SUMMER 2014 a sip of life from the most soulful state
in the South
PORTRAIT: Walt Grayson
FOOD/DRINK: Regina Charboneau Re-crafting Classics in Natchez
LIFESTYLE: Two Dog Farms
Sowing Seeds with Salad Days
Also: Alligator Hunting • Delta Music Institute • Bovina Cafe • Fondren Artist Roz Roy
All year long, we’re celebrating our rich culture and creativity. Mississippi is the birthplace of America’s music. You can hear that in my songs. But you can feel it here, at juke joints, back porches and festivals. Check out mshomecoming.com to ﬁnd out what’s happening. Then join me at the party.
PHOTO BY MELANIE THORTIS
features Page 8
Living on the River Rare views of the Mississippi River are an everyday treat for some Mississippians. Five homeowners in Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville open their homes and give a peek at life along the river.
Taking it to the Table
Reinvented Classics: Cuisine, Cocktails and Southern Charm
Two Dog Farms and Salad Days, neighboring produce companies, are taking fresh to the next level with natural food offerings from Flora.
Regina Charboneau is heating things up in Natchez with her fresh take on classic food and drinks.
Music Mecca in the Making
Tricia Walker and the Delta Music Institute in Cleveland are paving the way for young music professionals to thrive in the Mississippi Delta.
Walt Grayson has been the face and voice of Mississippiâ€™s cultural roads for 30 years. Take a walk around our state with Walt.
Portrait: Walt Grayson
A cozy spot to catch views of the Mississippi River. Cover model: Chloe Loyocano Thames. Photo by Melanie Thortis
IN EVERY ISSUE 4 « Editor’s Note 6 « Contributors 33 « TheSipMag.com 42 « ‘Sip Trip 62 « The Last ‘Sip
20 | Alligator Hunting Tag along on a swampy adventure. Contents page photo by Nathan Beane 24 | ‘Sip of Nature Meet Cleome.
MUSIC 34 | Jocelyn Zhu From Mississippi to Julliard Contents page photo by Jane Zhu
44 | Bovina Café Bovina’s lone eatery serves up family flavor. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis
ART 52 | Roz Roy Fondren artist breaks barriers through her art. Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis
literacy • nature • creativity • discovery
NOW OPEN VISIT TODAY!
Learn about all the exhibits and experiences in The Literacy Garden!
www.mschildrensmuseum.com | 1.877.793.5437 Located in Jackson, MS at I-55 & Lakeland Drive A signature project of the Junior League of Jackson
TheSipMag Aug-Sept14 MCM 7.375x9.625.indd 1
This project is partially funded by the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
7/1/14 4:44 PM
from the Front Porch
“The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable…” — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
Thank you for taking a sip of the South with us as we launched the first issue of The ‘Sip. It has been highly praised as a fresh, new look at Mississippi culture and, for that, I am honored and humbled. Now, as the humid Mississippi air seems to swallow us, as it does in these steamy, hot months, we present to you our first summer issue. Summer in Mississippi means many things. For me, a lifelong Mississippian, it’s fireflies and cold cocktails, gobs of fresh produce and planning for music festivals. Our second issue celebrates all of this and more. We bask in the rare views of the “remarkable” and undoubtedly mysterious Mississippi River. Yes, its wild waters begin their flow all the way up in Minnesota. But, the views that garnish the land below the hillsides, bluffs and low-lying, river-soaked areas in “the ‘sip,” are highly sought-after and most certainly Southern. The people and places that embrace these magical views are as priceless as the landscape beneath their feet. Read about them on page 8. This issue invites you to sit and sip on some of our state’s hottest commodities. Take a walk down Mississippi’s memory lane with Walt Grayson, delve into craft dishes and drinks in Natchez with renowned chef Regina Charboneau and peek inside the Delta Music Institute to see how music professionals are taking the reins and home-growing Mississippi’s music industry. You can also treat yourself to a fresh take on locally grown produce. And, that’s not all. Read about Bovina Café, a Fondren folk artist and a Julliard-bound violinist. And, let’s not forget Nathan Beane’s exciting Outside feature on hunting alligators. You don’t want to miss this swampy, Mississippi treat! Fill up your glass and sip on this second issue with us. We promise it will make your summer even more Southern.
PHOTO BY MELANIE THORTIS
live at the lady luck arena Gin blossoms Tickets are on sale June 20 $ 20 advance • $30 the day of
air supply Tickets are on sale August 15 $ 25 advance • $40 the day of
38 special Tickets are on sale September 19 $ 25 advance • $40 the day of
Buy tickets at O&H Express or online at www.ladyluckvicksburg.com ®
Follow JESTER’S JAM 1380 Warrenton rd • Vicksburg, Ms 39182 • WWW.ladyluckVicksburg.coM © 2014 Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. Jester’s Jam, Lady Luck, ChaChing! and O&H Express are registered trademarks of Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. All ages show. Tickets are non-refundable. Subject to change/cancellation without notice. Gambling problem? Call 1.888.777.9696.
‘Sip team GORDON COTTON | WRITER Gordon is the author of more than a dozen books about Mississippi and Warren County culture and history, and he is a leading authority on history in and around Warren County. Gordon was curator of the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg for 30 years. He was also a reporter, writer, photographer and columnist for The Vicksburg Post for many years. Gordon presents regularly to history, genealogy and civic groups in Mississippi and Louisiana. He works part-time at the Old Court House Museum and contributes to The ‘Sip regularly about the people and places around his native soil.
ELIZABETH GREY | WRITER Elizabeth is a native of Hattiesburg. She grew up writing short stories for fun and turned that passion into a degree in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, Elizabeth was a features writer with The Vicksburg Post, and, eventually, became education and news writer, as well as copy editor. Her work has been recognized by The Associated Press and the Mississippi Press Association. She’s covered everything from pageants and celebrity appearances to school board meetings and elections, but her heart belongs to feature writing and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Elizabeth has lived in the Capitol City since 2007 and now works in media relations and communications for the Mississippi State Department of Health. She contributes regularly to The ’Sip.
‘Sip contributors ELI BAYLIS | PHOTOGRAPHER Eli, a Mississippi native, has been documenting the spirit of his home state since 2008. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with degrees in photojournalism and Spanish, Eli worked as the photographer for The Vicksburg Post. He later took a job as chief photographer for the outdoor equipment company Sierra Madre Research in Managua, Nicaragua. Currently, Eli is producing photographic stories and essays while freelancing for various magazines and newspapers throughout the state.
SUSAN MARQUEZ | WRITER Susan has been writing professionally for newspapers, magazines, business journals and trade publications from her home in Madison for 13 years. She particularly enjoys writing stories about colorful people, interesting places and fun events in the South, especially when they have anything to do with food. She recently was accepted into the Association of Food Journalists and is passionate about knowing where our food comes from and how it’s prepared. “I see food as a lens through which we can view our region.”
SUSAN O’BRYAN | WRITER A Mississippi transplant from Texas, Susan fell in love with the state’s hospitality – and green trees – on her first visit in 1996. She retired from corporate newspapering in 2010 after 30 years as a reporter and editor, which included more than a decade as editor of The Clinton News. Susan now is the web content coordinator for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Susan’s addiction to words is filled by freelance writing for newspapers and magazines.
Publisher/Editor Lauchlin Fields Photography Director Melanie Thortis Design Director Erin Norwood Consulting Editor Karen Gamble Copy Editor Olivia Foshee Outside Editor Nathan Beane Designers Claiborne Bryant Erin Norwood Photographers Melanie Thortis Eli Baylis Sales Executives Tina Abernathy firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Sip creative MELANIE THORTIS PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR Melanie Thortis has been capturing life in Mississippi through her award-winning photography since 1998. She is a freelance photojournalist and owns Thortis Photography in downtown Brandon. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Clarion-Ledger, The Vicksburg Post, The Natchez Democrat, various magazines and the documentary book Mississippi 24/7. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, she is a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association and specializes in lifestyle portraits and documentary wedding photography. Follow her work at thortisphotography.com or on Thortis Photography’s Facebook page.
ERIN NORWOOD DESIGN DIRECTOR Erin Norwood is a renowned graphic designer, illustrator and art director. A Mississippi State University graduate, Erin has been a professional designer since 1996. She has worked for agencies throughout the Southeast, including the MSU Foundation, Webz Media, Disciple Design in Memphis and Lawler Ballard Van Durand Advertising in Birmingham. She has been recognized with statewide, regional and national Addy Awards, including 21 gold awards. View Erin’s portfolio online at en8design.com.
email@example.com The ‘Sip is a registered trademark of Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC. The ‘Sip magazine is published four times a year.
