry was just what I liked. And, after we had a fire in 2001 at our main store, I thought, ‘This is the time to try selling just jewelry.’”

​ Another happy coincidence helped put Cooper and his store on the map when new friends, a couple from South Florida who were big players in the estate jewelry business, offered to sell their entire stash for a cool $1 million. The collection was worth much more, but Cooper didn’t have that kind of cash on hand. ​“I looked through sack after sack of their estate rings and pieces,” Cooper remembers. “And they told me, ‘Just pay us a little at a time.’ So, every time we sold something, I’d pay them, and we paid every penny of it. That was an arrangement all based on trust, and that is still our foundation today. If you lose the trust of the people, you lose everything.” ​ Indeed, the Van Atkins stores now enjoy an impeccable reputation for a range of retail offerings and services — particularly as a purveyor of estate bridal pieces, which, Cooper notes, boasts more inventory than anyone in the country, by far. In this arena, his years of experience are priceless, as are a freewheeling team of traveling professionals he knows, who keep an eye out for special pieces while on the road. ​ “We look everywhere, and we’ve seen thousands of pieces come and go,” Cooper says. “If something sells quickly, we know to find something similar to that in the future. I like the unique stuff. We know what we’re looking for — and if you buy right, it’ll be easy to sell.” DeSoto 23


​ Also under its estate jewelry umbrella (inherited with the milliondollar stash that kicked off the business), Van Atkins Jewelers owns a small factory in South Florida with a craftsman who helps make these vintage pieces look brand-new. ​ “We might take brooches and make bracelets, or take out a red stone and replace it with a sapphire or diamond,” Cooper explains. “If we find an 80-year-old ring, that’s got to last another 80 years. So our guy works with the filigree and reworks all of the pieces — using a torch, not a laser. It’s truly an art.” ​ In addition, Cooper works hard to buy competitively and stock the highest-quality diamonds. Buying sight unseen, he says, can be misleading, as two gems can be “night-andday different” despite both sporting certifications. Even with such a large pool of inventory, the jeweler maintains the best selection possible. ​ And there’s another “secret weapon” in the business — four, in fact, and they’re more face-forward than hidden away. Cooper’s four gemologist sons, Van, Sam, Ray, and Jack, have entered the family business and now work at both store locations to ensure quality products and service for future generations. ​“I say it’s a mixture of gray hair and youth now at the business,” Cooper says with a laugh. “I have the wisdom of old, but I listen to them, too. If you don’t change with the times, you fall behind.” ​ At the same time, Cooper has seen enough to know that sometimes things happen just as they’re meant to be — and everything usually works out for the best. After all, if it wasn’t for a complete disaster, his business might not have ended up where it is today. ​“At the time, that fire in 2001 was a catastrophe,” Cooper muses. “But I guess you could say it ended up being a blessing.” vanatkins.com Based in Oxford, Miss., Tracy Morin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor with a passion for covering food, beverage, beauty, and boxing.

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exploring art | MEGAN GRINDER

Exploring the Faces of Art By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Amy Threadgill

Memphis portraiture artist Megan Grinder found her calling later in life, and discovered joy in honoring successful and inspiring women. Memphis painter Megan Grinder has always loved art. “I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t do art,” Grinder says. “At school, I would always gravitate to the easel and it was always like play, which it was when I was little.” In fact, that’s how she saw creating art growing up, something she did for fun, as an escape from schoolwork, or later, as a welcome break from a heavy college course load. She never considered art as a viable career option until her sophomore year at Princeton. Grinder planned to study architecture in graduate school and thought majoring in art history as an undergraduate would serve as a good complement to that career. A professor told her about a dual visual arts and 26 DeSoto

art history program. Grinder applied and got accepted. That program opened new doors for her into the world of art. “I got to study painting in France which was a wonderful opportunity,” she recalls. “I got a lot more technical instruction and color theory there, the kind of thing I didn’t really get at Princeton. And that same summer I took a portraiture seminar in Brittany in the northern part of France from an artist named Daniel Green. That was really the first time I deliberately painted people.” Painting people intrigued her, and Grinder wanted to delve deeper. “It led me to do a whole body of work for my senior thesis in college on faces and facial details and light acting on faces. That was sort of what gave me the background


and confidence to try my hand at portraiture.” Still, even after college, Grinder took a different career path and got a “normal job,” until she realized she missed having art in her life. She took an art class in Atlanta where she was living at the time, and when she moved back home to Memphis where she was planning to get married she began seriously thinking about becoming a portrait artist. “So, I borrowed a neighbor’s child,” she says with a laugh, “and painted a portrait of her and that portion of my business just grew from word of mouth.” That was nearly 25 years ago. Now, she is a wellestablished painter known for her work with oils, watercolors, and acrylics. She does portraits, but landscapes as well, and stays busy doing commissioned work with both. She has become successful, but still creates art for the sheer joy of it and recently launched a series on strong women, featuring famous women who have served as strong role models and sources of inspiration. “This sort of came out of this entire past year and me needing something to uplift me and help deal with a little bit of the seeming chaos in the world related to the election, the pandemic, and various other things,” she explains. Her first was a portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “When Justice Ginsberg passed away in the fall, I’d

admired her and different things she stood for, including her ability to maintain cordiality and friendships with people she disagreed with,” Grinder says. “So, I wanted to do something that just sort of captured that and honored someone I viewed as a strong woman who had really made a difference in this world.” When Grinder posted her finished piece on Facebook, it was so well-received she decided to sell prints with some of the proceeds going to the A Step Ahead Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps young women in the Memphis area. “So, I offered the print of the painting and I just knew there was more,” she says. “Then I started thinking about what was making me happy, and I love Dolly Parton and what she stands for. At the time, I had no idea she had donated to the Moderna vaccine. (Parton donated $1 million dollars to Vanderbilt University to help fund research efforts for a COVID-19 vaccine.) And when I finished the painting and posted a picture of it, it was Dolly’s birthday which wasn’t planned at all.” She has since completed additional paintings on poets Amanda Gorman and the late Maya Angelou and says others will follow. Print sales from each will support different nonprofits. Even after so many years at her craft, Grinder still DeSoto 27


enjoys the challenge of creating new pieces of art. “It’s the satisfaction of capturing something on paper that I had in my head, or maybe even something better than what I had in my head. It’s the playfulness of it.” She has also appreciated the flexibility it has given her as a career, allowing her to be present while raising her children, as well as being available for other things needing her time and attention. She admits she’s never planned or worried too much about what might come next. “I’ve really tried not to worry too much about the big picture and where I’m heading or what I’m trying to accomplish,” she says. “I’m really more focused on enjoying the work and greeting the next opportunity as it comes.” www.megangrinder.com

Pam Windsor is a freelance music, feature, and travel writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

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exploring books | THE PHOTOGRAPHER Mary Dixie Carter

Picture Perfect By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography Credits: Author photo by @Beowulf Sheehan; Book cover provided by Minotaur Books/ St.Martin’s Publishing

A young woman creates a family she wants through photo manipulations in this debut novel by Mary Dixie Carter. ​ How do we know what’s real or what isn’t in a world of enhanced and fake photography? Do our favorite photographs really reflect our reality? ​ Readers of “The Photographer” may ask themselves those same questions as they realize how easy it is for the book’s protagonist, Delta Dawn, to create the life she wants through photo editing programs. A children’s photographer in New York City, Delta creates imaginary scenes that fool her clients into believing their lives are perfect. But then she uses her talent to create more than just impeccable photos for clients — she finds sinister ways to insinuate herself into a family that represents perfection compared to her own troubled childhood. ​ The new psychological thriller by Mary Dixie Carter is spellbinding, yet disturbing as the story unfolds. The book offers many layers — from Delta’s obsessive and unpredictable behavior to the Straub family’s powerful urge to have a baby through surrogacy. ​ “I didn’t set out to write a psychological thriller. I just started writing and it became one,” says Carter, who had a brief stint as an actress before becoming a writer for publications like The New York 30 DeSoto

Observer, TIME, and The Economist. ​ “The book went in that direction because of my background as an actor. I’ve read many, many plays. The actor needs to escalate tension… and quickly. You need to get on with it. Find the conflict and escalate and that’s kind of in my bones,” she explains. ​ Acting is also in Carter’s DNA. If her name rings a bell, it may be because her mother is the late Dixie Carter, a Tennessee native and actress who played Julia Sugarbaker on the sitcom “Designing Women” from 1986 to 1993. ​ Carter’s own experiences with a very Southern name led her to pick the name, Delta Dawn, for her main character in “The Photographer.” ​“My mother took it personally if someone dropped the Dixie from Mary Dixie,” she says with a laugh. “I sometimes felt like a fish out of water growing up in New York and California. My name calls attention to itself. I wanted that for Delta, also, because Delta feels herself to be an outsider in the Brooklyn world. The lyrics in the Tanya


