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Christmas movies

As you are aware from past columns, I am a big fan of Christmas and all that comes with it. Over the last couple of years, with my wife’s prodding, I have really gotten into the Hallmark Christmas movie craze. Katlyne, my oldest daughter, refers to them as “happy sappy” movies. I like them. The plots are easy to follow: boy meets girl, they don’t like each other, they are forced to work together, they begin to fall for each other, some misunderstanding tears them apart, the misunderstanding is corrected, they confess their love for each other and share a passionate kiss. What’s not to like? Paul, ECM’s head of government relations, also enjoys Hallmark Christmas movies. The other day at lunch, we were discussing them and picking our favorites. Also with us were two younger members of the team, and they were watching us with looks of disbelief and pity as we talked about plots and actors. (I guess 30-year-olds have more interesting lives than those of us in our fifth decade!) One of them, Hunter, chimed in with, “My favorite Christmas movie is ‘Die Hard.’” I quickly explained to him that “Die Hard” is not a Christmas movie; rather it is merely a movie set during Christmas, much like “Lethal Weapon.” Several minutes of discussion ensued, and the ultimate question presented itself to us: what makes a movie a Christmas movie? After much deliberation, here is a set of criteria that I hope can help us determine if a movie is indeed a Christmas movie: First, the movie must be set during the Christmas season; that is a given. Second, the movie must espouse some of the following virtues: love, hope, faith, joy, concern for others, belief in something and self-sacrifice. Third, it must contain a miracle. (Now by miracle, that could be a ghost, a visit from an

angel, Santa Claus, talking animals or some miraculous occurrence of an unexplained phenomenon.) Fourth, lives need to be impacted for the better. (Seriously, if nothing good happens, how can it be a Christmas movie?) Fifth, no more than two people can die, which takes out “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon.” (After all, happy endings, while not a necessity, are preferred.) And lastly, the movie should be family-friendly. I admit, not all of Hallmark’s “happy sappy” movies are Christmas movies — some are just love stories set during Christmas, but I enjoy them anyway. A few of my favorite classic Christmas movies are “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Carol” (with George C. Scott as Scrooge) and, of course, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But, my very favorite Christmas movie is “Annabelle’s Wish.” Even though it’s a cartoon, it’s a great movie and I tear up every time I watch it. Heck, my eyes are beginning to water now just thinking about it! This Christmas season, gather the family and watch your favorite Christmas movie — or maybe it’s just a movie set during Christmas. Regardless, what matters most is spending time with people you love.

Merry Christmas! by Michael Callahan­ Executive Vice President/CEO Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi


in this issue

6 scene around the ‘sip A look at special people and places around Mississippi

11 outdoors today

Tales around a winter campfire


member 14 local communications


feature The Mississippi Gift Company celebrates the talent, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the Magnolia State

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 72 No. 12

OFFICERS Keith Hayward - President Kevin Bonds - First Vice President Eddie Howard - Second Vice President Randy Carroll - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Ron Stewart - Senior VP, Communications Sandra M. Buckley - Editor Mark Bridges - Manager, Support Services Chad Calcote - Creative Director Elissa Fulton - Communications Specialist Rickey McMillan - Graphic Designer Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Administrative Assistant EDITORIAL OFFICE & ADVERTISING 601-605-8600

Acceptance of advertising by Today in Mississippi does not imply endorsement of the advertised product or services by the publisher or Mississippi’s electric power associations. Product satisfaction and delivery responsibility lie solely with the advertiser. • National advertising representative: American MainStreet Publications, 800-626-1181

Circulation of this issue: 442,522


24 on the menu

Savor the season with smoked turkey and roasted cinnamon pecans

29 grin ‘n’ bare it My 2019 Christmas story


31 mississippi seen Season of Lights

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 11 times a year by Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Inc., P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300, or 665 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157. Phone 601-605-8600. Periodical postage paid at Ridgeland, MS, and additional office. The publisher (and/or its agent) reserves the right to refuse or edit all advertising. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 507.1.5.2) NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to: Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

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SUGAREE’S BAKERY by Sandra M. Buckley Nestled in downtown New Albany is a charming bakery, with cast iron skillet to cook caramel icing, make one cake at a time, the most delectable, made-from-scratch desserts — Sugaree’s make a labor-intensive traditional boiled red velvet icing — and Bakery. The establishment, however, is more than a thriving we do it all with the most premium ingredients available,” retail location savored by locals; it is also delighting customers Russell explained. “This is one of the things that sets us apart … across Mississippi and the country with if a technique or ingredient produces its sweet treats. a better result for us, we believe our What began in 1997 out of her home customers will recognize and appreciate kitchen, Mary Jennifer Russell has grown the end result.” Our desserts are made with her bakery into a successful brand, The bakery has become a tourist the care and love that including consumer mail order and destination in North Mississippi, so Russell remind people of those wholesale operations. “Our mail order recently opened an Airbnb rental above holiday memories and the business ships cakes every day to homes the bakery called Sugaree’s Loft. She and businesses across the country,” she also hosts cooking classes, farm to table people who baked with said. “Our wholesale business spans all of dinners and various other community love for them... the Deep South states.” inspired events. Sugaree’s best selling cake flavors are caramel, coconut Sugaree’s brings a taste of home and the ease of entertaining and strawberry. And, its famous pies include chess, chocolate to many customers in many places, especially during the meringue, pecan, strawberry and sweet potato. holidays. “We provide the opportunity for anyone to share “We make our own pie crusts, melt granulated sugar in a tiny the gift of Southern hospitality!” she said. 6 TODAY | DECEMBER 2019

“There is a whole generation of people who have childhood memories of really wonderful desserts, but don’t know how to make them or don’t have the time,” Russell added. “Our desserts are made with the care and love that remind people of those holiday memories and the people who baked with love for them, so that kind of nostalgia is a very comforting and wonderful thing to revisit.” Visit www.sugarees.com or call 1-866-784-2733 for more information.