Owner: Lauchlin Fields 1216 National Street Vicksburg, MS 39180 601.573.9975 www.thesipmag.com firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2014 The ‘Sip by Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC Reproduction of any part of this publication is strictly prohibited.
CLAIBORNE BRYANT DESIGNER Claiborne Bryant of Vicksburg is a recent graduate of Mississippi State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art with an emphasis in graphic design. Claiborne gained early experience at H.C. Porter Gallery in donwtown Vicksburg. Now, she develops product ideas and creates advertisements for The Fraternity Collection, a Mississippi clothing line. She is also the ad designer for The ‘Sip and contributed to the overall design and layout of this issue. View her work at claibornebryant.com.
iews of the massive and mysterious Mississippi River have captivated people for centuries. Its 2,300-plus miles of raging waters have long been the subject of literary works, photographs and songs, and, for some lucky river-lovers, it’s the view from homes. “It’s a million-dollar view,” said Linda Hall of her home overlooking the Mississippi River in Vicksburg.
To a Vicksburg physician and his ailing wife, that view 35 years ago was priceless. “He would do anything to make her happy,” said Georgia Horn Terry, the daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. L.G. “Gebe” Horn. “Daddy was wonderful to my mother.” While driving around, the couple found a 760-squarefoot shotgun house perched high over Pearl Street, just off Mattingly. The two-room house was in terrible condition, but the view was magnificent and just what Libby Horn dreamed of. “Libby just loved it. She loved the river,” said Carol Horn, who was married to the couple’s son Jeff. They renovated the house and created a retreat, where 8
they would host parties and have drinks while they watched the sun set and breathed in the river air. The Horns dubbed their afternoon cocktail hour “stoop time,” Carol said. “They would go about 5, sit on the balcony and watch the river traffic,” she said. “It was the nicest getaway.” Eventually, the Horns built a deck that overlooked Ol’ Man River and Gebe, a highly regarded pediatrician at Mercy Hospital, bought a radio so he and his wife could listen to the boat traffic as they watched the tugs meander up and down the river. “It was something different and fun,” Georgia said. Her parents kept up their nightly and weekend ritual until Libby lost her battle with breast cancer in 1984. Gebe kept the “little river house” for a year or two after her death. “He kept it for a while because there were too many memories,” Carol said. Much like her mother, Georgia has an affinity for the river and for Vicksburg. “We went out on the river every weekend. My brothers learned to ski on the river,” she said. “I moved to Colorado 24 years ago and moved back four years ago. I just missed it — I missed the bluffs and the ravines. It’s a special place. I don’t want to live anywhere other than Vicksburg.”
PHOTO BY MELANIE THORTIS
soak it up...
THIS PAGE: Fred Katzenmeyerâ€™s clawfoot tubs provide the perfect summer scene in Vicksburg. Our models enjoy cool beverages and magnificnet sunset views of the Mississippi River.
PHOTO BY MELANIE THORTIS
RIGHT: This small house in Vicksburg, home to Fred Katzenmeyer, offers a rare view of the river. It was once the home of local physician Dr. Gebe Horn, who bought it for his dying wife 35 years ago.
The little house that gave Libby Horn so much joy in her final moments is still a happy place full of memories. The 1920s-built river shack is now home to Fred Katzenmeyer, who bought it in 1999 after it had been used for about two decades as rental property. But, the home’s condition was no match for the astounding view. “That’s the one and only reason to live here,” Fred said, pointing to the river that peeks out between a line of trees. “When I first walked up here and sat on the deck, that was the end of the story.” It took him a year of working nights and weekends to do the extensive renovations. He replaced rotten floors in the kitchen and bathroom and screened in the front porch. He also stripped nine coats of paint and re-did everything but the electrical work. Fred also bought the 900-square-foot house next door, which has been his project for the past 10 years. He has a couple of years of work left, but he plans to live in it and rent the little house, likely for short-term spans. The two houses are situated on six city lots that are prime real estate. He even has a garden on the hill where he grows squash and hot banana peppers. “You can’t hardly find any property for sale that’s overlooking the river,” he said. “I tell you what. It will ruin you. I’m spoiled. I’m so grateful to have it. I can’t believe I was able to get my hands on it.” “Idyllic” is the word that comes to Fred’s mind when describing his position overlooking the river, where winds come across and create a cool breeze even on the hottest summer days. When it’s hot, though, Fred is all set with his row of claw-foot bathtubs — all taken from homes that were being torn down — positioned to overlook the river. He fills the tubs with hose water and uses them as a perch for riverviewing. He even built a small deck around them and a ledge to hold drinks while cooling off. “You fill them up with water and get you a pitcher of adult drinks and sit out and watch the sunset,” he said. The tubs are shaded by oak and cedar trees and provide a fun and unique party atmosphere. “It’s very relaxing to just sit and watch the boats going by,” he said. “It’s a party house. It’s a good place to watch the sunset and party.” Fred has spent a lifetime on the Mississippi — skiing and camping on the sandbars. “We should be capitalizing on this more,” he said. “Vicksburg is missing the boat on this.” Homes overlooking the river are pretty rare all along the river in Mississippi, though. And, while Vicksburg is high on a bluff, mostly protected from frequent river flooding, other areas aren’t always so fortunate.
Natchez native and resident Peter Trosclair purchased and renovated his 1870s river shack, originally a two-room house about 175 yards from the river, in 2008. Peter bought the house in 2006, restored the original rooms and added about 2,000 square feet. He also raised the structure four-and-a-half feet to, hopefully, avoid high waters. Peter’s house is the only residence below the bluff in Natchez, he said. “It’s right on the river, and I’ve always loved the river,” he said. “It’s the only house on the river that close to the river.” The abundance of wildlife — deer, rabbits, snakes, turtles and even alligators — makes it seem like he’s “30 miles from the middle of nowhere,” but Peter’s only two minutes from work and about six blocks from where he grew up. “We would swim in the river when we were kids. I’ve hunted on the river for 35 years,” he said. Three years after moving in, the Great Flood of 2011, a historic flood that set new record stages at Vicksburg and Natchez, came along, displacing more than 20,000 people in Mississippi. Peter, his wife, Lisa, and the couple’s 11-year-old son, Rhett, along with their five dogs and 10 chickens, were among those forced to run, moving out for three months after their home took on a foot of water.
TOP LEFT: Peter and Lisa Trosclair at their river home in Natchez. Photo by Eli Baylis. TOP RIGHT: The Trosclairsâ€™ home in Natchez. Photo by Eli Baylis. BOTTOM: Kathy Fratesi sits with her grandchildren at her home, pictured at right, which overlooks Lake Ferguson in Greenville. Photo by Melanie Thortis.
About three hours north of Natchez and just north of Greenville, Mark and Kathy Fratesi and their son, Jason, have learned what it means to live in a flood zone. But, they’re willing to take their chances. “It’s paradise and the price you pay for it is a flood, so if you’re willing to put up with the flooding, you won’t find a better place to live,” Jason said, quoting a family friend and hunting buddy. “I’ve heard him tell about 15 people that.” In 2011, when the water was approaching its crest of 64.2 feet in Greenville, up more than 16 feet from flood level, Kathy was told the water most certainly would come inside the house. She told her husband she was going to dig up all of her plants around the house. Then she did. “We potted every plant in this yard, and we put them on a trailer and we took them to the farm,” she said. “Well, you could drive by on Highway 82, and you could see (the plants). People started thinking, ‘Mark’s starting a nursery.’ He got phone calls, ‘You’re starting a nursery?’” Mark is a farmer and part-owner of Fratesi Planting
Company in Leland. He also owns Fratesi Grocery, a popular Delta eatery. The Fratesis’ home overlooks Lake Ferguson, an oxbow formed by the Mississippi River. It’s about as close as you can get to living on the river in Greenville. “The Corps of Engineers built a dike to protect the city of Greenville from current, because when the river would get really high, the current would turn and hit the city. Part of downtown Greenville fell into the river,” Jason said. “They made the river turn to not go through Lake Ferguson anymore to try to save the city. At one time all of Lake Ferguson was the Mississippi River. They put the dike there and made it go straight instead of it turning.” Mark and Kathy’s five-bedroom, four-bathroom house is full of family at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. “By the time you get all the Fratesis here — plus my kids and grandkids — it’s about 40 or 50 people,” she said. The home’s interior is decorated to reflect the outdoors — paint colors are earth tones and the décor is elegant with a touch of rustic charm. The bedrooms and game room upstairs display the Fratesis’ focus on family and fun.
PHOTO BY MELANIE THORTIS
PHOTOS BY MELANIE THORTIS
Jason and Jaime Fratesi ‘s family cabin on Archer Lake in Greenville.