​Although she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., Carter’s Tennessee roots run deep. She still owns and frequently visits her mother’s home in McLemoresville, Tenn., north of Memphis. ​“I am very connected to Tennessee. Going to the house in Tennessee is the nearest thing to my mother. She and my grandfather were both born there,” she says. “It gives them (my children) her essence. It’s a part of who I am and I want it to be part of their lives, too.” ​Her extended family — mostly cousins now — often gathers there and reminisces about their childhood summers spent with her grandparents. ​ “We had so much fun and that’s still the case when we get together,” she recalls. “My grandfather had a store in Huntingdon, Tenn., and we had the run of the place. I remember playing in the huge basement of his store, H.L. Carter and Son.” ​ Carter can still break into a song she recorded at eight years old for her grandfather. “One summer when my sister Ginna and I were there, we did a radio commercial for my grandfather’s store,” she recalls. “He drove us to the radio station and we sang. It was a fabulous moment to hear ourselves on the radio.” Her voice will soon be heard on the audio version of her debut novel. “They wouldn’t let me sing, but narrating the story was a happy experience of bringing my writing and my acting together,” she says. ​“The Photographer” has received rave reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and wellrespected critics. It’s predicted to become a summer reading blockbuster, and Carter has already sold the TV rights for the book. She has begun work on a second book although this summer she says she’ll be promoting “The Photographer” more than writing. ​“There are lots of things to do with promotion,” she says, “but when that dies down some, I’ll be able to put my nose to the grindstone.” ​ marydixiecarter.com Tucker song also describe this character’s psyche.” ​The idea to make Delta a talented photographer stemmed from a real-life conversation with a photographer that Carter hired to take pictures of her own two young children. Although the photos were beautiful, her children’s eyes were cobalt blue in the pictures but they aren’t in real life. ​“I told her ‘I’d like for my children’s eyes to be their real color,’” Carter remembers. “And she said, ‘There is no real color.’ That psychology was fascinating to me. What I heard is there is no real color, no real anything — you make it what you want it to be.” ​ The photographer adjusted the eye color and Carter came away with the plot for a story where the character created photos to represent life in the way she wanted it to be. While writing the book, Carter took a Photoshop class. ​“I can’t claim any expertise, but I wanted to understand it [Photoshop] well enough to get into Delta’s head and to sound convincing,” says Carter.

DeSoto Magazine Co-editor Mary Ann DeSantis knows a few Photoshop tricks but not enough to create a riveting novel — or an imaginary life.

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southern roots | THE REDNECK ROSARIAN

Chris VanCleave, ‘The Redneck Rosarian'

The Romance of Roses By Pamela A. Keene Photography Credits: Wedding roses: David Austin Wedding Roses. All other roses photos: Chris VanCleave

Alabama rose expert Chris VanCleave, known as ‘The Redneck Rosarian,’ encourages gardeners to branch out with new and exciting rose varieties. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” whispers Juliet from her balcony when thinking of her Romeo during the infamous conflict between the Capulets and Montagues. She’s comparing her lover in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to one of the most storied and flawless blossoms in nature. For centuries, roses have signified passion, romance, and beauty. From rose foliage found in fossils to the jeweled inlays in the Taj Mahal, roses have intertwined with history and culture. However, the modern rose as we know it didn’t come into being until the late 1860s, when horticulturalists began breeding repeat-blooming single-stem blossoms that we now know as florist roses. “Perhaps the most familiar rose is the hybrid tea,” says 32 DeSoto

Chris VanCleave, known as The Redneck Rosarian. “Those are the long-stemmed roses you see in bouquets and arrangements, particularly for weddings. They are the prima donnas of the garden.” Brides often choose roses for bouquets because of their singular form and often sweet fragrance. However, hybrid tea roses are just the beginning of the types of roses you can grow in your landscape. Consider grandifloras, floribundas, climbers, drift roses, and the popular shrub roses, like Knockouts that are highly disease- and pestresistant. For beginners, VanCleave suggests growing shrub roses because they are among the easiest of the rose species. “Basically, you can plant shrub roses, feed them several times each bloom season, deadhead them regularly, and


A Sampling of Modern Rose Types

Hybrid Tea – The grand dame of the garden with long stems and single blooms. Floribunda – Multiple bloom clusters of six to eight or more blossoms cover plants that grow both tall and wide. It’s the most easy-care class of modern roses. Grandiflora – A cross between hybrid teas and floribunda, the clusters of three to five showy blooms continue throughout the growing season. Climbing roses – Can be either floribunda or grandiflora with long arching branches for trellises, fences, and garden arbors.

be rewarded with multiple repeat flushes of blooms,” says the Birmingham resident. “These days, there are so many colors for shrub roses and Knockouts that you can get carried away with these alone in your garden. “But once a new gardener becomes comfortable with shrub roses, the door is open to try other types,” VanCleave says. “Starting out with something that’s easy will build your confidence to try other types of roses, such as grandiflora, floribunda, climbers or hybrid teas.” Roses can be purchased either potted in containers or sold as bare root. VanCleave is a proponent of buying bare root. “The root system of a rose is its most important foundation and when you purchase bare root plants, you can carefully examine the roots’ health,” he says. “Look for main roots with little feeder roots growing off of them; they’re the capillaries of the roots that absorb the nutrients from the soil.” Most roses are sold bare-root in the late winter and early spring. Several growers are well-respected in the nursery business, including David Austin Roses, Jackson & Perkins, Weeks Roses, and Edmunds Roses. They sell both bare-root and roses in pots, depending on the time of year. VanCleave comes by his love of roses honestly. Growing up in the South, his first flower memories were of the rose corsages the women in his family wore each Mother’s Day to honor their own mothers. “They wore red roses if their mothers were still living and white if they had passed on.” DeSoto 33


His own journey to becoming The Redneck Rosarian began when he purchased a home in Alabama. “There was one scraggly rose bush in the backyard, so I asked my mother who was paralyzed and in a nursing home how to revitalize it. She told me to give it a ‘judicious pruning, some coffee grounds, and some of that ‘miracle stuff’ — her name for Miracle Gro fertilizer,” he says. “The results were amazing. She passed away that spring, but I treasure all her gardening advice and nurturing.” These days, VanCleave gives his own rose-growing advice through podcasts, lectures, and talks with garden clubs across the nation. He has partnered with DeWit garden tool company to create a line of heirloom forged-steel gardening tools available through his website. VanCleave is also asked by rose hybridizers to do trials of new varieties, and he travels to home and garden shows across the country, sometimes appearing with fellow gardening specialist Brian Puckett of Helena, Ala. His website is rich with how-to information about rose selection, purchasing, planting, and caring for roses. At home, his yard is a rose-garden paradise, filled with hybrid teas, grandiflora and floribunda plants, as well as climbing shrub and drift varieties. Does he have a favorite rose? “That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child,” he says with a big smile. “Really, all of them, but if I had to pick, David Austin roses are my go-to. To single out specific roses, Veteran’s Honor hybrid tea is a muchhave in every rose garden. And for climbers, the Peggy Martin cultivar that survived Hurricane Katrina has such a wonderful back story. Part of every sale of Peggy Martin goes to garden restorations in New Orleans.” redneckrosarian.com

Pamela A. Keene admits she’s addicted to roses. The Atlanta-based journalist currently grows about 60 hybrid tea varieties. And — don’t tell her husband — she ordered another four varieties while researching this article. Now, she has to find the space to plant them!

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table talk | FLORA-BAMA YACHT CLUB

Flip-Flop Fine Dining By Verna Gates Photography courtesy of Flora-Bama Yacht Club and Alabama Department of Tourism

Despite the lofty name, the philosophy is come-as-you-are to the FloraBama Yacht Club of Perdido Key. There was no place to get fine dining food while wearing your bikini, especially a wet, sandy bikini. As a native of the Alabama Gulf Coast, Flora-Bama Lounge co-owner John McInnis knew the trials of leaving the beach or a boat and returning to accommodations to clean up for dinner. Often, it was too late or too much effort to shower spouses and kids and rally them back into the car. Calling it flip-flop fine dining, McInnis and his three partners opened up the Flora-Bama Yacht Club where everything but the cooking is casual. ​ “We thank people for lowering their standards when 36 DeSoto

they come to the Flora-Bama,” jokes McInnis, who joined the Flora-Bama in 2010. ​ The Yacht Club sits on the Old River where visitors can enjoy sesame-wasabi pea-crusted yellowfin tuna with toes in the sand. It’s located across the street from the iconic FloraBama Lounge, often called the “Last of the Great American Roadhouses.” The goal for the sister restaurant was to build a beach bar with the nicest white plate food on the Gulf Coast and the million-plus annual customers agree, giving high rankings on their reviews. The Yacht Club is also uniquely situated to


make the “Flora-Bama” claim as it sits on the Florida-Alabama state line, officially in the Florida town of Perdido Key. ​ The idea grew from a plot of land where some of the Flora-Bama’s famed songwriters gathered in a cluster of campers. Yacht Club owners negotiated with the writers to shift over to allow them to clear the land and try the new venture. For the initial test, they moved a taco trailer on the land, and when it made a fast $100,000, they knew they had a good market. The second step was to make a deal with the songwriters to use the gazebo they had built. That gazebo now forms the bar in the center of the restaurant. A tool shed became the kitchen. They closed the 30 feet between gazebo and shed with a roof and added tables and chairs to seat 500. From the start, those seats were filled with beachgoers, fishermen, and boaters. Two-thirds of those seats are in the sand, which even in a beach community is rare. ​ While construction is required to be built up on the familiar stilts seen along the coast, the 57-year-old Flora-Bama was grandfathered in. The legendary roadhouse is sighted as one of the best bars in the United States — and even worldwide. Known for its music, both Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney have recorded songs about it. Annually, 3,200 musicians will grace its honky-tonk stages, including the performers at the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival this fall.