Photos by Sugaree’s Bakery




sculpture in

by Sandra M. Buckley A sculpture is presentation of a dimensional, freestanding form — and there is certainly a distinct art in it. Acclaimed sculptor Jason Kimes, of Laurel, describes the art form this way: “Sculpture, as an object that exists in the round, means it must be considered from all points of view — rather than a painting or drawing, which is only viewed directly from one perspective.” As a child, Kimes understood that creating and visual arts were a part of who he was and who he would become. It was this interest that led him on a direct path to earn an undergraduate degree in sculpture and a Master’s of Fine Art in sculpture from the University of Southern Mississippi. His preferred material to work with is metal — particularly steel. “Steel attracted me due to its permanence; wood and stone can be permanent too, but steel is more malleable and therefore has more options for how it can be shaped and formed,” he explained. His sculptures have evolved into mostly large-scale, which best fits into public settings outdoors. “I have an enormous interest in reaching everyday people who aren’t likely to visit a gallery or museum, but who could easily come into contact with an artwork in a public setting,” he said. “Large-scale work reframes the relationship between the viewer and the sculpture. A viewer looking down onto a small painting or sculpture sees it in a different way than a viewer looking up at a larger artwork. Such a simple reversing of the scale relationship can have huge effects on how one interprets or understands a work of art.” Kimes also appreciates that portraying elements of the human body creates an instinctual understanding from the spectator. “I think seeing a relatable form creates a natural connection with viewers by seeing something so easily 8 TODAY | DECEMBER 2019

recognizable,” he said, sharing that a recent example is his intricate design of a hand comprised of more than 4,000 pieces of steel he cut out and welded in place. His work and talent have been heralded in national arts publications and on display around the country. “Much of my public work has been shown and collected in New Orleans, but I’ve sold sculptures to collectors as far away as California and have a gallery in Canada, showing my work internationally,” he said, adding that his sculptures are on display in Chattanooga and he has an upcoming exhibit at Georgia Tech. Locally, three of his sculptures are displayed in downtown Hattiesburg. “Although Laurel doesn’t yet have one of my sculptures on permanent display, I’ve been able to install the last few sculptures downtown before they were taken to their final destinations,” he said. “It’s been great to share the work with the people of Laurel, even temporarily.” Kimes, his wife and their four young children enjoy spending family time at home on their 4 acres in Jones County. His studio is also on the property, which he describes as an older, 1,800 square-foot wood frame building. “Doing so much metal work, the majority of the shop is used for welding, grinding, milling and even casting,” he said. “I have a small area for wood tools that are used for making crates, pallets and small wood projects. I removed a rafter to fit a large steel gantry I use to lift finished sculptures enough to get a trailer under, several of them weighing almost 5,000 pounds. I have a forklift that’s over 40 years old and is great for moving things around the property, but doesn’t take the place of my dream of a bridge crane someday.” Visit www.jasonkimes.com for more information.


is brewing up a perfect cup by Sandra M. Buckley Paul Bonds is a coffee connoisseur. While he didn’t start out that way, as a young adult he developed a strong appreciation and passion for it and learned the art of roasting coffee beans. That led him to launch BeanFruit Coffee Company in Pearl, where his hand-selected coffees are roasted and then distributed to restaurants, coffee shops and other retailers all across Mississippi — as well as to consumers at home throughout the country. “Prior to starting the business, I was buying coffee from reputable coffee roasters all over the U.S.,” Bonds said. “After tasting many coffees, I started roasting coffee at home. It basically started as a hobby that transitioned to a part-time business, and finally I went full-time with it in 2012.”  To meet customer demand, the BeanFruit facility utilizes two drum-style coffee roasters that are capable of roasting up to 1,500 pounds of coffee in one day. Another key to the company’s success has been its commitment to provide the highest quality product. To do so, Bonds, who earned a

Christmas -on-

opens the season in splendor and sparkle

business degree from Mississippi College, works with coffee importers across the country finding sustainable, green coffees. “We want to offer our customers the best of the best coffees,” Bonds shared. “We work to select coffees from farmers who produce their coffees using sustainable methods. These coffees are not only better for the environment, but also tend to yield better results in the cup. It’s a win-win for the farmer and the buyer.”  BeanFruit is especially dedicated to making it easy for connoisseurs to brew up and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee at home — or to share as gifts — by offering a variety of coffees, available as whole beans or freshly ground, sampler packs and other related products online. “The majority of our online orders are from Mississippi, but we do receive quite a few orders from customers all over the U.S.” Bonds added. “We’ve shipped coffees as far as Alaska and Guam.” Visit www.beanfruit.com for more information.

by Nancy Jo Maples Christmas on Deer Creek marks its 55th anniversary this year as Leland hosts its unique tradition of welcoming the holiday season, which will be on display from November 30 until December 31. Splendid homes facing the creek feature tasteful décor and window candles. Lighted trees along the creek add sparkle, and anchored floats, evenly spaced along the creek, tell the story of the birth of Christ and showcase snowmen, carolers and seasonal symbols. November 30 is the kickoff, as a children’s parade rolls at 3 p.m. featuring folks 12 and younger riding on decorated bikes and in decorated strollers pushed by parents. The evening includes community singing and culminates with the arrival of Santa, at 5:30 p.m., in his sleigh drifting down the creek in a motorized float. Afterwards, he poses for free pictures. Leland, located about 7 miles east of Greenville, is also home of the late

Jim Henson, creator of Kermit the Frog. A museum in his memory, Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood Home Exhibit, will offer visitors free gifts and photo opportunities with Kermit on the day of the creek event. “I remember coming to Leland as a child at Christmas time to ride around the creek to look at the floats and the beautiful homes all lit up,” said Mary Anne Brocato, of the Leland Chamber of Commerce. “It was always one of my favorite things at Christmas. When my children were young, we brought them to Leland to see the floats and lighted Christmas trees. Now that I live here, I still enjoy the beauty of it.” Call 662-686-2687 for more information. Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at nancyjomaples@aol.com.


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winter campfire

And let it be noted that a campfire is not relegated to a Some will conclude late fall or winter a flawed time for camp. It can be just as memorizing in the backyard as it is camping. Too cold; too damp; too consumed by ballgames; at the campground. too choked with holiday festivities. And there is an element Campfires afford a captivating picture of life, one form of truth in these objections; however, there are exceptions. of matter giving off heat and serving that purpose for which I elect to focus on those exceptions and go camping, usually it was selected and then bursting heavenward to live on in in the travel trailer but often in canvas. When in canvas, another form. It is also therapeutic. a woodstove is employed, its pipe Watching it heals, soothes, sands off transitioning inside to out through frayed edges that have become ragged. that protective collar in the tent’s roof. And it does this sanding with supple And there are parameters for Campfires afford a cloth minus chafing. Gently; quietly; winter camping. How cold is too captivating picture of life, in caring fashion. cold? That is the camper’s decision. one form of matter giving Campfires induce story telling. I once spent four nights in a Montana Several of us recently sat entranced blizzard when the thermometer never off heat and serving that as the fire danced and flickered and rose above 21 below. Yes, below zero; purpose for which it was stories began to flow. One was about and yes, in a wall tent. We could do selected and then bursting Frank, a local personality. A jovial guy, little more than sit and feed the stove heavenward to live on Frank toys with peanuts. Each fall he with split aspen, not the most viable in another form. boils monstrous amounts and gives fuel. That was too cold. But Mississippi them away. He told me recently that and surrounding areas are not so brutal. he loved boiled peanuts, but noted they had begun to hurt Surely, there will be cold but some not too-cold days and him. I immediately offered my condolences. He said that nights available. And those other factors mentioned above after eating about two gallons at a time, he got this pain in can generally be circumvented. So, a quick camping trip his side. We all went to warm beds and waited with great could be in the making. expectation for a new winter’s morning. What are you to do on that trip? Be quiet and reflective if possible. Walk to water’s edge at dawn and absorb the majesty. Watch those tenuous and feeble fingers of fog drift upward to greet sunrise. Listen for the first crow’s caw or the lonesome honk of geese. Admire the morning sky. Take time by Tony Kinton to be thankful. And always spend ample time enjoying one specifically Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors alluring entity of camping. I discovered decades back that writer for 30 years. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information. the most intriguing aspect of a camping trip is the fire.