Mark and Kathy had to do a complete renovation of their home after the flood, but there was no doubt they would come back to live where the breeze blows and the Delta river living is peaceful. “After the flood, they tore out this entire house. You could see all the way from the front door to the back,” Kathy said. “You gotta’ love living here more than you hate that flood. You can’t leave. You just get like addicted to it.” The Fratesis have experienced three floods since they moved into their 5,000-square-foot house seven years ago. Kathy and Mark and their four children and six grandchildren spend almost all of their time in the summer enjoying the water. They actually spend more time in the river, which is less than a mile from the lake. “That is where we go is to the river. In the summer, when we’re in our boats, we go to the river — to the sandbar,” Kathy said. “The reason we always go is because it’s about 15 degrees cooler than any lake around here. During the heat of the summer, there is always a wind blowing on the river. It can be so hot it’ll take your breath in the woods, but the wind is always blowing (on the river), because it’s so big and open,” Jason said. Jason, his wife, Jaime, and their three children have a cabin — just across the way and about 10 miles around the levee — that overlooks Archer Lake. The house is on land that is part of a hunting club in which the Fratesi families are part-owners. Jason was 15 when his family started going out to the hunting club, and he is keeping the tradition alive. The newly built cabin, an 1,800-square-foot metal building on stilts, is rustic with “a little feminine flare.” The inside walls are covered in wood salvaged from an old barn. “Once we got the wood, things just started falling
together,” Jaime said. “With a metal building you can only do so much within the parameters you’ve got to work in. We basically used every square inch, and it’s all livable space. Nothing’s wasted.” Their children — twins Ava and Eli, 12, and Jase, who’s 8 — are very active and love to be outside — hunting, fishing or swimming in the lake. “I feel like I can relax here more than I can at home,” Jaime said. “At home, you feel like you’ve got 1,000 things to do. Here, you can enjoy nature. We’re out there fishing or looking for (deer) sheds or riding the sandbar. There’s always something to do.” Back at Lake Ferguson is Big Blue, an old raft Mark’s brother, Kenny, converted into a slide where the children can slide and jump into the river. The only one of its kind in the area, Big Blue attracts hordes of people throughout the summer. “During the summer, that thing is covered up,” Jason said. “It’s all about the kids.” Jason, like his father, farms. He also is a partner in a crop consulting company and the lead singer and guitarist in Jason Fratesi and the Dirt Road Jam Band. He stays busy, especially in the summer, which is his peak time for business, but he can always make the 30-minute drive to his cabin to see his family and spend time on the river. “This is kind of our vacation. We don’t get to go on family vacations. That’s our family vacation. It’s where we get to spend a lot of time together,” he said. “It was the same way with my dad. He stayed so busy during the summer, we never really went anywhere as a family other than somewhere like this. We’d come and stay a couple of days and fish. That would be a little quick vacation. The next weekend we’d try to do the same thing.”
Parker and Linda Hall, who live in a 1940s house that is about 150 feet high on a bluff overlooking the river in Vicksburg, are less likely to get out on the river. The couple is more likely to gasp at their daily doses of the breathtaking river views they see from their kitchen, dining area and bedroom. “The first month we were here, I would get up at night and stand and watch things (on the river). I was so glad we were here, and it’s home,” Linda said. Parker is the son of All-American football legend Parker Hall and the great-great-grandson of C.J. Tully, the founder of Anderson-Tully, the international lumber company. 16
He and Linda were living on Baum Street in a house they had been renovating for 13 years, and it was about time to start renovations again. “Things just kind of evolved. All we knew is that we wanted to get out of that big, ole drafty house,” Linda said. The 1,200-square-foot river house, an abandoned rental property, was part of some land Parker’s father purchased. It also happened to be next door to his brother, Tully, who had been living with a river view since the 1970s. After extensive renovations, Parker and Linda moved in to their home in 1991. The couple had wanted to build the house from the movie, “Out of Africa.” They collected pictures from the movie set and had talked to a builder about their vision.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Parker and Linda Hall enjoy their backyard view of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg. TOP RIGHT: Parker and Linda Hall’s home on Warrenton Road. BOTTOM RIGHT: The Halls enjoy watching towboats go up and down the river through their large windows. Photos by Melanie Thortis.
But, the framed movie poster in the Hall’s kitchen is as close as they came to reproducing that dream home. The Halls, instead, concentrated on making their little river abode a cozy home that highlights its expansive river view. They increased the square-footage to 1,700 and dug a footing for a front porch, giving it pierced columns, an architectural element unique to Vicksburg and known as Vicksburg Gothic. They covered the inside of the house with wood from Anderson-Tully — pecan, persimmon, cherry and walnut. They also put in windows designed for the river views. “I come in the door, and there’s a painting — it’s like a painting of the river,” Linda said. “I love it when the water gets really high.” The river view has provided them the opportunity to see a plane land in the river, a space rocket floating on a barge, mat sinking units from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, lots of barge traffic, wild hogs, turkeys, wild cats
and what they believe to be a Florida panther. While it appears close, the river is a 15- or 20-minute walk down a steep hill that is beyond the 1.5 acres of land the Halls own. Just below the drop off, barges tie up on a long, steel cable. While the water looks tempting from the “million dollar view” from the bluff, the Halls don’t dare enter the raging river. “We haven’t done anything other than enjoy the view. It’s always exciting to me to look out and see that much water moving,” Linda said.
STORY Lauchlin Fields PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis & Eli Baylis
‘SIP AND READ
Mississippi River Reads The Mississippi River, rich in culture, history and geography, is quite often the subject of stories penned by talented writers who are taken with its mystique and beauty. Check out what’s on the shelves at Lorelei Books, an independent bookstore in Vicksburg with a vast collection of books on local and regional culture. The Mississippi River even has its own section there. View a list of our river reads at www.thesipmag.com. Lorelei Books • 1103 Washington St. • Downtown Vicksburg
LO R EL EI B O O KS
Lorelei is Open Tuesday through Saturday • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. • 601-634-8624
T M R
RADIO SHOW words & music every Saturday night
ON MPB AT 7 HEAR MISSISSIPPI ON THE RADIO www. thackermountain.com Become a member today visit www.thackermountain.com for details
VIC KSBURG, MS
PHOTO BY NATHAN BEANE
Adrenaline hooks hunters and hunted
I’ve stalked wild boar from the ground in the Delta National Forest and hunted black bear from high above Rhododendron thickets in West Virginia. These adrenaline-fueled adventures fail in comparison to alligator hunting in Mississippi’s swamps at night. I was introduced to the sport as a guest on a moonlit hunt just north of Vicksburg in 2012. When one big alligator almost flipped our undersized 14-foot jon boat — undersized is an understatement — I became as hooked as our quarry. Since then, planning for and hunting alligators has become a summertime ritual. As the swamps and sloughs are as much of a staple for the Delta regions as soybeans and cotton, the American alligator (“gator”) commands its own rightful place. American alligators thrive only in the Southeast United States, and Mississippi represents the epicenter of the gator’s range, as is suggested by its Latin name, Alligator mississippiensis. Gators are the apex predator of murky lakes and swamp-laden forests of the Deep South and will make even the toughest man think twice before
PORTRAIT BY MELANIE THORTIS
NATHAN BEANE THE ‘SIP OUTSIDE EDITOR
taking a plunge into their domains. The gator’s elusiveness and nocturnal nature make it even more mysterious and intimidating. As they say, it’s the quiet ones that are most deadly. And to make matters worse, these algae-covered beasts will eat almost anything — fish and small mammals to Labrador retrievers and even humans. Rest easy though, as no alligator-caused fatalities in Mississippi are on record — yet. Since 2005, gator hunting has been allowed on public waterways in Mississippi, but that hasn’t always been the case. These formidable creatures were hunted to near extinction from the late 1800s to early 1900s, due largely to the value of their hides to commercial hunters and fearful humans who killed them when afforded an opportunity. Thankfully, in 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed alligators as federally endangered and alligator hunting ceased. Through concerted efforts of re-introduction and active conservation by state and federal agencies, the populations today are thriving. In some areas they are seemingly overabundant — good news to gator hunters like me. A quick boat ride at night on the Big Black, Yazoo or Pearl rivers shows just how many gators really are in the area. Hunting gators in Mississippi is much different from what is shown on the popular TV reality show “Swamp People,” filmed just across the river in Louisiana. Louisiana’s commercial hunters are typically shown in daylight shooting alligators swimming across a canal or the ones hooked on drop-lines baited with putrefied chicken. Those tactics are not legal for hunting in Mississippi. I’ve successfully hunted alligator in South Louisiana and can tell you that Mississippi’s way of hunting is far more exciting. Although there are several ways you can legally capture alligators in Mississippi’s public waterways, baited lines are not an option. The hunting party can use snatch hooks, snare poles, harpoons and even bow fishing equipment. Snatch hooks, a large, weighted treble hook attached to a heavyduty fishing pole or hand line with a buoy attached, have been the method of choice for all the hunting teams of which I have been a part. Although you can legally pursue gators during daylight hours, most hunters choose to chase them during the night hours as they are most active then — plus it adds to the excitement. Unless you are a landowner with at least 100 acres of water, you probably will need a hefty dose of luck — or a lucky friend — to be able to hunt alligators around these parts. A lottery draw is performed each year to select participants who will receive tags necessary to harvest a gator during the open season — which is typically at the end of summer (Aug. 29 through Sept. 8 this year). The application period is in early June, so if you wanted to go this year, hopefully you already applied! If you didn’t apply during the draw, and if you did but weren’t selected, there is still time to suck up to a hunter who won the draw to see if you
PHOTO BY NATHAN BEANE
can tag along. That’s right, you can be a part of any hunting team as long as you have a $25 alligator hunting license and you are accompanied by a tag holder. Trust me, just being a part of the team is a thrill like none other, so I recommend not turning down the chance of a tagalong. Until last year, each applicant had to pay $10 per hunting zone (region of the state) to apply, and $100 for a tag if drawn. The application cost minimized the number of participants in the draw as there was no guarantee of selection. But last year the lottery draw became a free-forall when the state stopped charging application fees. The number of applicants skyrocketed — a nightmare to addicted gator hunters, who, like me, had eagerly awaited selection. However, I was fortunate to have friends who were drawn and invited me along. The swamp at night is a fantastic venue for alligator hunting. It’s an assortment of excitement, stillness, wild noises and eeriness that can’t be described. It’s a unique feeling — water temperatures are high and the mugginess of late summer air blankets open areas. The heron rookeries, disturbed by a passing boat, create a perfect nighttime soundtrack that I could listen to on repeat for hours.