Consumers seek out many of the favorite menu items: chargrilled oysters, calamari, mahi-mahi, Reuben sandwiches, blackened Gulf triple tail fish, the gumbo, and for dessert, beignet fries. While munching on Gulf Coast blue crab claws, it would not be unusual to spot Peyton Manning, Vince Vaughn, or Riley Green nearby. While celebrities sink their teeth into the firecracker coconut shrimp, McInnis waves off the famed diners to appreciate the normal people who saved up for a nice vacation to enjoy something special with their loved ones. “This is their week to escape and enjoy life,” says McInnis. Since their main product comes from the waters that border the complex, the owners are dedicated to the preservation of the ecosystem of the Gulf. Their oyster shells are kept in barrels for environmental groups to pick up and recycle into reefs. DeSoto 37


They also promote the commercial use of invasive species to reduce the species impact on the environment. For instance, the red lionfish, an exotic that entered the Gulf from home aquariums after one of the hurricanes, is eating up the delicate reef system. These venomous, spiny fish do not take a hook and have to be captured by spear fishing. Frequently, divers will go underwater hunting and bring a load of lion fish to the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. The chefs creatively cook the tasty fish into appealing dishes. The goal is to encourage people to eat it like a delicacy, and increase its demand and reduce its numbers. In typical nonchalant style, the Flora-Bama does not have a celebrity chef. Instead, they brought together a group of creative people and gave them the opportunity to craft both gourmet dishes and twists on old favorites. As customers dive into basil pesto oysters, sitting in a beach shack under the stars, feet grounded into the silky white sand of the Gulf, they enjoy the best of both worlds. They may be in a bathing suit or fresh from a formal event in evening wear. Either way, they are welcome and well-fed at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. “Everyone can come as they are. Our secret to success is to have fun and treat people well,” says McInnis.

Verna Gates is a freelance writer in Birmingham and the author of “100 Things to Do in Birmingham Before You Die.”

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exploring destinations | NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM

US Freedom Pavilion The Boeing Center

Telling the ‘World-altering’ Story By Pamela A. Keene Photography courtesy of National WWII Museum

In a six-building campus, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans continues to preserve and explain the war’s history for future generations. Not many veterans of World War II are left to tell their stories and remind us to remember the bravery and accomplishments of what journalist Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation.” ​ Veterans’ foundations and numerous museums across the country in Quonset huts and old airplane hangars on nearly abandoned landing fields and army training camps share their collections of uniforms, weapons, flags, and medals. But no place in the United States brings together the story with such depth and detail as the New Orleans National WWII Museum. 40 DeSoto

​ Located on six blocks in the city’s Warehouse District, the museum comprises six buildings totaling approximately 300,000 square feet. To take in all the museum’s collections might take several days. ​ “The National WWII Museum is the definitive place to come for a comprehensive perspective about World War II,” says Tom Czekanski, senior curator of the museum that opened in 2000. “The collections and exhibitions tell the story of the war through the American viewpoint and delve into our nation’s experience of this great global conflict both


Merchant Marine Gallery

Road to Berlin

US Freedom Pavilion interior

Road to Tokyo

at home and abroad.” ​ Czekanski always has been a history buff, but the stories of World War II hold special meaning for him. “My father was in the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day and also in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. After he came home, he again went to serve in the Korean War,” he says. “My father often spoke of his experiences. However, most veterans did not. They regarded the true heroes as those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” ​ The museum’s multimedia experiences, immersive interactive exhibits, and extensive collections of memorabilia and artifacts are complemented by first-person oral histories. Permanent exhibitions are grouped in galleries that delve into central themes of the war in both theaters, Europe and the Pacific, as well as on the home front. ​ The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the museum’s original building, houses the newest permanent exhibition, “The Arsenal of Democracy.” Showcasing the commitments from people back home through interactive displays, artifacts, and audio recordings, the exhibit includes glimpses inside the aircraft manufacturing plants, uniform factories, and homes where families planted Victory Gardens. ​ “America initially wanted to stay out of the war, but Pearl Harbor galvanized the country,” Czekanski says. “Americans set aside their differences and united in the war effort.”

The National WWII Museum Campaigns of Courage exterior

​ Other exhibits, “Road to Tokyo” and “Road to Berlin,” detail the struggles and triumphs of the military’s major campaigns through films, photographs, artifacts, uniforms, and interactive displays. ​ Traveling and special exhibitions are featured throughout the year. From now through Jan. 2, 2022, pieces from the museum’s collection not often displayed comprise the special exhibit “SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II.” DeSoto 41


“Focusing on the detritus of battle, this exhibit of more than 150 pieces includes trench art, such as ash trays made from shell casings and necklaces created from foreign coins, sent home to loved ones,” Czekanski explains. “Crafted by soldiers, many of these items have been donated to us by family members or by collectors who may have purchased them at flea markets. The backstories of these objects are fascinating and show a different side of battle.” ​ For the past dozen years, the museum has hosted the International Conference on World War II as well as other educational conferences and symposiums that bring together people from around the world. ​“Themed ‘Memory Wars: World War II at 75,’ this upcoming conference examines how museums, filmmakers, memorials, and historians help shape the memories of the conflict,” Czekanski says. “It is vital that we accurately maintain the history of this world-altering conflict.” ​ A program of the museum’s Institute for the Study of War and Democracy, this year’s event takes place in September at the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center that’s part of the campus. ​ One of New Orleans’ newest hotels, The Higgins is named for boatbuilder Andrew Higgins, who designed and built more than 20,000 amphibious craft used throughout the war in both theaters, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Décor reflects the style of the pre-war era through vintage photographs and ’30s- and ’40s-style furnishings. The Higgins offers fine dining, a rooftop bar, well-appointed rooms and suites, and nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space. It’s the official hotel of the National WW II Museum. ​“Even with a campus covering six city blocks the museum can only touch on the broad story of the war,” Czekanski says. “As we lose our veterans and the civilians that supported them it is important for people to visit the museum and learn about what America can do when we all come together.” Nationalww2museum.org. Verna Gates is a freelance writer in Birmingham and the author of “100 Things to Do in Birmingham Before You Die.”

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” o d “I ion t i d E 1 2 20

Amy Redden-Smith. Photo by Steve Herlihy Photography, Nashville, Tennessee

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Abbey Massey & Charles Brock October 3, 2020 The Engagement: The couple were engaged on the beach in Orange Beach, Ala. on May 5, 2019 surrounded by close friends. The Big Day: Abbey, from Sardis, Miss., and Brock from Batesville, Miss., were married at beautiful Cedar Ridge Events in Coldwater, Miss.  The Cake: Patricia Farris The Food: Cedar Ridge The Music: Chris Lott The Flowers: Cedar Ridge The Photographer: Haley Marie Photography 

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Abbie Dill & Justin Jackson October 3, 2020 The Big Day: Cypress Hall in Hernando, Miss. The Cake: Cupcake Cutie The Food: Barbecue The Music: Robert Johnson The Flowers: Ena Fowler The Photographer: Brittany Morgan Mitchell The Honeymoon: The couple traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica, for seven days at the Royalton Blue Waters Resort.

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Jill Pitcher & John Allen August 30, 2020 The Big Day: Originally planned for October 13, the wedding was moved up and limited to family because of Covid. It took place at Kincaid Manor in Holly Springs, Miss. The Reception: Reception was held at Mike and Patti Allen’s home in Southaven, Miss. The Cake: Annie Guy The Food: Corky's BBQ The Music: Hank Parks The Flowers: Dawn Edwards The Photographer: Jackie McGuiness

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Leah Thompson & Garrison Brigance May 30, 2020 The Big Day: Due to COVID-19, the couple's original plans changed. They got married under a 400+ year old oak tree at Garrison's parent's house. They were so thankful the plans changed... and changed for the better! The Cake: Old Towne Bakery The Food: Germantown Commissary The Music: DJ Rockin' A - Aubrey Coleman Decor: Bride of Boaz The Flowers: Darling Flowers The Photographer: Steph Segars Photography The Honeymoon: The couple enjoyed massages, a jet ski tour, and traveling by scooter in Key West, Florida. 48 DeSoto


Montana Easley & Brenden Blankenship November 7, 2020 The Big Day: Montana and Brenden were married in the chapel at the Barn at Snider Farms in Dickson, Tenn. The Gown: Montana wore a beautiful fit and flare satin gown with jeweled waistline and long train from Low’s Bridal and Formal Shop in Brinkley, Ark. The Cake: How Sweet It Is by Tim The Food: Gourmet Your Way, Jackson Tenn. The Music: Deep Blu Entertainment The Flowers: J. Kent Freeman Floral Design, Jackson, Tenn. The Photographer: Kelly Ginn Photography The Honeymoon: The couple spent a week at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Mont. DeSoto 49