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Merry and Bright The holidays are a time of year that many of us eagerly anticipate. The season is marked by special foods, seasonal decorations and lots of festivities. We look forward to the annual holiday events right here in our communities. We cherish carrying on old family traditions and enjoy creating new ones, and we look forward to more time spent with family and friends. However, given the hustle and bustle of the season, the holidays can also offer an opportunity to slow down and reflect. For all of us at Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association, we are grateful for you, the members of the co-op. You see, one of our founding principles as a co-op

is “Concern for Community.” While our main focus is providing safe, reliable and affordable energy, we want to give back. We want to help our community thrive. Looking ahead Looking ahead to 2020, we hope you will share your opinions with us. We recognize that our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we continually seek your input. We are led by you — the members of the co-op — and we depend on your feedback. As we prepare for next year, we look forward to the opportunity to serve you and the greater community. On behalf of the Yazoo Valley Electric family, we hope your holidays are indeed merry and bright!

Merry Christmas from everyone at Yazoo Valley Electric

Our offices will be closed December 24 and 25 for Christmas and January 1 for New Year’s Day. 2255 Gordon Avenue • Yazoo City, MS 39194 Mail: P.O. Box 8 • Yazoo City, MS 39194

TO REPORT OUTAGES: 662-746-4251 Visit us online at www.yazoovalley.com Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Pay by Phone: 1-866-484-4277 14 TODAY | NOVEMBER 2019

Electronic holiday gift guide This holiday season, give the gift of tech! If you’re searching for the latest gadgets and electronics to give but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of ideas for your tech-savvy friends and family members, with a range of prices and interests. n Gifts for those on the go: We all have that one friend who never stays in one place, so they’ll appreciate gifts that keep them charged and entertained while on the go. A portable charger can keep their smartphones and tablets juiced, and the good news is this gift won’t drain your wallet. You can purchase portable chargers online or at local retailers for as low as $20. Typically, these compact devices can fully charge an iPhone three times before running out of steam. A Bluetooth speaker is another great gift to keep those on the go entertained. Whether they’re listening to their favorite tunes or watching the latest flick, Bluetooth speakers can clarify and amplify volume to satisfy any media enthusiast. Prices range depending on features, but you can purchase a quality Bluetooth speaker online or at local retailers for as low as $30. n Gifts for the chef: Every foodie knows that temperature matters when mastering the perfect cut of meat. A Bluetooth-connected thermometer can help your chef ensure a delicious (and safe-to-eat) meal. Just download the associated app and keep an eye on the grill right from your smartphone or tablet. Prices vary from $30 to

$200, but you can purchase these handy gadgets online or at any big box store, like Walmart or Target. A digital kitchen scale is a must for any culinary pro. No more guessing — the easy-to-read digital screen ensures the exact weight or amount required for that perfect dish. Prices vary, but you can find a scale for about $20 on Amazon.com. n Gifts for the pet owner: Let’s face it — pet owners would be lost without their fur babies. Luckily, pet tracking products continue to advance, so pet owners can always keep a watchful eye on their furry friends. Most trackers simply attach to your pet’s collar. Prices vary depending on the tracker’s capabilities, but some features include water resistance, health monitoring and exceptional battery life. You can purchase pet trackers online or at your local pet store. Speaking of keeping an eye on pets, you can also purchase surveillance cameras for real-time monitoring — some cameras even allow you to toss treats to your furry friend while you’re away. Additional features include a microphone (so you can talk to your pets), a built-in laser toy (for our feline friends) and the ability to take a photo or video from your smartphone. Prices vary depending on the bells and whistles, but you can purchase a pet camera for as low as $40 on Amazon.com. With so many electronics available today, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for your tech-savvy loved ones. Happy shopping!

Holiday tree safety tips Ensure a merry and bright holiday season by safely maintaining your tree with the following tips. Keep away from heat 

Examine cords

Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from any heat source like an airduct, fireplace o r space heater.

Inspect lights

Examine extension cords and lights for signs of damage. Frayed electric cords should be discarded.

Carefully inspect all electrical decorations before you use them. Cracked or damaged sockets and/or loose or exposed wires can cause serious shock or start a fire.

Trim the stump Trim the tree’s stump by at least two inches on freshly cut trees. Allow it to absorb water for 24 hours before bringing it inside.




HOLIDAY GIFTS to give (or keep!)

by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen Dear Pat and Brad: With the holidays approaching, I’m starting to think about unique gifts for my family and friends that won’t use too much energy. Can you share any ideas? — Monica Dear Monica: It’s always a great idea to give energy efficient gifts! Here are a few ideas based on a range of prices. You might even want to keep one or two of these for yourself! 1. Smart power strip ($15 to $100): Smart power strips are the perfect gift for your tech-savvy family members and friends because they’ll likely need the extra outlets for their many devices. Smart power strips give more control than traditional ones. By plugging the main hardware item, such as a computer or monitor, into the master outlet, you can easily control the rest of the devices. When that main device is turned off, everything else plugged into the strip also powers off. Some smart power strips can also be operated through a remote control or smartphone app, and some include programmable timers. 2. Smart thermostat ($30 to $600): A smart thermostat can adjust the temperature by learning your energy use habits over time, which saves you money. It can also be controlled through a smartphone app. Just make sure you’re going to use all of its functionality before taking the leap. 3. Solar backpack ($30 to $325): These handy devices collect and store enough electricity to power a phone, tablet or even a laptop. The solar panels stitched onto the back of the packs are flexible and waterproof. Best of all, they have all the features and functionality of their traditional non-solar cousins.

sweat, or perhaps find regular cycling too physically challenging. Studies also show that e-biking can bring many of the same physical benefits as non-assisted pedaling. They even come in foldable versions. 5. Electric scooter ($80 to $3,000): The foldable, foot-powered scooter that exploded onto the scene a decade ago has grown up in a big way. You can buy one to use for your daily commute or as a fun way to simply scoot around the neighborhood. Higher-quality versions will have longer range, larger tires and better suspension — along with a higher cost, of course. The catch is that they’re still largely confined to paved surfaces. 6. Energy efficient tablets ($40 to $4,000): You may already have at least one tablet in your home, but have you considered how energy efficient it is? Try this: Instead of using your TV to binge that new show, consider an ENERGY STAR-rated tablet, and you can use seven times less power! Simply look for the label when you’re shopping for new tablets. Looking for an efficient gift that costs practically nothing? Enjoy a good book and a cozy evening at home, which requires no energy use at all. Don’t forget to put on your favorite sweater and pair of fuzzy slippers so you can lower the thermostat a couple of degrees. Now that’s an energy efficient evening worth repeating!