gator patrol TOP: A 10-foot, 3-inch alligator harvested with Team Fischenich. (Photo courtesy of Craig Fischenich) LEFT: A five-foot alligator caught and released during an alligator hunt just north of Vicksburg RIGHT: A bagged-and-tagged alligator from the 2012 gator hunting season Photos by Nathan Beane
The views aren’t too shabby either, especially if there is a full moon. Riverbanks with a host of deer, beaver, river otter and raccoons feeding are a great backdrop for a night spent on the water. Gnats and mosquitoes can be vicious in wetland habitats. Lucky for gator hunters, these pesky insects dissipate two hours after sunset and stay away until about an hour before sunrise. That’s right; gator hunting will make you burn the midnight oil — and Duracells. The idea of the hunt is simple: you patrol the water with spotlights in search of the red glow of an alligator’s eyes. The first challenge is to determine the alligator’s size, particularly if you are looking for a trophy-sized individual (4 feet in length is the legal minimum). Here’s a trick: to determine the approximate size of an alligator while in the water, estimate the distance in inches from the base of its eyes to the snout — that’s the gator’s approximate body length in feet. If the distance between a gator’s eyes and snout is 10 inches, its body length will be about 10 feet from nose to tail, which is a trophy in anyone’s book. The goal, once you decide you have one you want to catch, is to get a snatch hook over the gator’s back, pull the line tight and sink the hook into its tough hide. The challenge, of course, is to do this before the gator submerges or darts away. Even if the gator becomes wary of your closeness, it’s a rush to watch a big gator slowly draw under the water as you’ve crept within feet of it. It seems like they draw below the water surface to determine how to best address the situation as you slip into their territory — truly a rush of excitement. I will never forget my first hunt in 2012 with friends Craig and Jake Fischenich. Jake cast beyond and perfectly hooked into the mid-section of a huge alligator, likely weighing more than 500 pounds. We were in a 14-foot jon boat and attached to a 12-foot alligator. We were rookie hunters with a souped-up pole ready for the challenge; our drag setting was not. The drag was set too tight to hold such a large animal without slack in the line, and to make matters worse, as soon as the gator was hooked it dove straight to the bottom of the slough and swam directly under our boat. As the high tensile-strength line began to stretch and the gator swam swiftly beneath us, the boat rocked to one side. As the gator fought the resistance with increased stamina and pull, the boat began to tip lengthwise. Unfortunately, the gator snapped the rod against the boat and we lost it; on the other hand, we were fortunate that the boat didn’t flip. Craig was filming this first-time hunting adventure from a small inflatable kick-boat alongside and captured my comment to Jake: “I like you and all, buddy, but if the boat had flipped, I would have had no problem drowning you to get to the shore.” The 12-footer lived to see another day, but a 10.5-foot male and several smaller gators we released helped us hone our strategy (and drag setting). Last year, I was on a hunting team with friends, Ron and Jennifer Pownall and Bump Callaway. We spent many hours
hunting several miles along the Yazoo River and, after a few days of catching fair-sized gators, Ron snagged into a good one, but none of us had any clue just how big it was. Ron wrangled and fought the gator for hours on end. Once he was able to pull it to the boat, we couldn’t get a snare around its head as the fishing line had gotten caught in its mouth. After a few failed attempts, the monster made one more thrash and broke the line right at the boat. It was Jennifer’s first alligator hunt and although we were all beat after hunting several nights in a row, she became a lifetime gator hunter and got a 7-foot female later in the season. On another hunt last year, we spotted a large-sized gator, approximately 12 inches from eyes to snout, in a big bend of the main river channel. The bend was full of woody debris, with whole trees entangled in the channel. Alligators seek out this dense cover to hunt and rest within, but it’s best to avoid such areas as the gators will hang you up in the debris. Ignoring this advice, I hooked into the gator and the fight was on. The gator pulled the line and ran as hard and fast as it could, entangling the line on several large underwater logs. However, I hadn’t lost it as I could still feel a consistent, but somewhat variable, tug downwards. I kept a strong hold on the pole that was, at this point, bent all the way over and at a near shatter-state. For two hours I held this gator as it surged up and down every couple of minutes. My biceps were burning beyond description and my back had stiffened tight. We continuously scanned the darkness with a spotlight and eventually saw eyes arise on the water surface — but a considerable distance away. We knew it to be the same gator based on its size, but after investigating the amount of line left on the fishing reel, and the distance the gator was from our boat, we decided there was no way it could still be hooked, despite the fact that the pole was still regularly surging up and down. We were all bewildered, but eventually determined that the current was rocking a large underwater log I was hooked on and had tricked me the entire time into thinking I still had the gator on the line. So there it was. I had fought an underwater log for two hours, and had nothing to show for it except the loss of a hook and hurt pride. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors and the thrill of a hunt should consider alligator hunting in Mississippi. Though it’s not really comparable to any other type of hunting, I relate it to hooking into the biggest catfish imaginable — knowing it could also bite your arm off. This is gator hunting! Alligator hunting seems to have become the next big thing in Mississippi, and for good reason — heart-pounding action matched with serene scenic beauty. Trust me. You don’t want to miss the opportunity. But don’t forget your flashlight.
STORY Nathan Beane PHOTOGRAPHS Nathan Beane
’SIP OF NATURE
PHOTO BY NATHAN BEANE
CLEOME HASSLERIANA, often referred to as spider flower, is a plant native to South America that can easily be grown around your home in Mississippi. This plant has grapefruit-sized clusters of flowers (termed an inflorescence) and distinct palmate leaves. Cleome is drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, pest-free and will attract a whole host of pollinators to your backyard. The plant blooms with a mildly sweet fragrance from mid-May to early fall in Mississippi and will attract butterflies, moths (including the strikingly impressive hummingbird moth) and hummingbirds. The blooms are white, light to radiant pink or purple and often interspersed on a single inflorescence. Cleome grows to a height of 5 feet in well-drained soil and full sun and creates a colorful backdrop to shorter-statured features of your flowerbed. At my home in Warren County, I have a dozen or more planted along with canna and use them as a natural screen to an above-ground propane tank. Although Cleome is considered an annual, it is a prolific self-seeder that comes back year-toyear in Mississippi — similar to zinnia or sunflower. If you don’t want lots of them around your home the next season, simply cut the seed pods from the plant before they open up. Personally, I enjoy having them come back in strong numbers each year, as I’m typically a perennial gardener and don’t enjoy planting things I have to repurchase again the following year. Although you aren’t likely to find Cleome seedlings at your local garden center, search out specialty nurseries that will order you a seed packet or email me at outside@ thesipmag.com for additional information on where to find seed. BY NATHAN BEANE 24
TAKE A ‘SIP OF THE SOUTH Available free at
SUMMER 2014 a sip of life from the most soulful state
in the South
visitor centers, restaurants, hotels and b&b’s, shopping centers, coffee shops, local businesses and welcome centers
PORTRAIT: Walt Grayson
Mississippi’s Storyteller a sip of life from the most soulful state
in the south
FOOD/DRINK: Regina Charboneau
Re-crafting Classics in Natchez
LIFESTYLE: Two Dog Farms
Sowing Seeds with Salad Days
Also: Alligator Hunting • Delta Music Institute • Bovina Cafe • Fondren Artist Roz Roy
L i ke u s o n Fa c e b o o k Fo l l ow u s o n i n s t a g r a m @zsazsasgifts
subscriptions also available!