Victoria Sanders and Elijah McGee April 16, 2021 The Big Day - The First Presbyterian Church Hernando, Miss. The Reception: The Gin, Nesbit, Miss. The Cake: Sam’s Club The Food: Germantown Commisary The Flowers: Dawn Edwards - Made Ya Look The Photographer: Thankfully Taken Photography

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Kimberly Tupper & Aaron Boyd October 3, 2020 The Big Day: Mallard's Croft Chapel in Byhalia Miss. The Gown: The bride wore a beautiful flowing gown with a chapel length veil. The Cake: Frost Bake Shop The Food: Heart and Soul INC. Catering The Music: Brad the DJ The Flowers: Ena Fowler Floral Design. The Bride's bouquet consisted of loose greenery with florals in shades of cream and white roses, hydrangea, ranunculus and other seasonal flowers along with one white Gerber daisy in remembrance of her cousin Lizzie. The Photographer: Thankfully Taken Photography

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Amy Redden-Smith & Tommy Agner January 1, 2021 The Engagement: Tommy proposed on Petit Jean Mountain in Morrilton, Ark. Amy and Tommy dated for five years in high school and college. Thirty years later, they reconnected in March 2020 through a "Happy Birthday" message on Facebook. The Big Day: CCC Lookout at Petit Jean State Park on New Year's Day. The couple went back to the same spot as their engagement to proclaim  their love for each other through personally written vows.  The theme was simple western frontier.  The Cake: Patticake Bakery, Conway, Ark. The Flowers: Ye Olde Daisy, Conway, Ark. The Photographer: Steve Herlihy Photography, Nashville, Tenn. 52 DeSoto


Laura Johnson & Ian Bennie April 17, 2021 The Big Day: The gardens at Annesdale Mansion in Memphis. The art nouveau theme was chosen to represent the old and charming character of the house, while also bringing a modern feel to it through the flowers and other decorations. The Cake: Miss Muff'n Bakery Germantown, Tenn.' The Food: Pink Flamingo Catering The Music: The Jamm Bandits The Gown - Laura wore a DESI gown from Nicole Barre' Memphis. The Flowers: Olive Branch Florist The Planner: Just Weddings, Lisa Childers The Photographer: Ben and Colleen Photography, Atlanta, Ga. DeSoto 53


on the road again | CRYSTAL SPRINGS, MISS.

, s g n i r p S l a t s y r C ississippi M

8:15 a.m. – If you are ‘nuts’ about dough, then start your day with a cup of delicious coffee and the freshest, house-made donuts at USA Doughnuts on US Hwy. 51. If you are extra hungry, try the sausage egg bagel or a spicy kolache. 9:00 a.m. – Experience all things tomato at the Crystal Springs Tomato Museum in the Chautauqua Park Visitors Center at 114 Chautauqua Dr. This free museum is open throughout the year, and explains how Crystal Springs became the “Tomatopolis” Capital of the World. 9:45 a.m. – Take advantage of the cooler morning air for a walk around the trails and gardens at the 74-acre Chautauqua Park. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. the park also includes historical sites, playgrounds, and a 35-acre lake. Field guides are available for purchase at the Visitors Center. 10:30 a.m. – Completely unique to Crystal Springs is the Robert Johnson Blues Museum. Blues fans will find a treasure trove of information and memorabilia about Robert Johnson, known as the king of Delta Blues singers. Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. 11:45 a.m. – The locals recommend Pappas Pizza Pi, next door to the Blues Museum. While the pizzas are popular, this eatery owned by Terry Pappas, also offers authentic Greek flavors with its housemade Spanakopita, Tiropita, and Wild Greek subs or salads. The “semi” sandwich is made with a wedge of fresh-baked pizza crust and is much lighter than a sub. Gluten-free options are available. 1:15 p.m. – Crystal Springs offers a several hands-on studios where visitors can make their own treasured gifts. Make colorful mosaics at Touch of Glass Mosaic Studio on Marion Avenue or try your hand at clay or chalk paint at Cottonwood Giftery and DIY Studio on East Georgetown. 3:15 p.m. – That Perfect Piece on Marion Avenue is an antique store that is exactly what it sounds like – full of perfect pieces, including upcycled home décor, custom-made and monogrammed items, and more. Other nearby boutiques like Simplicity or M.M.T. offer unique items. 4:30 p.m. – Gardening enthusiasts won’t want to miss Four Seasons Garden Art on Utica Road. Displays include over 300 running fountains and five acres of home and garden products. Four Seasons Garden Art has offered high-quality fountains and cast stone statuaries for more than 70 years. 5:45 p.m. – Stop for dinner at Shivers Creek Fish House of Crystal Springs on Highway 27, just outside of the downtown area. Farm-fresh never-frozen Mississippi catfish is the house specialty but you’ll also find po’ boys, shrimp, oysters and chicken. Save room for one of the homemade dessert specials. 54 DeSoto


To plan your visit:

mainstreetcrystalsprings.com cityofcrystalsprings.com robertjohnsonbluesfoundation.org wisteriainnbandb.com fourseasonsgardenart.net

Events

Please check websites or call ahead for updated information. Crystal Springs’ Farmers Market Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Farmers from the region pack The Shed at Railroad Park on the first Saturday of each month, offering the freshest produce, plants, and home-baked goods. 25th Annual Tomato Festival Saturday, June 26, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Railroad Park (W Railroad Ave S) Celebrate Crystal Springs’ tomato heritage at this annual festival, always held on the last Saturday in June. Starting at 7 a.m., a 5K Run/Walk is scheduled and the farmers’ market will be open, offering fresh produce – especially tomatoes. Entertainment is scheduled for The Shed, the local landmark in Railroad Park. Come see why Crystal Springs is called the Tomatopolis of the World. 2021 Wild Game Cook-Off Saturday, Sept. 25, at 11 a.m. Sponsored by Main Street Crystal Springs, the event is one of Main Street’s annual fundraisers. Both amateurs and professionals are invited to compete with their best recipes! Annual Fall Flower & Garden Fest October (dates TBA) Sponsored by Mississippi State University's local agriculture center, the Mississippi State Truck Crops Experiment Station, the garden fest is a popular activity for flower and gardening enthusiasts. Compiled by Mary Ann DeSantis Photo Credits: Chamber of Commerce and Crystal Springs Main Street

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greater goods | WEDDING GIFTS

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1. Recipes for newlyweds, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 2. Annie Glass serving pieces, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd. Suite 102, Southaven, MS 3. Etta B Pottery, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W Main St, Senatobia, MS 4. Mr. & Mr.s plate set, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 5. Art and home accessories, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 6. Blessing Beads and wine glasses, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 7. Mockingbird Pottery, Southern Traditions, 120 W Bankhead St. #A, New Albany, MS 8. Mr. & Mr.s mugs, Bon Von, 230 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 9. Picture Frame, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 10. MS made Pottery, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 11. Pillow, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W Main St, Senatobia, MS 12. Painting and Pillows, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS

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greater goods | FATHER'S DAY

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1. Duke Cannon soaps, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 2. Bentley Drink Ware, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 3. Fishing coffee table book, Magnolia House, 2903 May Blvd, Southaven, MS 4. Corkcicle coolers, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 5. Big Green Egg and Accessories, Complete Home Center, 32 E Commerce St, Hernando, MS 6. Cigars and accessories, Spring Street Cigars, 6080 Getwell Rd Suite 101, Southaven, MS 7. Grilling essentials, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd. Suite 102, Southaven, MS 8. Rustic frame, The Speckled Egg, 5100 Interstate 55, Marion, AR 9. Fish art, Ultimate Gifts, 2902 May Blvd. Suite 102, Southaven, MS 10. Special Shit seasoning, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 11. Jon Hart duffle bag, Community Discount Pharmacy, 100 N Front St, Senatobia, MS 12. Men's Devotionals, Mimi’s on Main, 432 W Main St, Senatobia, MS

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Honeymoon Havens

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Both falls from the American side

By Debi Lander Photography courtesy of Debi Lander, The Venetian, New Orleans CVB and Gatlinburg.com

If your wedding was postponed and then downsized, you have all the more reason to splurge on a honeymoon, especially to an iconic destination known for romance. ​ Couples are honeymooning in picturesque places stateside that are as fascinating and romantic today as they were to their parents and even grandparents. Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Gatlinburg, and Little St. Simons Island have certainly withstood the test of time for romance, but they also offer many new thrills and attractions. Although each location appeals to a particular type of couple, they all promise lifelong memories.

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Gondola Rides at the Venetian. Las Vegas

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.