4. E-bike ($250 to $9,000): Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are regular bicycles with an electric motor that can be engaged as needed. E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular with people who face challenging terrain, bike to work and don’t want to work up a

Ecobee smart thermostat photo by Ecobee


Solar backpack photo by Hannu Makarainen

Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. Visit www.collaborativeefficiency. com/energytips for more energy efficient gifts.

Electric scooter photo by Miki Yoshihito

The Amazon Echo Plus is one of the most popular smart speakers available on the market today. Photo credit: Amazon

Is your smart home speaker smart for your energy bill? Have you ever wanted to turn off the lights, listen to the news or order food by simply using your voice? That is the innovative power a smart home speaker can provide. These handy products have made their way into many homes across the country since the first smart speaker became available in late 2014. By the end of last year, there were 66.4 million users of smart home assistants or smart home speakers in the U.S. These smart speakers can truly act as assistants, whether by helping you set reminders, establishing routine commands or informing you of today’s top news stories. They include numerous functions, like helping you order products online, playing music — they can even tell you a joke! One in four Americans now own a smart speaker, and 40 percent of those people have more than one. The most popular is the Amazon Echo, although Google Home products are selling at a rapid rate and even taking over some of the market share from Amazon. Other popular brands of smart speakers include Apple’s HomePod, the Sonos One and the JBL Link 10. Smart speakers have clearly become a big hit in the residential market, and they are also economical with varied price points. Google Home starts at about $129, and the Amazon Echo starts at about $180. However, there are smaller, more basic versions that start at $25 for the Amazon Echo Dot, and $49 for the Google Home Mini.

As smart speakers become more prevalent, you may be wondering if these products are a smart choice when it comes to the impact they have on your energy bill. Tests have been conducted to determine how much power a smart speaker uses, including different modes of use, such as when the assistant is on standby mode or listening to a command. Moderate-level actions, like playing music at full volume, have also been tested. By way of example, the Amazon Echo speaker uses 3 watts of electricity while on standby; and if it were left on standby mode for one year, the total cost would only be about $3.15. While moderately active (like telling a joke or playing music at a medium volume), the Amazon Echo uses 4 watts. At the highest power use (like playing music at full volume), the Amazon Echo still only uses 6.6 watts, and if used consistently at this level, it would cost $6.93 for the year. For comparison, the Google Home uses slightly less energy than the Amazon Echo at 2 watts while in standby mode, saving you about $1 a year in total energy costs. As you can see, the costs to use smart speakers are minimal, and the difference in prices between available products and their abilities are still relatively small. There are plenty of reasons to buy a smart speaker, and the additional cost to your energy bill should not stop you from getting one.

One in four Americans now own a smart speaker...



a family n a brand n a blessing

by Elissa Fulton


or those of you who are boaters and have any type of craft that requires a paddle, chances are high your paddle is a Caviness brand — and made in Mississippi. The Calhoun City-based family business has been in operation for more than 70 years and is recognized as the world’s largest manufacturer of boat paddles and oars, in an industry that spans marine, fishing, canoeing, kayak and whitewater rafting. Caviness paddles can be found online and in most retail stores like Bass Pro, Cabela’s, Academy Sports and Canadian Tire. Founded by James T. “Jimmy” Caviness in the 1940s as Caviness Woodworking Company, the company is now run by the fourth generation of the Caviness family. According to Michael Caviness, vice president and third generation, the company had quite humble beginnings. “My grandfather started the company in a shed next to their little red brick house,” said Michael. “He was a commercial fisherman, but he did a little bit of everything — a jack of all trades, and master of none. The little brick house is still right across the street, and the company has expanded around it.” Jimmy was talented, but he was into many endeavors. With only a second grade education, he made furniture, he made brooms that he sold door-to-door for 5¢, and he made boat paddles. “My grandmother was probably most influential to my grandfather starting the company,” Michael said. “She told him that he was going to do one thing, and do it well. He started doing nothing but building paddles and drove around the state selling them to retailers out of his pickup truck.” He was able to patent a machine that made the paddle constructing process much smoother. Not having the financial luxury of getting it wrong even once, he sat on the floor, and using a pocket knife and cardboard, he manufactured a machine by studying how the gears and levers would work — all before paying to have the machine built. He may not have been school 18 TODAY | DECEMBER 2019

educated, but he was as determined and smart as any other successful entrepreneur. “In the 1950s when the watershed lakes began, that fell right into us as a paddle manufacturer,” said Michael. “Everyone had access to the lakes over the years, and it became a regulation that you had to have some type of alternate propulsion in your boat as a federal law, which was certainly a plus for us because everyone had to buy a paddle for their boat.” The 1960s brought new direction to the company under Jimmy’s son, Jim, who was instrumental in expanding into national and international markets. He also spearheaded an innovative line of synthetic products, which ultimately catapulted the company into new markets such as whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. In 1983, Jim’s oldest son, Don, became the acting president. As Don and Michael continue the family tradition, the fourth generation is now stepping up to the plate as well with brand new ideas and a zest for the industry, including Don’s son, Kris, who is taking on the marketing endeavors and product development. Caviness is Natchez Trace Electric’s oldest industry member of its size. “You just don’t see many plants that have been in business for 70 years,” said Daryl Love, Natchez Trace Electric district manager. “When you’re the world’s largest paddle making company, there’s certainly a reason. The community is proud of them. They provide jobs and that’s important in a community our size.” “This is a great town with a lot of great people that have supported us,” Michael added. “There’s truly been someone above looking out for us through the years. God has blessed us and kept the company going in the tough times and the good times too. I’m proud of our family, and I just love to tell the story.”

Visit www.cavinesspaddles.com for more information.