advertise • subscribe • enjoy mag.com 25
taking it to the table Flora farmers value fresh and natural farming
The operators of
TWO DOG farms & Salad days
are living life on their own terms, all while providing fresh eats to homes and restaurants in the Jackson area in their spare time. And, these hardworking produce farmers are loving every minute of it.
an Killen, owner of Two Dog Farms, was born and raised in the Delta and is no stranger to farming. The 28-year-old worked on a family friend’s farm several summers, planting row crops and driving a tractor. Starting his own farm seemed like a natural step. “It’s something we learned growing up,” Van said. After graduating from Delta State University, Van landed a job with an engineering firm, but three years in a cubicle taught him it was not the life for him. After moving back to Mississippi, he and his then-wife, Tori Killen, decided to give farming a try. “My dad had always grown rice and soybeans, and I never missed a harvest season,” Tori said. “When he retired, he bought some land in Flora. He agreed to let us use an acre of his land to see if it was really something we wanted to do.” The Killens experimented last summer to see if they could make money with farming. “Not only did we make a little money, we had fun doing it,” Van said. “We decided we wanted to expand.” As fate would have it, the Killens met Leigh Bailey and her husband, Jamie Redmond, at a farmers’ market. Leigh and Jamie had purchased land in Flora and were starting a hydroponic growing operation called Salad Days.
Hydroponic is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil. “We had more land than we needed,” Leigh said. “So, we fenced off four acres to keep the cows from the adjoining property out, and Van and Tori started their farm next door to our greenhouses.” The Killens named the farm Two Dog Farms, after their two dogs — Sid, a blue healer/lab mix, and Arlo, an English Springer Spaniel. Conveniently, Van works next door at Salad Days during the week, so, after work, he just heads next door to tend to his own crops. Once the produce is ready to pick, Two Dog Farms has a few ways to sell it to the public. A major way is through farmers’ markets — the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street in downtown Jackson on Saturdays and the new Madison Farmers’ Market on Tuesday evenings. They also offer a Community Supported Agriculture plan, which is a subscription-based plan in which participants pay a fee at the beginning of the growing season and get a box full of fresh picks each week. Two Dog Farms was hoping to sell 20 memberships, and, so far, they’ve sold 15. A membership in the Two Dog Farms CSA costs $450 a year.
I love to see their faces when they see what’s in their box each week, i especially love it when they tell me how good the preVious week’s produce was. ~Van Killen
More and more people want to know where their food comes from. OuR Lettuce is much fresher than anything that had to be trucked across the country. ~Leigh Bailey
“That was a big boost to us, as it gave us the capital to purchase some needed equipment,” Van said. The CSA has benefitted the farm in other ways, as well. “Many of the members of our CSA are people we may not have ever met otherwise. They come out on the weekends to get their box of produce, and we visit,” Van said. “I love to see their faces when they see what’s in their box each week, and I especially love it when they tell me how good the previous week’s produce was. They tell us what they prepared with it, and we swap recipes. I also walk them out in the garden so they can see what’s coming. It’s been really rewarding.” The CSA boxes are often supplemented with lettuce from Salad Days and, soon, fresh-cut flowers will be included with each box. Two Dog Farms marketed its CSA through fliers distributed in the Fondren area of Jackson and in Madison. But, they attribute most of the success of the plan to social media, which allowed them to reach people far and wide. “What really surprised us was when we started getting checks from people who had never met us,” Van said. Two Dog Farms also supplies a few local restaurants with fresh produce, using the popular farm-to-table concept. “We provide small batches of fresh produce to restaurants, and that’s growing,” Van said. He hopes his venture will lead to a farm-to-schools program, a concept of providing fresh produce to schools. “We are working on getting our USDA certification and audit. We’ve approached a few schools and they’re interested, but we have to be certified by the USDA before they can buy from us,” Van said. Efficiency is important to the operation. “The more we do this, the more we discover ways to be more efficient in our efforts,” Van said. “I guess one of the most frustrating things about this kind of work is the amount of time it takes. It seems there are never enough hours in the day. But as we go along and get more efficient, that will hopefully get better.” One of those efficiencies will be a pick-your-own operation for fall pumpkins and a roadside produce stand. “Once that happens, we will most likely stop going to farmers’ markets,” Van said. Planting season started in late March and early April, and the spring has been good, with plenty of rain. Van has been forced to turn on the irrigation system only a couple of times, and that was really just to check it, he said. He was surprised early on that people aren’t as concerned about his produce being organic as they are about knowing the origin of their food. “There is a big push for eating local and buying organic. It seems that the local aspect is most important for our customers,” he said.
While they grow a wide variety of vegetables and blackberries, Two Dog Farms is known for the heirloom varieties, such as Alabama red okra and Pattypan squash. Although not a certified organic farm, Two Dog Farms does not use pesticides or herbicides. “You can see the weeds growing around some of the plants, and that’s just how it is,” Van said. “We choose not to spray our crops.” Instead, they lay out long strips of Visqueen along each row in the garden, “punch holes in the plastic and put in the plants, and that will keep the weeds at bay,” Van said. Next door, at Salad Days Produce, no weeds can be found. That’s because all the produce is grown inside large greenhouses. Like something from the space age, people enter and exit the greenhouses through double airlock chambers. Inside, row after row of white shelves fill the greenhouses. The shelves have holes evenly spaced where new plants are placed. Lettuce grows quickly in that environment, especially when the plants are pumped with a blended mix of nutrients. Salad Days is one of only four hydroponic growing operations in the state. While lettuce is the primary crop, rows and rows of tomatoes, cucumbers and other produce also can be found there. Leigh Bailey also takes her produce to local farmers’ markets, and she sells to several restaurants. “It’s become very popular for restaurants to print where they sourced their food on the menus. More and more, people want to know where their food comes from,” Leigh said. “Our lettuce is much fresher than anything that had to be trucked across the country.” Leigh describes her produce as “better than organic.” True organic gardening must happen in dirt. Since her produce is grown in water and nutrients, it can’t be classified as organic. “We don’t use chemicals or pesticides. We do use ladybugs and lacewings to eat the bad insects, and we use bumblebees to cross-pollinate our tomatoes,” she said. The nutrient-rich water can be re-used several times, so that saves on water costs for Salad Days. But instead of discarding the water, Van uses it on his crops. “There are still nutrients in the water, so I don’t need fertilizer,” he added. Just as plants have a symbiotic relationship with insects for cross-pollination, Two Dog Farms has a symbiotic relationship with Leigh and Jamie. “It’s a comfortable fit for all of us,” said Leigh. “If Two Dog Farms wants to expand, we can accommodate that. We have 18 acres here, so there’s plenty of room to grow.” STORY Susan Marquez PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis
A GET-HEALTHY PRESCRIPTION
FOR Everyday Women
Breath Taking Views Studios One Bedrooms Two Bedrooms Furnished & Unfurnished
Want a bigger ‘sip? Enjoy additional content, such as photo galleries, recipes, videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes photos and stories! You can also subscribe, find out where The ‘Sip is distributed and download advertising information online. The ‘Sip website provides a multi-media experience that extends beyond the pages of The ‘Sip!
MA D I SON, MS
At 19, Belhaven grad is Juilliard-bound Jocelyn Zhu
Growing up, didn’t give much thought to her future. She figured she’d do like so many others in her family and become a professor, doctor, scientist, or, perhaps, even an engineer like her father. At 19, her career path is now clear. She will head to The Juilliard School, an acclaimed college for drama, dance and music, to pursue a master’s education and career as a violinist.