The sheer magnitude of Niagara Falls never fails to impress. Whether it needed it or not, the 1953 movie, “Honeymoon,” pushed its romantic lure over the edge. John Percy, president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA, says, “Niagara Falls has a long history as the Honeymoon Capital of the World. Today, couples still want that same timeless experience.” No trip to this wonder straddling the New York/Canadian border is complete without hopping on the Maid of the Mist. The boat ventures right up to the furiously cascading water. Landlubbers also can get up close and personal (at the American Falls) with The Cave of the Winds tour. Evening hand-in-hand promenade strolls supply spectacular illuminated pictures of the 700,000 gallons of water per second rushing over the Falls. Want more thrills? Soar above the wonder on a 15-minute helicopter flight. ​Beyond the main attraction, newlyweds honing their kitchen skills can take a hands-on class at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. Wine enthusiasts? Take a scenic drive along the Niagara Wine Trail through traditional vineyards and enjoy ice wines, ciders, and mead. ​Lodging choices matter. The Giacomo, a boutique hotel in an Art Deco building, provides honeymooners room choices with a fireplace and whirlpool bath. The nearby Village of Lewiston offers the quieter Niagara Crossing Hotel & Spa, with its full spa and views of the Niagara Gorge. Before leaving, visit the Niagara Falls USA Official Visitor Center and claim your complimentary “We Honeymooned in Niagara Falls USA” certificate — signed by the mayor.

LAS VEGAS, NEV.

Las Vegas may be the Wedding Capital of the World, but Fletch Brunelle, marketing vice president for the Convention and Visitors Authority, says, “Vegas offers endless possibilities to fit every honeymooning couple’s interests and price point, including relaxing pools and day spas, exhilarating outdoor adventures, top accommodations, romantic world-class restaurants, and unparalleled entertainment. If you can dream it, you can do it in Las Vegas.” Start with a romantic gondola ride piloted by a Venetian Hotel singing gondolier. The ultimate swoon-worthy candlelight dinner at Mizumi offers a great dress-up excuse. Reserve the floating pagoda table, accessible by a private path through lush Japanese gardens, where chef Min Kim will prepare Japanese specialties. Stroll arm in arm along the famous strip mixed with high-end shops and high rollers. It’s not quite Paris, but still fun to ascend the Eiffel Tower and gaze upon the 60 DeSoto


St Louis Cathedral. New Orleans

Luxor Hotel’s pyramids. Sneak a kiss behind the dancing Bellagio Fountains before watching headliner acts and extravagant productions like Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show. Vegas also affords some unexpected adventures — maybe a flightseeing tour over the Grand Canyon or car trips to nearby Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire State Park. The downtown Mob Museum explores the struggle between organized crime and “the law” while the Neon Museum flashes signs from old casinos. Whatever the budget, Vegas can deliver (at least what the slots don’t take away).

NEW ORLEANS, LA.

The Big Easy embraces and embodies its motto, “Let the good times roll!” as do honeymooners to the city that celebrates music, culinary, and cultural traditions. Newlyweds may wish to skip the craziness of Mardi Gras…or not! Head to iconic Jackson Square, then cuddle up on a mule-drawn carriage ride that includes private tours of the French Quarter’s lacy-iron architecture. Powdered sugar-drenched beignets and chicory coffee await at Café du Monde. Afterward, stroll the riverbank, browse the French Market, or DeSoto 61


Sunset on Little St. Simons

take a tasting tour to learn about cocktails at the Sazerac House. At sunset, cruise the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez. ​NOLA encourages quirky fun. Voodoo, ghosts, cemetery and swamp tours rank among the most exciting diversions. Ride a 19th-century streetcar or speed over wetlands in an airboat. History buffs will love the National World War II Museum. Also known as the Crescent City, New Orleans honors the birthplace of jazz. Try a jazz brunch in the Court of Two Sisters. Look for Cajun and Creole specialties at famous restaurants like Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s, Arnaud’s, or Cochon. Don’t miss the dueling pianos at Pat O’Brian’s, while you sip a Hurricane — the house libation. Lodging recommendations include Hotel Monteleone with its full spa and famous carousel bar or the luxurious Bourbon Orleans for its ideal location.

LITTLE ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA.

The Lodge on Little St. Simons delivers nature lovers a laid-back ecovacation. It’s the only overnight choice on the 11,000-acre Georgia isle, hidden amongst maritime forests, coastal marshlands, and seven miles of sandy beach. A maximum of 32 guests experience something akin to a posh summer camp with adult drinks and gourmet meals. Board a ferry, cross the Marshes of Glynn, and step into a fairyland of giant live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The rustic-looking Hunting Lodge dates to 1917 and works as the resort’s heart and soul with a gathering and game room, two dining rooms, a little museum, and an office. Sixteen guest rooms in cottages or lodges dot the compound. Honeymooners prefer the one-bedroom Tom House. Secluded, all-inclusive escapes allow for late breakfast. Family-style lunches are encouraged though you can request a table for two. Daily activities feature the naturalist’s tour of the untamed wilderness, with over 300 species of birds and likely some gators, too. Sunbathing, beachcombing, kayaking, fishing, and bicycling on 62 DeSoto


20 miles of trails offer afternoon options. Guided boat excursions await all. ​Before dinner, join the casual social hour with wine, beer, and hors-d’oeuvres. Attendees mingle, recounting the day’s adventures. After dinner, entertainment runs from wildlife talks to poolside movies. Little wonder Little St Simons earns return visits.

GATLINBURG, TENN.

The allure of the Great Smokey Mountains and warm country hospitality attract vacationer s to Gatlinburg. Honeymooners wishing alone time can’t beat the privacy and seclusion of a romantic cabin in the mountains. Time slows down; sipping a glass of wine (or moonshine) by the fireplace, the patio, or even in the hot tub satisfies. Quintessential mountain views complete the aura. ​ Any time of year, Gatlinburg offers things to do and ways to play. Visit a theme park, go hiking, fishing, or simply stare at the stars. Ober Gatlinburg provides whitewater rafting or indoor skiing on artificial snow and a chairlift that takes you to the top of Mount Harrison. The iconic, 407-foot Gatlinburg Space Needle provides one of the most romantic things to do in the Smokies. The 360-degree observation deck affords seductive views of glowing city lights. Newlyweds Sarah Beth and Ty Boone of Star, Miss., recently honeymooned in a Gatlinburg cabin. “We remained busy from sun up till sundown, going to dinner shows, skiing at the Ober, tubing in the National Park, and spending a day at Dollywood,” says Sarah Beth. “I really enjoyed the Titanic Museum and learning about the ship. We both loved riding the Wild Eagle rollercoaster. I can’t wait for an anniversary to return.” ​ And that’s how honeymoons should feel.

Debi Lander is a freelance writer and photographer currently living in Sarasota, Fla. Out of the five honeymoon locations, New Orleans would be her pick.

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On your wedding day everything can be a blur, so having the right photographer there to capture lasting memories is invaluable.

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CHOOSING THE


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ONE OTHER

By Judy Garrison Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern Photography

A world-class photographer stood in front of a room of aspiring photographers — me included — and shared the most important advice she had given her wedding clients over the past 20 years: “After the wedding, you have two things: a husband and photographs.” And for that reason, your wedding photographer, like that of your spouse, is a decision which will last a lifetime. As a wedding photographer, I never forget the importance of my role on the wedding day; it’s a relationship

which begins the moment I sit down with clients and extends long after the fireworks have faded. My technical skill should be mastery, and my relationship skills, even more paramount. When albums and wall art are delivered weeks after the wedding, I imagine my couple, curling up on their sofa, lovingly flipping through the album pages to a soundtrack of ohs and ahs, recalling their best day ever. As an artist, I take pride in creating lifelong heirlooms of their story. During a turbulent pandemic world, when so many DeSoto 65


Bridal portrait

plans have had to be postponed and rescheduled, making concrete decisions that require dolling out hefty retainers and deposits is scary. Every initial meeting in 2021, whether in-person or via ZOOM, has revealed a more diverse clientele than in years past. There are more questions, especially concerning cancellations and postponements, as well as taking more time to sign the contract and move forward. These trepidations bring both pros and cons. Couples are more cautious, and rightly so. I reach for understanding with a side of education. All photographers must have more than a camera in their bag. Many vendors forget that, more than likely, this is the first wedding experience for most. It becomes part of my responsibility to educate my couple about the photography process and manage their expectations. And at the end, no surprises for anyone. Once the venue is booked, the next decision should be the photographer. Those two choices will define your day, and both are in the highest demand. Dates book quickly so as soon as you are sure, schedule the photographer immediately.

CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHER

Finding a photographer who is right for you takes planning and thought. Here are a few things that couples need to consider and do: ​ Make an overall budget. From florals to guest gifts, put it all on the table at the very beginning. What can you afford? A professional photographer will be one of the high-ticket items, so decide upon a dollar amount before you fall in love with the wrong photographer. Research those within your budget, and email potential candidates as soon as the venue and date have been confirmed. Begin the conversation asking for availability and package pricing; once received, determine if the photographer is, indeed, an ideal fit. ​ Find the style that moves you. Do you like fine art (creative and artistic)? Or are you more into photojournalism (unplanned and unobtrusive)? Many couples prefer 66 DeSoto


traditional (blend of modern and vintage) photos, while some like editorial (think Vogue, creative, and edgy). A photographer’s style can also include moody (shooting film and digital, bolder colors) or light and airy (natural light with lower contrast and soft colors). Many photographers stick to one style; however, many allow the setting and the couple to dictate the direction of the photography. Every location can point to a specific tone or mood. ​ Schedule a ZOOM or meet faceto-face. Once you narrow the choices, ask for an in-person meeting or a Zoom call. Aside from being technically and professionally ideal, feeling comfortable around the photographer is a must. You will spend more time on your wedding day with your photographer than anyone else. Is there a connection, and are you comfortable around them? Are they demanding in instruction, or are they pleasant in guidance? Is their personality fun, flexible, and professional in documenting (no matter the style) your day? Honestly, do you like them? ​ Ask the right questions. This is the moment for everyone to be on the same page. Ask everything that concerns you no matter how insignificant it might be. What is included in the packages? Are substitutions allowed? How are the images delivered? If it’s an online gallery, is it password protected? What kind of prints and products do you offer? How many photographers will be at the wedding? Will you have an assistant? Is travel included in your pricing? What about an engagement session? Can you build a print package of exactly what I want? When should I expect to receive my images? Do I have to order prints through you or may I print them elsewhere? Will you provide a personal print release? May I see one of your delivered wedding galleries? ​ Read the fine print. Read through the contract carefully. Most photographers require a non-refundable retainer; in exchange, they will reserve that date on their calendar and not sell it to another. What happens if the wedding is cancelled or postponed? When you see “non-refundable retainer,” that money is spent when you reserve the date and not refunded; however, ask if it will transfer to the new date. Discuss whether or not images can be shared on social media and if the images will be watermarked. Most importantly, understand who owns the photos. DeSoto 67


Engagement Photo Setting

​ One point of confusion for most clients is copyright. Keep in mind that photographers retain copyright as creator of the images. Clients own the photos for use as stipulated in the contract. Also, never ask for RAW or unedited files. ​ Time will tell. Time can’t be manufactured; you have to plan for it. And on the wedding day, when everything is a blur, having a photographer that knows exactly how much time it takes to create what you want is invaluable. Even if you have a wedding planner or a venue coordinator, working with your photographer on the timeline is imperative. Listen to them. Discussions begin months before the wedding day — shot list, family groupings, time frames — and that is the time to set the day’s schedule. My goal is to never ask my bride any questions on her wedding day; knowing her as I should, I already know the answer. A personal relationship with the clients and understanding of what they want from their wedding photography drafts every decision. ​ Go with the pro. Photography is not the place to slash the budget. Friends or family with nice cameras (and good intentions) can’t produce the quality of images that a professional can. Professionals are skilled at positioning during the day to capture moments that can’t be recreated. Having the (contractual) assurance that you’ll have a photographer on site removes anxiety and a greater chance that something might come up, and you’ll be left with no photographer. ​Ditch the Digitals. Not entirely, of course. Remember the last time you gathered around your computer with the family, looking at images from the last big family event? Of course not. Images that live on walls or sit on a desk become an active part of everyday life. They become a living, breathing entity — a constant reminder of family, love, and moments. A point of conversation. An album to flip through. A physical connection to an unfolding story. ​Wedding photography is a huge investment; don’t simply allow the images to exist on a USB or in a folder. USBs are lost and computers fail as will the internet. Keep in mind that your photographer is an artist and the images works of art. Give 68 DeSoto


them the home they deserve. Allow the photographer to create an album of your story, so that when the family is gathered it becomes a centerpiece for generations. Then, it becomes a legacy, an heirloom, that will be passed down from generation to generation. ​ Choosing the right photographer for your day provides comfort and assurance that when images are delivered weeks afterwards, your expectation will transform into elation. Photography isn’t simply showing up on the wedding day with a camera in hand. It’s about constant communication, time management, orchestrated planning, complimentary posing and editing, and curating an authentic love story that will last for the ages.

Judy and Len Garrison are award-winning travel and wedding photographers. To view their portfolio, visit www.seeingsouthernphotography.com/.

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homegrown | WILKAT

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Far More Than Whittling By Tom Adkinson | Photography courtesy of Tom Adkinson and William Moore

A Tupelo couple’s creativity — and a giving spirit — transform a hobby into a successful business. Can a tree that fell in the woods in 1919 still be making noise today? The improbable answer is yes, if it was a black walnut tree cut down by William Moore’s grandfather in Leflore County, Miss. Moore still is using wood from that tree for some of the artistic items that emerge from his Tupelo workshop destined for family members, and he uses plenty of wood from other sources to make many more items for other people. Making gifts is what encouraged Moore and his wife,

Kathy, to create a business called WilKat. Its name comes from the first syllables of their names. Moore has worked almost 30 years in newspapers — and continues doing so at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal — and says he always enjoyed making Christmas gifts for co-workers, whether that was something from the kitchen or from his workshop. He hit on a popular item when he crafted small wooden trays in the shape of Mississippi. They are just the right size to sit on a bedroom dresser DeSoto 71


and collect pocket change at the end of the day and are attractive enough to be a holiday candy dish. They are even appealing enough to be displayed by themselves. Moore has one in his workshop that holds rulers, pens, pencils, screws, and other small items. Moore’s workshop is attached to his suburban Tupelo house. It is compact and well equipped and certainly would be the envy of any woodworker starting out in the field. One of the few decorations is a wall clock made of the tools of the trade. Surrounding the clock face is a circular saw blade and a variety of tools such as a hammer, a C-clamp, pliers, and a screwdriver. A tape measure is the clock’s pendulum. “I piddled around for years doing small woodwork, birdhouses, and stuff like that,” Moore explains. He has progressed significantly and now can make beautiful furniture pieces and decorative items such as multi-piece crosses for wall accents. “I’ll see something and think, ‘I can make that even better.’” Wooden crosses were one of the early items he made for family members from his grandfather’s walnut lumber. He later started making pocket-sized crosses from cedar trees downed in a tornado. No two are alike. WilKat calls them comfort crosses and sells them with a Bible verse or other positive message inside a ginghampatterned sack. “Kathy inspired WilKat,” Moore says. “She said we should make things and share the joy they contain. Both of us like to stay busy.” Moore jokes that he’s in charge of WilKat production and that his wife is in charge of packaging, but she contributes on the creative side, too. After two decades as a successful Realtor, Kathy Moore expands the inventory with numerous decorator and gift items. Those include sublimated tiles with images of butterflies, birds, and flowers; 120-piece jigsaw puzzles of images such as an iron bridge across the Yazoo River or a sunset scene of the pier at Fairhope, Ala. There are also small items such as Mississippi candles, jar grippers, and mouse pads. T he popularity of Moore’s Mississippi tray led to his making similar trays shaped like Alabama and Tennessee, and he’s meticulous with all of them. While maneuvering a band saw to cut out 72 DeSoto


Comfort Crosses

a Mississippi tray, he was almost finished when he paused to inspect it and then sliced a small nick off the upper right corner. “I have to acknowledge where Pickwick Lake is,” he says with a grin. Whether Moore is working on a piece for sale, an item for a family member or something for his own house, he says the exercise of making things is relaxing. “Woodworking is something to clear my mind from the clutter of the day,” he adds. While WilKat is a small, twoperson operation, it has gone from pure hobby to an erstwhile business. Moore noted with a wry smile how he never realized how much time went into sanding and finishing each piece until he started recording the time investment. “WilKat quickly evolved into a real business. People started seeing our products and asking for more. We began making sales, collecting sales tax, marketing — all the things that make a real business,” Moore says. Until recently, all WilKat sales have been online, but the couple plans to attend a few events where they will display and sell, even though that is slightly out of character for both of them. “We’re quiet and reserved, but WilKat is getting out there,” she says. “We like to share our dreams.” wilkatshop.com Tom Adkinson has been known to whittle, but does no other woodworking and envies those who do. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers.

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southern gentleman | BACHELOR PARTIES

Fishing in Helen

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Octoberfest Bier Garden

A Bachelor Party to Remember By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Alpine Helen CVB

Planning a bachelor party can seem daunting but we offer several destinations that feature a variety of fun — and sometimes wild — options to make it easier. ​ Wedding season is upon us. Before you have the seersucker dry cleaned and practice the perfect bow tie, there’s one more hurdle. Not the RSVP. Not the selection of a fish, chicken, or vegetarian reception meal. It’s the bachelor party. ​If you’re planning the bachelor party, you’re in luck. We’ve done most of the thinking for you. All you need to do is read on and decide which of these bachelor party ideas fits the partygoers in question best. ​ If you’re attending the bachelor party and you’re concerned it’s going to turn into a documentary form of “The Hangover” (or worse yet, “The Hangover II”), I suggest reading this story with a Sharpie in hand so you can mark your favorites.