CHEESE STRAW A good business idea leaves a lasting legacy for Yerger family by Elissa Fulton more years before retiring for good, with her sons assuming Most of us wish for that one good business idea — the idea ownership of the business. Hunter now serves as president that will put us on the map. When a decades long career in food and CEO and oversees planning, marketing, product developservice was winding down, Mary Margaret Yerger knew she had ment and business aspects while Robbie, vice president and a good idea that could put her on the map. She had worked in general manager, oversees the day-to-day production and school cafeteria food service for many years and was responsible operations. for feeding more than 5,000 students in Yazoo City every day. Today, from their 35,000-square-foot location on Eighth Street, After Yerger lost her husband, she had to support her five the company manufactures a variety of cheese straws and young children. She began working as cafeteria manager for flavored cookie straws, as well as baked goods for large brands Saint Clara’s Catholic School, and after a number of years, moved distributed all across the United to the public school system as States. The company ships to and food service supervisor. She sells products in all 50 states. maintained a catering business This year, the company was in addition to her day job. One of invited to represent the State of her signature party items was her Mississippi at the White House for delicious cheese straws. the annual “Made in America” In 1989, Yerger had the idea to product showcase and met Vice start a business selling her cheese President Mike Pence. The exhibistraws as a retirement project and tors were able to listen to a speech asked two of her sons, Hunter and from President Donald Trump and Robbie, to join her. They went to watch as he signed an executive work researching, creating a order mandating a higher percentbusiness plan and finding the age of “Made in America” products appropriate commercial grade for federal procurement. equipment. And Mississippi “This was such a fantastic expeCheese Straw Factory was born! “Made in America” showcase at the White House. Robbie and rience,” said Hunter. “We are truly While the first year was challeng- Hunter Yerger visits with Vice President Mike Pence. honored to have been a part of this ing, the family was making sales once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent our company and our and cheese straws out of Mrs. Yerger’s kitchen by November 1991. state. We have been truly blessed and gratified, especially to the “The first person we made contact with was Carol Daily who at people of Mississippi, to have been able to bring mother’s idea to that time owned Everyday Gourmet in Jackson, and she bought life. We’ve learned many things along the way and are truly just a the first production,” said Hunter. “After that, we began to sell to 28-year overnight success.” gift and drug stores primarily in the Mississippi area. In that first Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory products are bringing joy to two-month period during the Christmas season, we sold nearly consumers across the state and beyond, thanks to a good idea, $100,000 worth of cheese straws we made in mother’s kitchen.” a long-term vision and years of hard work. Within a few months, as sales flourished, the Yergers moved the business into a 400-square-foot building near Mrs. Yerger’s home, and within another year to downtown Yazoo City where Visit www.cheesestrawfactory.com for more information. they built their first production plant. Mrs. Yerger worked a few DECEMBER 2019 | TODAY 19


GIVE THE GIFT of MISSISSIPPI Celebrating the talent, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the Magnolia State by Sandra M. Buckley In 1993, newlyweds Cindy and Tim Tyler of Greenwood had a novel idea for a new business. The idea was to launch a fundraising company that schools could partner with to sell Mississippi made products as a way to raise money. What they soon discovered, however, was that their efforts would have a better chance at success if they dreamed even bigger — and so they shifted from a school fundraising concept to direct consumer-based sales. As the couple launched their startup as The Mississippi Gift Company, they refocused its mission, taking a visionary approach. Not only were they marketing top quality products to individuals, but also to an untapped niche in the form of corporate gifts — allowing their business model to double its consumer base. Business began to boom, and they soon opened a storefront. “At that time, we were the only retail store in downtown Greenwood,” Cindy said, adding that they also took a chance and created a mail order catalog. “We borrowed our brother-in-law’s camera and shot the catalog in the empty parking lot next to our retail location. The catalog gave us the appearance of a large company at the time and helped grow our business.” Such pioneering thinking is what then took the company to the next level. “We were one of the first companies to have a website and worked to build a site on one of the first ecommerce platforms available in 1997,” explained Cindy. “It was during the days of dial-up and took forever for the site to load. This really helped grow our customer base.” Today, Cindy runs the business full time and has created a convenient hub, both in store and online, for exceptional Mississippi made gifts, decorative accessories for the home and gourmet food items. And the storefront is now more than a retail shop; it’s a unique shopping experience and a tourist destination. “We have visitors from all over the world visiting our business to find something unique to take home from their travels,” she said. “We also have online customers in every state in the United States that love to give a gift of Mississippi,” Cindy added. “We have customers all across the state, the country and a few orders overseas from time to time to send something to their loved ones in the U.S.”

Over the past 26 years, the business has successfully expanded its brand and established itself as the first — and only — company dedicated to exclusively selling Mississippi products. It also maintains the largest selection of Mississippi made items available anywhere, with more than 750 product offerings handcrafted by more than 150 Mississippians. The range of products is vast, from handcrafted dinnerware, pottery, picture frames, decorative pillows, candles and jewelry to original artwork and photography as well as cookbooks and coffee table books. And, gourmet food products are equally in demand, including bread mixes, salad dressings, salsas, pickles, cheese straws, cakes, pies, cookies, dessert mixes, local honey, appetizer and dip mixes, nuts, sauces, marinades, soup mixes and more. As an additional convenience, gift cards, a bridal registry and a wish list for customers are also available. “We are so fortunate that there are so many talented artists, potters, chefs, craftsmen and gourmet food entrepreneurs in our state,” Cindy noted. “When someone receives a gift from The Mississippi Gift Company, they know the gift is high quality, handmade and made in Mississippi.” Cindy, a graduate of Mississippi State University, has not only helped connect Mississippi makers and their goods with customers, she has also established lasting relationships with them. “I have become great friends and developed wonderful relationships with the artisans whose goods I sell,” she shared. “We love that we are a part of their story and have played a certain part in introducing their product to new customers who love Mississippi.”


Photos by The Mississippi Gift Company

Another amenity of the company is the option of selecting and purchasing pre-filled gift packages. These beautiful, festive or holiday-inspired gift baskets, which can be customized, are loaded with assortments of customer favorites, like sweet and savory treats. These offer convenience and fit the bill for countless occasions, such as a thank you, house warming, new baby, birthday, retirement, wedding or client gift. “We have gift boxes, gift baskets and gift packages for any occasion, all filled with made-in-Mississippi items,” Cindy added. “We have even shipped gift baskets to studio sets in Los Angeles.” By offering gift packages as a convenient solution for businesses to meet gifting needs, Cindy and her team are prepared at a moment’s notice to fulfill these orders. “Our corporate gifts are a great option for small and large businesses, and we try to make it easy for them because we know that everyone is so busy,” she said. “We say, ‘Send us your list, we do the rest.’ So all the business has to do is tell us what gift package they want and send us their mailing list. We pack it up and ship it out to arrive on the date that they request.” To keep up with demand, the company stocks its items in a temperature-controlled fulfillment center adjacent to the retail space. Before, when fulfilling orders in the company’s early days, Cindy, Tim and occasionally Tim’s parents were the ones packing up and shipping out the boxes. “One time, we got a call from a customer saying that they found a wedding ring in the basket they received from us and that someone in our warehouse must have lost it,” Cindy shared. “We laughed so hard because we had no warehouse and it was just us packing and shipping, which meant that it could only be one person’s lost ring — my husband’s!” The Mississippi Gift Company has been featured in national outlets such as Southern Living, Bon Appetit and 22 TODAY | DECEMBER 2019

Owner Cindy Tyler

Cooking with Paula Dean. Also a particular honor, it was selected in 2017 to represent the State of Mississippi in the Google Economic Impact report, an esteemed recognition that brought Cindy and her staff to Google headquarters in California for an awards presentation gala. The Mississippi Gift Company holds true to its original mission to celebrate and share the talent, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the Magnolia State. “We have remained committed to finding the best handcrafted food, gifts and home decor that is made by hardworking Mississippians,” Cindy explained. “This allows our customers to be able to give something that is truly different and unique. And most of the time, it reflects their own Mississippi heritage and allows them to share a piece of who they are with others.” Thanks to an innovative vision nearly three decades ago, an appreciation of Mississippi makers, alongside years of hard work, The Mississippi Gift Company offers anyone, anywhere, a simple way to give the gift of Mississippi. “I am so blessed to have this opportunity to give people the ability to share Mississippi with their clients, friends and family,” Cindy said. “Mississippi has a rich heritage of food, art and craftsmanship,” Cindy added, “and it has been such a blessing to have had the opportunity to showcase the best that Mississippi has to offer over our 26 years in business.”