“Everyone in my immediate family is very scientific-minded,” she said. “My talent and love for music came out of nowhere. I know how to play the piano, and I think I’m a pretty good shower singer, too.” Jocelyn’s dad is a computer engineer for Verizon, and her mom teaches Chinese at Jackson Prep. Although Jocelyn is classically trained, she’s open to all the genres to which she’ll be exposed at Juilliard. “I hope to spend the next two years defining my music talents. Although I love the romantic period, it’s always an adventure to be introduced to and explore new music,” she said. “There is truth, beauty and goodness to be found in all music. Each piece has something to say, and it’s up to the individual to find that personal message.” Jocelyn was 3 or so when her mom signed her up for violin lessons. “It was OK,” said the native Mississippian and Canton resident. “I liked fiddling and I liked my teacher, Tammy Mason.” When she hit her preteens, though, everything changed. “I realized I really liked playing the violin and that I was kind of good at it.” Homeschooled in academics by her mom, Jocelyn took violin instruction from Song Xie, an associate music professor at Belhaven University, and her list of achievements grew. She performed at prestigious competitions, national festivals and with orchestras, including the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. When she was 8, Jocelyn made a solo appearance with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Eight years later, she played in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
“Too often as artists become successful, they start to think more about themselves and less about the music. It’s not for someone’s personal image. It’s a creation from God, a gift for us to enjoy.” ~ JOCELYN ZHU,
“I enjoyed it all, but I told my parents I wanted to be a regular kid and play team sports. I really liked soccer, and I played for the Mississippi Fire team and swam with Makos,” she said. “My instructor pointed out that high school and sports wouldn’t leave much time for the violin, and he casually suggested that I go ahead and start college.” From there, “It all happened so fast and unexpected. I passed my GED and scored pretty well on my ACT, so we decided why not give it a try.” “She’s very smart, dedicated and disciplined,” Song Xie said. “By the time she was a young teenager, Jocelyn had reached the point where she needed to be in a college-level environment if she wanted to continue to perfect her skills.” Then only 14, Jocelyn enrolled at Belhaven and continued studying with her mentor. For the pre-med major and college soccer player, music was important, but it wasn’t a career choice – yet. “I was so busy, and I knew I had to put some things aside. I chose to stay with the violin, and now I graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree with a violin performance major.” Applying to Juilliard meant five to six hours of practice each day to perfect an extensive repertoire. A taped audition followed by a live performance before a panel of eight or nine professors earned Jocelyn a place at the exclusive institution with partial scholarships to cover the $50,000-plus annual cost. Juilliard has about 200 students in its master of music program, including 55 in the violin program, said Lee Cioppa, associate dean for admissions. The acceptance rate is about 15 percent for Juilliard’s approximate 800 students enrolled in bachelor and master programs for dance, drama and music. Come late August, Jocelyn will move to New York, a huge city where she knows only a few faces from previous violin performances. “Mom is worried. of course, like all moms are,” Jocelyn said. “But my parents are glad for me to have this opportunity.” Jocelyn, on the other hand, has no fear of new places. “Travel is one my favorite things about this violin thing,” she said. “I really love visiting new places.” While she’s eager to see new sites, Jocelyn appreciates what her home state has given her. “I love Mississippi. This is all I’ve ever known, but in a bigger place, it’s easy to get lost and just be another face in the crowd. I have no regrets growing up here,” she said. “It’s true what people say, that Mississippi is a very giving state. My family, friends, church and everyone I come in contact with have
supported me. They come to my concerts; they give up their time for me.” A packed suitcase and musical talent won’t be all that Jocelyn takes to the Big Apple. “During the last few years, I’ve changed a lot,” she said, reflecting on her time at Belhaven. “I’ve learned to incorporate my Christian upbringing and mindset into a music field that often is very competitive and cutthroat. With great mentoring from Song Xie and help from God, I always look for the joy in music.” “She’s reached the skill and maturity level for a higher level of training at Juilliard,” Xie said. “Jocelyn will be going from a Christian university to a secular and highly competitive environment. There will be many challenges ahead and it won’t be easy, but I believe she is prepared. Her calling is to be a musician, all to God’s glory.” Her Mississippi roots have helped her maintain her focus and share her gift of music. “People who aren’t acquainted with Mississippi tend to think that we’re lacking in arts and music,” she said. “They are wrong. There are a lot of hidden treasures here.” Jocelyn Zhu is one of those.
STORY Susan O’Bryan PHOTOGRAPHS Jane Zhu
IN THE MAKING
Delta Music Institute home-growing professionals to stay and play
continued on page 3...
With a burning desire to sing and write songs, Tricia Walker had to leave Mississippi 34 years ago to pursue her entertainment dreams. A native of Fayette, the budding star headed to Nashville for a shot at the big-time and stayed 26 years, carving out her place in the music industry.
DMI instructor Miles Fulwider sits in Studio B, a state-of-the-art digital recording studio, with Chris Moore, a recent DMI graduate.
“We’re trying to educate the public on how to treat music and entertainment professionals. We could position DMI and Delta State to be the next recording center of the Mid-South and sort of the incubator for the entertainment industry.”
“ eing from a small town, New York was too big and L.A. was too far away, and so Nashville made the most sense, because I knew if it didn’t work out, I could be back home in a day,” she said. “It was a great time to be in Nashville. I learned the school of hard knocks – began to learn the business.” The now-accomplished singer-songwriter is back home. “I had to leave to go do what I did and then come back. My hope would be that there would be enough critical mass and enough development of appreciation,” she said. “If you get those young people to stay here and begin to grow those businesses, then you have something really happening. You have to have a population that not only enjoys music but values it.” Tricia, after earning a couple of gold records for album cuts she penned, running a successful publishing business and recording her own record, The Heart of Dixie, decided in 2005 it was time “to give back.” At the time, Tricia didn’t know how she would give back, but all roads pointed home. 38
“It was a very quiet kind of— it’s time to go home now,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow. What am I going to do? How am I going to live?’” Around the same time, Delta State University was looking for someone to lead its Delta Music Institute, an independent center under the College of Arts and Sciences offering technological, creative and business areas of the music and entertainment industries. Tricia was asked to lead the institute as its new director, a role she took on in 2006. “It’s really grace and mercy. Everything I’ve learned in 26 years in Nashville has been able to apply to this program, because it is so entrepreneurial,” she said. “It really is trying to help students understand there are no guarantees in the entertainment industry and you really are going to have to go out and craft your own opportunities. If you’re called to the creative lifestyle, you’re going to have to make your own way and have multiple skillsets with which to eat and with which to live. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”
MI, which began with a donation by Fred Carl of the Viking Range Corporation in 2003, is in the Whitfield Building, a former gymnasium, on the Delta State campus. The building houses two world-class recording studios comparable to the renowned Abbey Road studios in London as well as a small project studio and state-of-the-art computer lab for creating, editing and mixing digital media. DMI also has a Mobile Music Lab program, which is used to teach the basics of songwriting, process of recording, producing and performing original musical works, beginning video production and the importance of Mississippi’s musical heritage. The bus has professional-level audio equipment, musical instruments and software for recording sessions, performances, tours and instruction in media arts. While in Nashville, Tricia learned the ropes by doing it all. She joined Connie Smith’s band on the Grand Ole Opry and traveled with Paul Overstreet and Shania Twain. She was a member of a swing/jazz/blues trio called The Mud Cats and was a founding member of “Women in the Round” nights at the legendary Bluebird Cafe, where women songwriters would take turns playing music and telling stories. Tricia penned album cuts for some of the most well-known women entertainers, including Alison Krauss, who won a GRAMMY in 1998 for her performance of “Looking in the Eyes of Love,” a song Tricia wrote. “The music industry is a very entrepreneurial kind of world. It’s rare that you get to do one thing. You have to do many things,” she said A goal of the institute, especially since Tricia came on board, is to draw on Mississippi’s musical heritage to produce the next generation of Mississippi entertainment industry professionals and entertainers. Tricia believes the Mississippi Delta could become a musical mecca and a place people flock to experience music, much like how the sounds of Austin, Texas, draw music-lovers from all over the world. “You can’t really design for this. Nobody designed for Austin to become what it is, but it happened because people value music. They value entertainment,” she said. “For here, it’s not that there is a lack of talent, but we’re trying to educate the public on how to treat music and entertainment professionals. We could position DMI and Delta State to be the next recording center of the Mid-South and sort of the incubator for the entertainment industry.” Tricia is the department’s administrator, but she, along with fellow seasoned entertainment professionals — producer and engineer Miles Fulwider, touring musician and music promoter Charly Abraham and touring musician Barry Bays — teaches classes. “We’ve all come from that. We’ve all gone to school and done the academic thing as well, but nobody here has a Ph.D. It doesn’t really exist in the music industry — on the
professional side,” said Miles, a professional audio engineer and music producer who just finished his first year as an instructor with DMI. “We all come from that, and we’re always trying to push that with the students in giving them that real-world experience.” Students can earn a bachelor of science of entertainment industry studies through DMI. The degree offers two concentrations — audio engineering technology, which allows students to get deep into recording and the art and science of sound, and entertainment industry entrepreneurship, which is more the backside of the business —publishing, management, being an agent, concert promotion, copyrights and contracts. The classrooms are full recording studios with the most up-to-date technology and all of the students are required to have laptop computers with the latest recording and engineering software. “It really facilitates how the industry works. Some people are making records on laptops. Others are in big, big studios. We’re trying to give them that whole breadth of understanding and experience,” Miles said. “When they’re thrown into DMI, they’re working in all the different kinds of the creative fields — just kind of getting experience and getting their feet wet. And, as they choose from there, they may want to focus on songwriting or recording or touring and promotion. Then they kind of get a feel for it.” Students are required to take business courses as part of the degree, which furthers DMI’s emphasis on creating entertainment professionals who understand the real world. “Whatever you’re going to do, you’re going to be a small business, so you have to understand a little bit about accounting, a little bit about management, a little bit about marketing,” Tricia said. “We’re not like any other department on campus. We don’t do the 8-to-5 thing very well. We’re here late hours in the night, working on weekends doing gigs, so, we’re a little different.” Horace Willis, a musician and audio engineer in training, is quickly and thoroughly learning the tricks of the trade. The Arcola native, a senior in the program, is concentrating in audio engineering but dabbling in entrepreneurship. “It’s helped me discover who I am as a person. It’s also been the thing that’s really grooming me into adulthood. A lot of what they teach you is trying to be your own manger — being an entrepreneur. A lot of the being an entrepreneur requires you to grow up eventually, learn how to schedule your gigs, learn how to book and network with people and talk to people,” he said. Tricia said Horace — also known as “Mr. DMI” — has been a great representative for the program and the use of people skills it takes to make it in the business. “We’ve watched him grow and mature. He’s seen it all and done it all,” she said.