Then crease the magazine really well, dogear this page, and leave this issue sitting around where the designated bachelor party planner will find it and be inspired. Helen, Georgia ​ Head to the North Georgia mountains and rent a cabin near Helen. Anglers – especially fly fishermen – love it here and the trophy trout streams in these hills are packed with enough fish that at the end of the day you can see who has the biggest one. Worried you – or worse yet, the groom-to-be – won’t measure up? Take a fly fishing lesson. Or just go for a round of golf at The Mossy Creek Golf Course. The Georgia Wine DeSoto 75


Trail makes its way through these parts, but if you’d rather sip something sudsy, there are plenty of beer gardens around. Finally, get your heart pounding with some mountain biking, some whitewater rafting or even a helicopter tour. Vicksburg, Mississippi ​ Make your way to Vicksburg, Miss., for some fantastic food (we’re looking at you, Solly’s Hot Tamales, and at you, Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, and who can forget The Biscuit Company?) and a weekend celebrating the soon-no-longer-a-bachelor. There’s fishing galore here – I mean, it’s on the Mississippi River – and a guide like Blue Cat Guide Services will get you out there in search of a monster catfish or two, but you can BYOB (bring your own boat) and fish to your heart’s content. If your groom-to-be is expressing any doubts, you can point him north or south on bicycles and head out for a long ride on the Mississippi River Trail, a walking and cycling route that follows the river from the Gulf of Mexico to the headwaters, or take on Battlefield Tour Road, an 18-mile loop with killer views. (Battlefield Bicycle will set you up with everything you need). And if golf is what you need, don’t ask them, just go to Clear Creek Golf Course and be prepared to let the man of the hour win a few side bets. Turneffe Island Resort, Belize ​ You only get married once (hopefully), so you might as well do it big, right? Hop on a plane and head south to Belize and let Turneffe Island Resort be your bachelor party base for a week. This 14-acre private island is part of an atoll where fishing, diving, and snorkeling will leave the Dude of the Day with so many great stories and pictures he’ll be planning a return trip for the honeymoon. Head out to the Great Blue Hole – where freedivers come to set record after record, or just wander around this lush, Caribbean island where the palm trees and sandy beaches will go perfectly with whatever Jimmy Buffet tune the bride’s sister’s brother-in-law (how was he invited?) won’t stop playing on his (unfortunately) waterproof speaker. Pro tip: reserve the Presidential Villa for the utmost in privacy.

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Go Yachting ​ What’s better than a swanky boat for a bachelor party? Book four nights on the Socorro Aggressor and get to Isla Guadalupe on the Pacific Coast of the Baja Peninsula for killer food and dives in shark cages where you’re likely to spot Great Whites and other sharks. Or fly into Los Cabos and sail on the Socorro Aggressor to a trio of volcanic islands to dive with giant manta rays, dolphin pods, humpback whales, and maybe even a Great White or hammerhead — or both. Aggressor Adventures’ liveaboard yachts deliver fivestar service, exceptional food, and all the dive gear and underwater cameras you’ll need to complete the trip. Alabama’s Gulf Coast ​ T he gorgeous Gulf coast of Alabama was made for bachelor parties. Cruisin’ Tikis Orange Beach has a floating tiki hut you can charter for a BYOB day on the water. At The Wharf, you can rent a condo and sleep just steps away from a dozen or so restaurants and bars. And if you’re ready to step up the fishing game, talk to Intercoastal Safaris where they’ll take you out for some bowfishing, which is just too bad-ass to pass up. ​ Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina ​ The last stop on our bachelor party world tour is a pair of cities in South Carolina where the food is absolutely exceptional (seriously, some folks are in on the secret of Greenville’s food scene but not so many it’s impossible to dine at the best places in the city — like Jianna, Hall’s Chophouse, Soby’s) and the adventure is one-of-a-kind. I n S p a r t a n b u r g, t h e B M W Performance Center will put you behind the wheel (save the drinks for after) of a high-performance BMW that you get to put through the paces and test your nerves. Pay a visit to FR8yard, an open-air biergarten, after to celebrate the day.

Jason Frye played golf, visited a brewery, and had dinner with three friends for his bachelor party (incidentally, he played his best round ever that day). It wasn’t wild, but they cursed a lot, snuck a couple of flasks onto the golf course, smoked a funny-smelling cigarette, then ordered appetizers, dinner and dessert, so it was a little wild after all.

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southern harmony | DALE WATSON

Without a Word By Kevin Wierzbicki Photography Credits: CD cover graphic courtesy of BFD/Audium Nashville. Photos courtesy of Dale Watson.

Guitarist Dale Watson honors Memphis with his new instrumental album, ‘The Memphians.’ A few years back when guitarist and singer Dale Watson left his longtime stomping grounds in Texas to relocate to Memphis, he brought with him the requisite home furnishings and his musical instruments. He also brought along things less tangible — like his love for the style of roots music that he refers to as “Ameripolitan.” Also in his figurative suitcase was Chicken $#!+ Bingo, a scatological novelty game that Memphians have really grown to give a, well you know what, about. “I started Chicken $#!+ Bingo 21 years ago in Austin, and I thought it would just be a novelty thing and people would tire of it after a month,” Watson says. “But it has just gotten bigger. The gist of it is, for a ‘poultry’ $5 you pick a number and if it’s the same number that the chicken picks in her chickenpicking way, then you win over $100. The winner gets all the money; we do not take any of it. The names of our chickens are 78 DeSoto

Hernanda and Dolly, and they are likely the only chickens in all of Tennessee that have their own vet look in on them.” Chicken $#!+ Bingo often takes place when Watson performs at Hernando’s Hideaway, the historic Memphis music venue that he owns. Like all nightclubs across the country, Hernando’s Hideaway had to go dark when the pandemic hit.​ “We opened Hernando’s Hideaway in November 2019 and we were only open for three months when the lockdown happened,” Watson explains. “We just started opening Wednesday through Sunday recently. As of right now we are permitted to stay open until 1 a.m., and we are still using precautions dictated by the city.” ​ Pandemic or not, Watson says he sometimes gets a funny feeling at the haunted venue where the list of days-goneby performers includes Jerry Lee Lewis and the King of Rock


’n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley. ​“Every time I walk into Hernando’s Hideaway I feel like there are ghosts there, especially musically speaking,” he says. “There is something about all of Memphis that has that feeling but at Hernando’s it just feels closer, and rather warming.” Watson’s fascination with the historic aspect of the Memphis music scene runs deep, so much so that his new album is called “The Memphians.” The record is Watson’s first instrumental album. The effort is not a cover album, rather it is a collection of songs Watson wrote or co-wrote that demonstrates the influence on his guitar-playing style that’s been gleaned from Memphis-associated players of the past. Super twangy guitar (and a greasy saxophone line from band member Jim Spake) highlight “Agent Elvis,” a sassy romp honoring Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore, and the catchy “Deep Eddy” tunes into a Duane Eddy vibe. Watson’s love of traditional country music shines throughout the album and particularly on cuts like “Hernando’s Swang,” a blues-tinged country dance guaranteed to get boots to scootin’. Watson says he learned quite a bit about his musicianship as he and his band recorded “The Memphians,” in a mere two days at his cleverly-named Memphis recording studio Wat-Sun Studios. "I have never fancied myself a great guitar player but I am good at playing melody,” he says. “The biggest thing I learned about my playing during this recording session was focus. We recorded live and in doing so you don’t want to be the one to make a mistake and have to start the song all over

again. But I was that guy very often! “This was also the first time I did not use a Telecaster guitar on the session. I have two guitars that were the models used by Scotty Moore; they have a very different sound and a different way of playing but they are a lot of fun.” ​ Wat-Sun Studios has hosted sessions by the likes of The Reverend Horton Heat, the Hickoids, Miss Tammi Savoy, and longtime Memphis player Jason D. Williams. ​ “The studio has primarily been for my use,” says Watson. “It’s a roots-oriented type of recording studio. It would not be conducive to a modern country sound.” With a plate that’s clearly overflowing, Watson says he’s trying to slow down a bit to concentrate on playing more at his own bar. ​ “My booking agent, though, is like a kid in a candy store, being able to book shows now, and he’s wasting no time. We have a tour set up that takes me through the Midwest then to Colorado and ending up in Memphis. That’ll be a solo acoustic tour with Jim Heath of The Reverend Horton Heat.” ​Watson also heads back to Texas for a show now and again and to keep an eye on the two nightclubs he owns there. While there’s nary a lyric on “The Memphians,” there is a song titled “2020” where Watson could have had some unkind words for an unkind year. Laughing about the possibilities, he offers a lyric of hope and humor, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I sure hope it isn’t a train.”

Kevin Wierzbicki is a Michigan-born, Arizona-based music and travel writer who loves to explore the sounds of the world whether they’re on CD or presented live at a festival in a far-flung location.