THE MISSISSIPPI GIFT COMPANY 300 Howard Street Greenwood, MS 38930 www.msgifts.com 1-800-467-7763

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You can do it!

southern gardening

grin ‘n’ bare it

How to successfully smoke a turkey

by Andy Chapman Turkey can be tricky, but with a touch of love, some planning and a good grill, you can cook a stellar bird for your family that folks will rave about. It’s possible to be a hero of the grill at Christmas, without ever firing up the oven inside — or in my case, getting in the way of all of the inside cooking with pies and stuffing and cookies and candy happening in the kitchen. But first you will need to do a little prep, and this is where it all starts.

TURKEY MAGIC: Make a Beer Swamp Butter. This really is a secret weapon. This same recipe can also be used on chicken as well. My Beer Swamp Butter recipe is a simple mixture of easy-to-find ingredients that you’ll inject into your bird using an easy-to-find-this-time-of-year turkey injector. INJECTION TIME: Remember when I told you to get the turkey to room temperature? Well, if you inject melted butter into a frozen turkey, basic science says it will not work well. So, be sure to get the bird as close to room temperature as you can manage. Inject the Swamp Butter in a grid pattern around the bird until you’ve used all but about a cup of the liquid. Reserve the remaining cup for basting during cooking.

BRINE: Start the night before It’s possible to be a hero of the grill at you want to cook … I usually brine Christmas, without ever firing up the in a cup of brown sugar (packed), a cup of salt, a hand full of cinnaoven inside — or in my case, getting mon sticks, 2 to 4 oranges sliced in the way of all of the inside cooking in half (if you have a lemon, throw with pies and stuffing and cookies a sliced one of those in there as and candy happening in the kitchen. well). Stir it all up in a cooler large enough to also hold the bird with water and ice to fill to the top. Set it up and let it sit outside overnight. This process will impart some flavor and sweetness REST THE BIRD: I learned this trick from cookbook author to your bird that will make it special. Important tip: mix everyRay Lampe, and it’s a good one. Rest the turkey for an hour thing really well before you add any ice — it will mix much easier after injection and before cooking with a Ziploc bag full of ice propped onto the breast portion only. This will retard the if you do that. cooking process on the breasts, which tend to dry out during cooking. (Please, don’t cook with the ice on the meat; you TURKEY PRE-COOKING BASICS: Let your turkey come to room temperature before cooking it. That means you should won’t like the plastic flavor that results.) go ahead and pull it out of the cooler. Remove the giblets While you are resting the bird, light your fire. You’ll want and neck and clean out any icy leftovers. Pat it dry, and let to have a medium to low fire — with the internal temperature it come to room temperature. Trust me, if it’s still got some reaching about 250 to 260 degrees. I use fresh pecan chunks icy spots (because you rushed this process), it will slow down for smoke flavor, but you can use apple, cherry or pecan for this the cooking process and cook unevenly, and that’s not a particular cook. recipe for success. 24 TODAY | DECEMBER 2019


On a Weber style kettle grill, add half a gallon of unlit charcoal on one side of the grill. Light a half-gallon of charcoal in a chimney and pile on top (keeping it all on one side) of the other charcoal. Place the turkey on the grate on the opposite side of the kettle from the fire. Also, place the vent of the grill opposite the fire so that the airflow will pull the heat across the turkey on the grill. Be sure and add your wood chunks before placing the bird on the grate, opposite the coals. On a Kamado style smoker, just use the plate setter or the regular method for indirect heat. I can give you times, but every bird is different and so is every grill, but after about 2 to 3 hours, add more charcoal or add more air for the purpose of bringing the grill temperature up to 350 degrees. Baste the bird with the Swamp Butter until the internal temperature of the bird is 165 degrees. Remove from grill. Rest your trophy for 20 minutes and then slice and serve. It’s a little bit of work, but the end result has had folks begging for more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chef Andy Chapman lives in Gulfport where he owns and operates Eat Y’all, a business that helps farmers and food producers connect to chefs around the globe who are looking for better ingredients. Andy would love to hear how your turkey turns out. Contact him at andy@eatyall.com or 601-852-3463.




Beer Swamp Butter INGREDIENTS 2 cups salted butter 1 (12-ounce) beer (I like to use a medium beer or an ale if you have one.) 1 ½ tablespoons of your favorite barbecue rub (We use June Bugg All Purpose Seasoning, but you can use any rub you like. June Bugg has coffee in it; so it really works well in this, trust me. This rub is going on the outside of the turkey, so set this aside.)

1 ½ tablespoons paprika 1 tablespoon fine ground black pepper (I usually use coarse on everything; but trust me, it has to fit through the injector needle, so fine grind is required here.)

1 tablespoon sea salt 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon white pepper 1 tablespoon mustard powder 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Double this if you want to taste the spice, or go less if you have an especially spice sensitive crowd.)

Melt the butter at a low temperature. Whisk in the beer. Whisk all of the other spices into the liquid. Once it’s well blended, remove the mixture from the heat. Do not boil. While liquefied, inject the turkey.

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with Rebecca Turner


f you want to upset a Southerner, refer to winter’s tasty nut as a pee-can. In the South, it is pronounced pah-kahn. You’ll find pecan orchards throughout Mississippi with most farms near the Gulf Coast and the Delta. According to the Mississippi Pecan Growers, our state harvests and markets 2 million to 4 million pounds of pecans per year. But, you don’t have to live on a farm to make memories picking pecans off the ground before the squirrels find them. Many Mississippi backyards have pecan trees for their summer shade and delicious fall treat. Squirrels aren’t the only ones who benefit from pecans. The pecan comes packed with fiber, wholesome fats and 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. A 1-ounce serving of pecans, approximately 20 halves, contains nearly 200 calories, 20 grams

of fat and 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value for fiber. Pecans have a fat content of over 70 percent, which is the highest among all the nuts. Because of the caloric density and total fat content, enjoy pecans as part of a balanced diet. Don’t let the high-fat content scare you away from savoring pecans responsibility. Pecans are considered heart-healthy and can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and help prevent some forms of cancer due to the high healthy fat content. Nearly 60 percent of the fats in pecans are monounsaturated, and another 30 percent are polyunsaturated. Both types of fat help protect the heart and the mind. Recent research also found that pecans rank highest among all nuts in antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans have the potential to strengthen your immune system, too.

According to the Mississippi Pecan Growers, our state harvests and markets 2 million to 4 million pounds of pecans per year.