“I learned exactly how everything works. Not just on a surface level, but on an internal basis — what causes what to work how,” -Chris Moore
Delta Music Institute Studios STUDIO A • The larger of the two recording spaces • Features a Neve V3 large format console • Space to record an orchestra, wind ensemble, or choir of up to 150 musicians STUDIO B • Features a Digi ICON console • More contemporary space • Able to record smaller ensembles of various styles and genres STUDIO C • Small project studio COMPUTER LAB • State-of-the-art, 15-station digital audio computer lab • Features Apple computers with keyboards and audio interfaces • Students learn to create, edit and mix audio in the digital realm.
studio ABOVE: DMI Director Tricia Walker sings and performs in DMI’s Studio B with student Horace Willis. RIGHT: Kelli Leach, a junior at Delta State University, works on voice-over sound bites for an upcoming DMI project.
Horace is a member of the DMI All-Stars, a handpicked group of DMI musicians. The program has two other bands, Ol’ Skool Revue and Delta Rox, which allow students to not only receive credit and scholarships, but also perform at on-campus and regional events. The DMI All-Stars have had opportunities to perform during GRAMMY week in Los Angeles and at the White House in Washington, D.C., through a partnership between DMI and the GRAMMY Museum. In 2010, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles announced it would build a satellite GRAMMY Museum in Mississippi on the campus of Delta State. The museum, scheduled to open fall 2015, is already helping boost enrollment for DMI — currently boasting about 60 majors with about 35 freshmen coming in the fall — and will, hopefully, help the area become the musical haven Tricia envisions. “Our students will have some really unique opportunities through the museum,” she said. “The museum’s mission is fundamentally an educational one. The mission is outreach to the community — not only music education but to make students in Mississippi aware of their own really rich musical heritage. When you have a global name like GRAMMY attached to you, you have access that you didn’t have before. That’s going to be key.” The studios are open to the public to allow community members an opportunity to reserve and use the state-of-theart recording equipment. Tricia, along with several musician friends, has recorded at DMI in one of the studios, which she claims are comparable to any Nashville recording studio. “We’ve set up the studios to where they’re open to the public at a reasonable rate, because we’re an educational institution first of all, and we built that into the program so our student engineers could have on-the-job training and an opportunity to earn money while they’re doing it,” she said. Keeping the studios full of musicians is one way Tricia and the DMI staff will draw people to the Delta for the music. “I’d love to see the studios fill up every day. There is enough talent and enough people who are interested in recording, whether they’re amateur or professional, that we ought to have people in here every day,” Tricia said. Even though technology now allows musicians to record music at home from their computers, Tricia is confident that the engineers coming out of DMI are homegrown professionals. “One of the challenges with digital technology is that anyone can sit at home with their computer and do a recording, so why should I come over to DMI and pay you more?” she said. “Well, it’s because we’re better at it. We have this expertise level, so you’re paying for a professional. If you’re trying to take it to the next level, you’ve got to have a professional.”
While Tricia can do a lot of the recording herself, she always turns to a professional audio engineer for her records. “When we talk to the students about budgeting, there is a do-it-yourself mentality, but, at some point, you can’t do it all really well. I’ve never tried to engineer my own records,” she said. “I’ve always spent the majority of my recording budget on a really good engineer. I can play a lot of the instruments. I can sing a lot of parts, but I need a really good engineer, and I’m willing to pay for that.” Chris Moore from Greenwood, a recent graduate specializing in audio engineering, is a prime example. He grew up around music and recording, but DMI put him on a professional level. “I learned exactly how everything works. Not just on a surface level, but on an internal basis — what causes what to work how,” he said. Chris, who was awarded a $2,500 prize, funded by the Steve Azar St. Cecilia Foundation, plans to start his own audio and video production business. He plans, for now, to stay in Mississippi. “I think Mississippi definitely has the opportunity here,” he said. For Tricia, keeping DMI graduates open for business and opportunity in Mississippi is key for what the program — and she, personally — stands for. “When it was first conceptualized, the thought was, ‘So much great music came out of Mississippi and so much talent is still in Mississippi.’ For me, if I was going to do the music business, I had to leave Mississippi to do it. I think somebody kind of popped up and said, we could do a recording studio,” she said. “Mississippi is home of the blues, which so many American genres of music really spun off the blues — you know, the whole crossroads, just the mystique that is the Delta, it made sense. I think it was a concerted effort to try to keep talent in the state.” Tricia, who is Ms. Tricia to her students, keeps that at the heart of the institute and her desire to share her experiences and love of the business. “Mississippi is a unique place. For all the things that people think we don’t have, we are certainly rich in many ways — culture, music and art and certainly people is that handful of things that we are spectacularly rich in. And, I think that’s worth celebrating and worth trying to try to give back to. “This is the time of life where it’s time to give back, so it’s a great gift for me to be able to come back and tell these students — I can certainly tell them what not to do — and share that with them. I’m very blessed to have been able to do what I love to do all my life. It’s rare.” STORY Lauchlin Fields PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis
1. Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival 1 Blues Alley Clarksdale, MS 38614 The acclaimed North Mississippi Allstars and celebrity entertainer Bobby Rush will headline the 26th annual festival in Clarksdale. The festival is free. www.sunflowerfest.org
4. Delta Busking Festival Cat Head Store & Rock and Blues Museum 252 Delta Avenue Clarksdale, MS 38614 Solo, duo and band acts will perform original blues and roots music on two stages in the streets of Clarksdale’s historic downtown. This festival, in its first year, is free. www.blues2rock.com and www.cathead.biz
CHARLESTON SEPTEMBER 20 2. Gateway to the Delta Festival Around the Charleston Square The Fourth Annual Gateway to the Delta Festival will feature a “Taste of the Delta” recipe content, Healthy Delta 5K, “Grillin’ with Scissors” BBQ Competition and a photography contest. charlestongatewayfestival.org
GREENVILLE OCTOBER 3-5
SEPTEMBER 20 3. Delta Blues & Heritage Festival 2014 1040 Raceway Road Greenville, MS 38701 The Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival began in 1977 and has grown to be the largest blues festival in the Delta and the oldest in the United States. Always held on the third Saturday in September, the festival features blues artists from near and far. www.deltablues.org/home.php
DOWNTOWN HOLLANDALE SEPTEMBER 28 5. Sam Chatmon Blues Festival 100 S. Simmons St. Hollandale, MS 38748 The annual Sam Chatmon Blues Festival will feature bikes, barbecue and the blues at the home of legend Sam Chatmon.
ILLUSTRATION BY CLAIBORNE BRYANT
6. Mighty MS Music Festival Warfield Point Park 296 Warfield Point Road Set in the heart of the Delta with the mystical Mississippi River as its backdrop, this is a two-day multi-genre concert celebrating the fields, the farmers, the legends and all the music they inspired. The festival, in its second year, integrates the Highway 61 Blues Festival, held in nearby Leland since 2000.