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in good spirits | THE SAZERAC

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A True Classic Cocktail Story and photo by Cheré Coen

The Sazerac has a long history in New Orleans, one that starts with a pharmacist and a coffeehouse, and arguably gives birth to America’s cocktail culture. ​This may come as a surprise to many but back in the 19th century alcohol was available throughout New Orleans — in saloons and taverns, naturally, but also coffee houses, pharmacies, and other establishments. Sarcasm aside, this lax attitude towards imbibing spirits in the always eclectic Crescent City produced a rich environment for the development of cocktails. ​ Antoine Amédée Peychaud, for instance, operated an apothecary on Royal Street in the French Quarter. He created a recipe for bitters around 1830 that combined spirits infused with botanicals, an elixir to help the medicine go down. This delicious assemblage of flavors was seized upon in the city’s coffeehouses, many of which operated much like a saloon.​ Peychaud’s Bitters and spirits — mainly Laurent Sazerac de Forge’s French cognac with a dash of absinthe, an aniseflavored spirit popular in New Orleans in the 19th century — made for interesting combinations. The drink became known as the “Sazerac,” named for the cognac maker. ​By the 1870s, however, a devastating wine year in France decreased the availability of cognac so rye whiskey was substituted in the drink. The trace amounts of wormwood in absinthe, thought to create addictions among their followers as well as hallucinations and other mental issues, prompted American officials to outlaw the spirit. Another ingenious New Orleanian, J.M. Legendre, created Herbsaint to take its place, a spirit similar in nature to absinthe but minus the wormwood. ​ Today, the Sazerac cocktail contains Peychaud’s Bitters (sold in stores using the same recipe as Antoine’s), sugar, Herbsaint, rye whiskey, and lemon, and it’s as popular today as it was a century ago. Which is why the Sazerac was named the official cocktail of New Orleans in 2008. The Sazerac is also one of the many arguments historians use to declare New Orleans and its many creative spirit-makers for the origin of the cocktail. ​Visitors to New Orleans may sample this potent drink throughout the city’s bars and other establishments (the city hasn’t changed in that regard) but also tour the Sazerac House on Canal Street, a lovingly restored building located 350 yards from the coffeehouse that first served the combination.

The Sazerac House — run by the Sazerac company which produces numerous spirits and Peychaud’s Bitters — offers free admission to exhibits that explain the Sazerac cocktail, as well as other local and national libations, plus the history of the company’s products. Special tours and programs that include mixology lessons and drink samples are offered as well, but with a fee. Virtual tastings have been offered during the pandemic, with participants making the drinks at home with their own ingredients or purchasing a cocktail set picked up at curbside. All on-site tours require reservations through the company’s website. ​ Here’s a recipe to create a Sazerac at home, just in time to celebrate Sazerac Day on June 23. sazerachouse.com ​ Sazerac 1 cube sugar 1 1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye Whiskey (or your own brand) 1/4 ounce Herbsaint 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters Lemon peel ​ irections: Pack on Old Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old D Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters, then crush the sugar cube. Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whisky/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

A favorite memory of DeSoto Co-editor Cheré Coen was bringing her mother to The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans in the last years of her life to enjoy her favorite drink, a Sazerac. She believes the Sazerac is most definitely the official cocktail of her hometown.

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

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

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

Sunset on the Square Thursdays in June Courthouse Lawn Hernando, MS 7:00 - 9:00pm June 3 - The Amber McCain Band June 10 -The Rustenhaven Band June 17 -Mississippi Stomp June 24 - The Rodell McCord Band Enjoy free outside concerts in June! Bring your own chair or blanket. For more information visit hernandoms.org or call 662-429-9055.

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First Friday Back Porch Party June 4 - Mississippi Greystone July 2 - Joe Austin & The Tallahatchies DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS 7:00 - 9:00 pm Enjoy live music, food and cash bar the first Friday of every month. No admission required. For more information call 662-404-3361 or visit desotoartscouncil.com.

Roar and Pour June 4 Memphis Zoo Memphis, TN 7:00pm Join us at Memphis Zoo for an exclusive night of a culinary and cocktail experience with the city's most desirable chefs, including a bourbon pairing down our Tennessee whiskey trail. Live in concert Larkin Poe. There will also be a silent auction featuring art from Memphis Zoo animals! For more information visit memphiszoo.org or call 901-333-6500.

Memphis Area Master Gardeners Tour June 5 Memphis, TN 9:00am - 4:00pm Memphis Area Master Gardeners invite the public to “Through Our Garden Gates” to their personal gardens where they have solved drainage problems, fought weeds, built water features, selected plants for sun and shade, maximized small spaces, and made large spaces more intimate. Garden hosts are on-site at each garden throughout the day to answer visitor’s questions and to provide plant lists. Rain or shine. Open to the public, free of charge (donations accepted). For more information visit memphisareamastergardeners.org or call 901-752-1207.

Cedar Hill Farm Pick-Ur-Own Blueberries June 5 - 26 Cedar Hill Farm Hernando, MS 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Saturdays in June. For more information call 662-429-2540 or visit gocedarhillfarm.com.

Tupelo Elvis Festival June 9 - 13 Tupelo, MS For schedule and ticket information visit tupeloelvisfestival.com or call 662-841-6598.


Clay Walker June 10 Bologna Performing Arts Center Cleveland, MS 7:30pm For more information visit bolognapac.com or call 662-846-4625.

Footloose The Musical June 11 - 27 Panola Playhouse Sardis, MS For more information visit panolaplayhouse.com or call 662-487-3975.

OB Festival/Bob Marr Classic Car Show June 12 City Park Olive Branch, MS 10:00 am - 3:00 pm Come out and visit the Vendor Market, Food Trucks, Pet Adoptions, Church Tents and the Bob Marr Classic Car Show! Admission is free. For information visit the City of Olive Branch Facebook page or call 662-892-9200.

Travis Tritt June 18 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:30pm For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.

Bluff City Balloon Jamboree June 19 - 20 Collierville, TN Make plans to bring out the family to enjoy live entertainment, arts and crafts displays and more at the festival site daily. Balloon flights, glows and tethered rides (weather permitting) add to the fun at dawn and dusk. Presented by Alston Construction. For more information visit thebluffcityballoonjamboree.com or call 901-481-7367.

Blues on the Back Porch June 19 - Garry Burnside June 24 - Duwayne Burnside Holly Springs, MS 7:00pm Blues on the Porch is a summer music series that brings Hill Country Blues musicians home to Holly Springs, to play on local porches. For more information visit bluesontheporch.com or call 662-278-0388.

Gary Allan June 19 Crossroads Arena Corinth, MS 7:00pm For more information visit crossroads arena.com.

Styx and Collective Soul June 19 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:30pm For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.

The Marshall Tucker Band July 1 Bologna Performing Arts Center Cleveland, MS 7:30pm For more information visit bolognapac.com or call 662-846-4625.

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

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reflections | WINNING THE TOMATO LOTTERY

Winning the Tomato Lottery Story and photography by Tom Adkinson

Summer means fresh tomatoes but is it possible to win the tomato lottery two years in a row? I’ve planted tomatoes, okra, and peppers for years with only modest success, but 2020 surprised me. I won the Tomato Lottery. I didn’t do anything special, but I had so many tomatoes that there were weeks I had to give them away. Other years, I would have hoarded every luscious one. Early Girls, Better Boys, Golden Cherries, Super 100s. They all flourished. It was as if they were telling the Coronavirus, “Take that, you lousy virus! We’ll not let you rob Tom of all joy. We’re destined for salads, BLTs, and ’mater sandwiches, and we’ll make him happy.” The tomatoes truly were a blessing as the pandemic put a damper on normal life. They fostered extra conversations with neighbors and generated new acquaintances. One morning as I was plucking my newspaper from the end of the driveway, a jogger whom I didn’t know passed by. “Want some tomatoes?” I hollered out of the blue. She laughed and then nodded affirmatively. “I’ll have a sack of cherry tomatoes by my mailbox when you return,” I called out as she plodded away. The sack disappeared, and I never figured out who the jogger was, but the encounter certainly started that day well. Some of my plants were what I called rescue tomatoes — four seedlings found in a Kroger supermarket parking lot. I suspect they had fallen from someone’s cart, and they definitely were the worse for wear from sitting on the hot asphalt. I took them home, quickly planted two that were not mortally wounded, and re-rooted the other two. They all flourished. I have no idea what variety they were, but they made excellent spaghetti sauce. 84 DeSoto

Tomatoes weren’t my only garden success. Early in the spring, I met Sammy the Skink and enjoyed watching him bask in the sun, skitter away when spooked, and change colors as he matured. He posed regally for me one morning when he was dressed stylishly in orange and gray. Winning the Tomato Lottery was so inspiring that I devoted serious thought and energy to this year’s tomatoes. Last fall, I sowed clover, peas, and oats for a soil-nourishing cover crop, which matured nicely. Through the winter, an emerald green island glowed in the ugly brown sea that was the rest of my yard. ​ When pandemic worries persisted this spring, my 2021 tomato quest energized me. My garden isn’t all that big, but I took extra time turning the soil. On warm days, I’d devote an hour or two to spade work, step back to admire my progress, and save the next section for another day. There was no reason to hurry. I bought several varieties, worried about late frosts, fenced off the plants from marauding rabbits (which are not cute, no matter what you say), and now am eager for red jewels to mature. Just for insurance, I planted extra okra, because okra thrives almost without regard to the skill of the gardener. A bumper crop of okra will be some solace if I don’t win the Tomato Lottery two years in a row. Travel and outdoor writer Tom Adkinson tempts the gardening gods annually in Nashville, Tenn. He is a Marco Polo member of the Society of American Travel Writers and author of “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die.”


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Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine June 2021  

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