Traditionally, pecan servings come from pies and pastries. The unnecessary calories and added sugars found in desserts overshadow any health benefits. While pecan pie has its place, think past sweets and incorporate more raw pecans into your diet. Pecans come in several forms, such as whole, halves, pieces, granules and meals. Their rich, buttery flavor makes them a perfect pairing for both savory and sweet foods. Enjoy raw pecans by sprinkling some over salads or into wraps. Top off your oatmeal or Greek yogurt with a spoonful of pecan pieces. Add pecans to homemade whole wheat pancakes, waffles or muffin batter. Try pecan butter for a different twist to PB&J. This winter, be good to your heart and mind and opt for pecans in unexpected places.

Healthier Pecan Pie Bars

A healthier twist to the traditional pecan pie INGREDIENTS 1 store-bought pie crust 1 stick butter 1/4 cup maple syrup 2/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 tablespoon milk 2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring refrigerated crust to room temperature. Roll out to line the bottom of an 8x11-inch baking dish. Bake crust for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let crust cool completely. In a saucepan, heat butter, sugar (or sugar substitute), maple syrup and vanilla until boiling (about 3 to 4 minutes), stirring constantly. Once boiling, continue to stir but let bubble for one minute and then turn off heat. Stir in milk and pecans. Mix well. Pour pecan mixture over cooled crust and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool and then refrigerator for several hours or overnight before cutting.

Roasted Cinnamon Pecans These lightly buttered, cinnamon roll inspired pecans are satisfying without the guilt INGREDIENTS 1/2 pound pecans 1 tablespoon butter 1/8 teaspoon salt, or more to taste 1/4 teaspoon stevia, or more to taste 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast pecans for 10 to 15 minutes. Melt butter in a saucepan large enough to hold pecans after roasted. Stir in remaining ingredients and set aside. Toss hot roasted pecans in saucepan with melted mixture and stir to coat. Serve slightly warm or cooled. Refrigerate leftover pecans.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rebecca Turner is an author, registered dietitian, radio host, television presenter and a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lifelong Mississippian, she has spent the last decade offering no-nonsense nutrition guidance that allows you to enjoy good health and good food. Her book, “Mind Over Fork,� challenges the way you think, not the way you eat. Find her on social media and online at www.theRebeccaTurner.com.


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MY 2019

Christmas Story

A Leyland Cypress field in Grafe’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lucedale during the 1990s

our coffee, we’ll admire the tree, but long for the ones that we It’s that special time of the year again. And after more than planted, raised to maturity and enjoyed so much. I can still smell 20 Christmas stories, I still get excited when it’s time to write the sweet, fresh aroma of a real tree. another one. It’s such a wonderful and blessed time of the year. I asked Mr. Roy if he ever remembered hearing families A few days ago, as Mr. Roy and I sat together on the patio and argue or fuss while they were picking out their tree. He told sipped our afternoon cup of coffee, I said, “It’s the first day of me he could not recall a single instance of that. Wouldn’t it be November and time to write my annual Christmas column; give great if we could live every day as if we were going to pick out me some ideas.” He said, “Since this may be the last Christmas our Christmas tree? And that is what this season is all about. article you write before retirement, why don’t you just say what Nothing is more important than love of family, love of friends comes to your mind and from your heart.” and love of Christ. As we celebrate this wonderful season and So, dear readers, that’s what I am going to do. During a the prospect of a Happy New Year, imagine that every day we period of 25 Christmas seasons, Mr. Roy and I operated a tree are picking out our Christmas tree. And when you see a family farm where we grew and sold Christmas trees. Even though member or friend, take time to say, “I love you!” the work was hard and the days were long, this was a very And to my faithful readers, as many of you have been for enjoyable part of our lives. We did this as a hobby or second over 25 years, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I love job because we both had career jobs. Some readers of each and every one of you. “Grin ‘n’ Bare It” remember visiting our farm and buying a tree. Our selling season began Thanksgiving weekend and literally lasted until Christmas Eve night. Almost every year we would have someone ring our doorbell on December 24th, apologize for bothering us, and ask if they could get a tree. In most cases, the father had been out of town on a job and had just arrived by Kay Grafe home that night. Mr. Roy would always tell the anxious family Contact Kay Grafe at kaygrafe@bellsouth.net. to drive out in the field and he would meet them there. Those families were always so happy and excited to get a tree and were very appreciative. And the one thing that made all of the hard work associated with our tree farm worthMERIDIAN while was how happy the children and parents were. During the later years, we had young fathers or mothers tell us, “My parents brought me out here when I was a child to Snow flurries falling, plus Christmas train “Sing A Song of Christmas” will come to Lazy Acres in LIGHTS is one of get our trees, and now I am bringing my rides, plus Holiday Spirit equals Santa’s life at the 51st Trees of Christmas. More Mississippi’s top Christmas light Christmas Factory. Tour the historic Soulé than 30 trees will be exquisitely decorated displays. Tour the farm, see the elves children to enjoy the experience.” StateSteam Works in downtown Meridian to represent your favorite Christmas in Santa’s workshop, meet the farm decorated with thousands of lights and songs. Take a guided tour of Antebellum animals in Animal Acres and see ments like that made Mr. Roy and me so toys for this family-friendly event. Santa Merrehope (circa 1858) and Victorian F.W. Mississippi’s largest hand painted happy. I will always have fond memories of will be visiting at night. Williams (circa 1886) historic homes. nativity scene. our tree farm and the wonderful friends we NOV. 21 - DEC. 30 NOV. 28 - DEC. 25 TUESDAYS - SATURDAYS DEC. 10 - 21 2019 OPENING GALA WAGON RIDES Dec, 10 - 14 | Day 9:30 - 3:30 made during those years. Nov. 21, 5-7 pm Thanksgiving & Christmas • Fri. & Sat. Night (Fri. 13 & Sat. 14 only - 5-8) Like many of you, in a few weeks Mr. Roy DAILY TOURS Hours: 6pm - 10pm Dec. 17 - 21 | Day 9:30 - 3:30 Mon.-Sat. 9-5 • Nov. 22 - Dec. 30 DRIVING TOURS Night (Fri. 20 & Sat. 21 only - 5-8) and I will go into a storage room, pull out Sundays 1-5 • Dec 15, 22, 29 Sun. - Thurs. • 6pm - 9pm Downtown @ 1808 4th St. our beautiful artificial tree and set it up 905 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. 596 Lazy Acres Rd. Chunky 601-693-9905 601-483-8439 • merrehope.com 833-327-6386 • lazy-acres.com santaschristmasfactory.com in the den. And as we sit there drinking DECEMBER 2019 | TODAY 29

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mississippi marketplace meaning of this holiday season. 6 to 8 p.m. Nativity Kings Gold 2020 Concert, January 17, Hattiesburg. Want more than 442,000 readers to know about your special Lutheran. Free admission. Details: 601-825-5125. performances featuring The Kingsmen and outdoors today Musical event?on Events openthe to the publicmenu will be published free of charge Gold City Quartets. Proceeds will benefit R3SM as space allows. Submit details at least two months prior to the Gun Show, December 7-8, Philadelphia. Saturday, Disaster Recovery. 7 p.m. Heritage UMC. Details: event date. Submissions must include a phone number with 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Neshoba scene around the ‘sip picture this area code for publication. Mail to Mississippi Events, Today in www.heritage-umc.org; 601-261-3371. County Coliseum; 12000 Highway 15 North. Details: Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300; or email www.bigpopgunshows.com; 601-319-5248. 10th Annual Oxford Fiber Arts Festival, January to news@ecm.coop. Events are subject to change. Please confirm my opinion 23-25, Oxford. Come and enjoy classes, vendors, December 7-25, detailsco-op before traveling. involvement WhitmanVille Christmas Village, Christmas in the Park, Now – December 28, Collins. Enjoy a driving tour featuring thousands of twinkling lights and beautiful displays that celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the United States Armed Forces and joyful holiday scenes that are sure to delight all ages. Tours are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 9 p.m. Bettie D. Robinson Memorial Park. Free admission. Details: www.covingtonchamber.com; 601-765-6012. Trees of Christmas at Merrehope, Now – December 29, Meridian. A “Sing a Song of Christmas” theme will be represented with more than 30 Christmas trees exquisitely decorated to represent holiday songs. Live musical performances and tours of the Antebellum Merrehope and Victorian F.W. Williams historic homes are also available. Details: www.merrehope.com; 601-483-8439. Southaven Christmas Parade of Lights, December 6, Southaven. Celebrate Christmas with marching bands, floats, walking groups and of course good Ol’ St. Nick. Parade begins at Southpoint Church and concludes at City Hall. Details: www.southaven.org. A Magical Christmas at the McComb Depot, December 7, McComb. Visit with Santa and his elves while Mrs. Claus makes muffins in the kitchen of the 1883 Office Car. Mail a letter to the North Pole while visiting the 1914 Post Office Car. Watch beautiful model trains navigate through Christmas villages to the delight of young and old. 1 to 4 p.m. Free admission. Details: 601-395-6456. Breakfast with the Grinch, December 7, Natchez. Presented by the Junior Auxiliary of Natchez. Photos with the Grinch will be available. Two event times: 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Admission. Details: 601-597-8244; Facebook. A Walk in the Woods Art Event and Sale, December 7, Kiln. Enjoy local artists and artwork and complimentary food and drinks. 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. 22591 Rue La Terre. Details: 228-255-4019; Facebook. 28th Annual Live Nativity Scene, December 7-8, Brandon. Come by and get into the Christmas spirit by viewing the manger scene and remembering the true

Picayune. Come visit one of Mississippi’s biggest Christmas Villages. It’s a perfect outing for church groups, clubs and more. Grand Opening is December 7, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Closed Sundays and Wednesdays. 1125 Highway 43 North, Suite I. Free admission. Details: 601-799-1093. Holiday Home Tour, December 8, Aberdeen. They’ve decked the halls! Come tour ornately decorated homes and the KCS Railroad Depot for an afternoon of Christmas fun. A reception with festive refreshments will follow at the historic Elkin Theatre. Admission. Details: 662-369-9440. Homestead for the Holidays, December 12-13, Jackson. Hosted by the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, come enjoy story time with Mrs. Claus, pictures with Santa, a stroll through the old fashioned Small Town and farmstead, carousel and train rides and more. 5 to 8 p.m. Admission; the Museum will accept canned food donations at the door to receive a discount of half-off admission price. Details: 601-432-4500. Sip ‘n Cider, December 13, Hernando. Participating shops will serve their own special blend of hot cider. Eat, shop, mix and mingle, register for door prizes and vote for your favorite cider! 5 to 8 p.m. Hernando Courthouse Square. Details: www.hernandoms.org; 662-429-9055. Christmas Concert, December 14, Jackson. Presented by the Mississippi Community Symphonic Band. 7 p.m. Belhaven Center for the Arts; 835 Riverside Drive. Free admission. Details: www.mcsb.us; 601-594-0055. Christmas Open House at the McComb Depot, December 14, McComb. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details: 601-395-6456. Bienvenue Acres Christmas Camp, December 23-24, 26-28, Gulfport. Now enrolling for this equine training camp for new or experienced riders. Includes riding, games and fun for ages 4 and up. Details: bienvneueacres@nocoxmail.com; 228-357-0431. Jurassic World Live, December 26-29, Southaven. At this new arena show, come face-to-face with life-sized dinosaurs and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget. Landers Center. Details: www.jurassicworldlivetour.com.

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The old folks used to call it “Christmas gift.” Or perhaps it was pronounced “Chrizmus giff.” It’s an unexpected pleasant surprise that happens during the holidays. I first heard it in association with visitors showing up on our doorstep. There would be a knock on the door and mama would open it and holler, “Christmas gift!” Well, I just had some “Chrizmas giffs” happen to me as I sat at my computer to write this article — pleasant surprises that otherwise would have never happened. First off, I had to fire up an old computer to see if any of my missing TV story scripts were stored there because I was searching for a few things in particular that I wanted to make sure I had factually correct — names and places and things like that — that I have learned the hard way not to leave up to my memory. There were a gillion files in there — things I hadn’t seen in years. Things I had forgotten about. Things I thought I had lost. Not only the scripts I was looking for but no telling how many photographs and bits and pieces of stories I had started to write but never got any further than the first day. And music I downloaded from Internet services that have long since fallen by the wayside. So as I started “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on the old computer, I remembered the task at hand and turned to write this that you are reading now. I was looking for Morie Moore’s name. He was an elderly man (probably younger than I am now, but this was from 30 years ago) who was the first person I ever met who did elaborate Christmas light displays. I did a story with him one Halloween night at his home out in the hills of Yazoo County where he was already stringing up strands of Christmas lights. He started early

so he would have them all up by Thanksgiving. He built all sorts of frames on which to hang the lights — geometric patterns and poles like clotheslines with strings strung blinking between them. His was the only light show on his road that year. A few years later, all of his neighbors had one. And then there was the big light show Earl Boyd started in the Salem Community in Walthall County that wound up being the origins of the annual Tylertown “Christmas in the Water Park” display. Now there are lights all over the place this time of year. Everywhere there is a waterway there are some type lights, from Biloxi’s Christmas on the Water to the floats (that really float) in Deer Creek at Leland. And you don’t EVER want to miss Canton’s decorated town square. All of those lights are “Chrizmas giffs,” in a way — pleasant surprises someone started and others pitched in on and enlarged or started anew until this really is the Season of Lights nowadays.

by Walt Grayson Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact him at walt@waltgrayson.com.




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Profile for American MainStreet Publications

Today in Mississippi December 2019 Yazoo Valley  

Today in Mississippi December 2019 Yazoo Valley

Today in Mississippi December 2019 Yazoo Valley  

Today in Mississippi December 2019 Yazoo Valley