FOOD & DRINK
B OVINA, MS
The Bovina Café
Heaping helpings of homestyle dining For Evelyn Wallace, preparing lunch every day is like cooking for family, only the crowd numbers about 100. It’s homestyle cooking at The Bovina Café, a non-descript board-and-batten diner just off I-20 east of Vicksburg.
Bring your appetite! The Bovina Cafe, 191 Tiffintown Road, is open from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The restaurant is along the south Frontage Road at the Bovina Exit off Interstate 20. Call 601-6366802 for information.
And the family — that’s the way Evelyn feels about her regular customers — is now into the third generation enjoying her food. The atmosphere is so downhome that some of her patrons often take their plates to the kitchen for washing. “Some come so often that if they don’t show up for a few days, I check the obits or call the funeral home,” she laughed. It’s so much like family that when the café was closed a few years ago after a fire, customers pitched in to help get it repaired and open again. About 50 people can be seated at tables and in booths in a room painted yellow and trimmed in red, and a few pictures decorate the walls. On the tables you’ll find condiments with the same labels you might buy for your own kitchen. An old ice cream box is a reminder of bygone days; it holds the desserts. The meals are served cafeteria-style and include a meat, several vegeatables, cornbread, dessert and drink — and it’s all homemade with Evelyn doing most of the cooking. The portions fill the plates, but she says not to worry — “You can eat your lunch here and run three miles and you won’t gain any weight.” She cooks what the public likes, just the way she cooked for her own family, because “if you have too much of one thing left over too often you take it off the menu.” Her busiest days are usually Thursdays and Fridays, and her most popular dish is jambalya, served on Fridays. Her employees often take home the leftovers, but she fixes some to-go plates for elderly people at no charge, because “it’s just something I like to do.” Evelyn grew up on a farm near Big Creek in Calhoun County where almost everything the family ate was what they raised. She learned to cook by watching her grandmother and her mother in the kitchen, but, “Sometimes I would go back to Mother and say, ‘Where did I go wrong? It’s not quite like yours.’ It’s just getting that knack to make it just right.” Her years in the food business began when her children were in kindergarten. Evelyn and her husband were building a home at Willow Creek, and she’d go for hamburgers at what Allen Kitchens called The Chicken Box, next to his service station at Bovina. His wife, Linda, ran the cash register. Her children were also in kindergarten, and she asked Evelyn if she would work part-time so the two could swap times of taking the children to school and picking them up. Eventually Evelyn went to work full-time. David Wright took over the business for a year, and, after he left, the Kitchenses asked Evelyn if she wanted to run the restaurant.
FOOD & DRINK
“If you have too much of one thing left over too often, you take it off the menu.” ~ EVELYN WALLACE of the
“I said I guess so, if I wanted a job,” she said. “And to this day I tell people, ‘Don’t let Linda Kitchens talk you into working part-time.’” Workdays are long ones for Evelyn. In addition to lunch, The Bovina Café also serves breakfast, and customers often are waiting for the 5 a.m. opening. She is up at 2:30 each morning, but by the time she gets to work her husband has already turned on the grill and made the coffee. The café’s breakfast hours are from 5 until 10:30, and lunch is served from 11 until 2:30. It is closed on weekends, but Evelyn finds it hard to cook for just two. She’d rather go out and enjoy somebody else’s cooking. Evelyn laughs at the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Instead, she says, “Healthy? Maybe. Weatlhy? No. And wise? Very doubtful. If I was wise I wouldn’t be working.” Restaurants are often gathering places for friends, and, among the early-to-rise customers at The Bovina Café are men who sit at the same table and swap gems of wisdom. They are Evelyn’s husband, Tom, Lee Pennebaker, Glen Kittrell and Sam Price. One day Sam told her, “You should hand out diplomas
when you get up from that table.” On another occasion, the group started discussing religion, and Sam commented, “I think I’m going to call the pope. He could learn something.” Though most of her customers are regulars, some travelers plan their trips to make sure they’re at Bovina during lunch. Some see the café from the highway and stop to dine. One such customer was the owner of a national restaurant chain, who, just passing by, chose the place for his birthday meal. In her 35 years of serving about a hundred people a day she’s seldom had a sorehead and only once has she given someone his money back and asked him to leave, a mindboggling statistic when you do the math. “Word of mouth is my best advertising,” she said. “You won’t find us on the Internet because I’m computer illiterate and have no ambition to learn.” “I tell people I’m the best restaurant in Bovina,” she said. “They can’t argue with that.”
STORY Gordon Cotton PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis
Chef Regina Charboneau Cooks Up ‘Craft’ in Her Native Natchez
NATCHEZ — Renowned chef Regina Charboneau, a seventh-generation Natchezian, has been all over the world serving up large helpings of her Southern hospitality. The 60-year-old cookbook author and restaurateur has worked in the bush of Alaska, attended cooking school in Paris and owned and operated restaurants in San Francisco. She’s lived in New York City and Minneapolis, and she’s cooked for everyone from Bob Hope to Mick Jagger. “When I opened my restaurant, people would always 46
comment on how hospitable I was, and I just didn’t know any other way,” she said. “I always made a point to stop at every table — never to pick and choose. I find everyone equally interesting.” Her pull back home began 14 years ago. She and her husband, Doug, moved their family to Natchez and eventually settled at Twin Oaks, a 6,000-square-foot historic home included on the ever-popular Spring Pilgrimage. “My father passed away and I had a tug to come home,” Regina said. “I really thought I was going to be in Natchez six months, and then when it turned into two years, we figured this is where we’d be.”
Regina Charboneau stands outside King’s Tavern in Natchez. Photos by Eli Baylis
Since moving to Natchez, Regina has spread her culinary talents across the local, regional and national scenes. She runs a bed and breakfast, owns and operates a successful restaurant and craft cocktail bar, acts as culinary director for a steamboat company and is promoting her newest cookbook, released this past spring. She had intended to slow down after she moved home. “My big focus when we moved to Natchez was to focus on my boys,” she said. But, while 24-year-old Jean Luke, a budding entrepreneur, and 21-year-old Martin, a student at New York University, were boys in Natchez, Regina did not necessarily play the role of stay-at-home mom. The Charboneaus also have an adopted daughter, 25-year-old Catherine, who became part of the family seven years ago. While raising her boys, Regina also consulted at Monmouth Plantation, one of Natchez’s grand historic homes, and traveled back and forth to San Francisco, where she is still part-owner of Biscuits & Blues, her 19year restaurant business. She also managed to write two cookbooks and completely restored Twin Oaks. The 1832-built home has only three bedrooms, but the Charboneaus welcome guests to the six guest rooms adjacent to their home on the property — an antebellum dependency known as White Cottage. Regina, who occasionally offers cooking classes to her guests, said owning a bed and breakfast was “accidental” but has been a good way to welcome visitors to Natchez.
“I call it a bed and whatever, because you never know what the guests are going to get. Even though I’m a chef, I don’t do breakfast,” she said. “With my schedule, sometimes I don’t even meet the guests, and sometimes they get invited to a party. It’s fun. We stay busy.” Running a bed and breakfast was only one ingredient to Regina’s flavorful homecoming. Despite the many hats and ongoing projects, Regina and Doug, married for 33 years, were claiming to be “semiretired” a year ago. While watching reality television, Doug proclaimed to Regina, “I don’t think we can do this.” She agreed. “So, we bought King’s Tavern because it was falling apart,” Regina said. “The bank owned it and every time we would go to the bank, they would say, ‘Don’t you want to buy King’s Tavern?’” King’s Tavern, a 225-year-old building that once was a rest stop for people traveling along the Mississippi River, is quite possibly the oldest building in the Natchez Territory and a landmark for the river city. Within two weeks, the Charboneaus bought the King’s Tavern building and the adjacent building and developed a plan for two businesses — a restaurant focused on flatbreads and craft cocktails and a rum distillery operated by Doug and their son, Jean Luke. Regina opened the restaurant in October and Doug and Luke plan to open the distillery in August. Starting a rum distillery has been on Doug’s mind since before the Charboneaus had children. “We’ve been to rum distilleries all over and collected anything we could get our hands on. Doug always said he was going to do a rum distillery,” Regina said. Doug, who has a background in finance, wanted to use the rum distillery to help increase the offerings to Natchez travelers. ”We talked about the fact that Natchez is a tourist town and Natchez has a nice tourist pattern already. We thought, ‘What can we do to add to that?’” he said. “Sugar cane is grown down here, so it’s a natural product and, while there isn’t a long history in Mississippi of rum
distilleries, there certainly is in Louisiana. It’s another something people can do and see and touch and at the end of the day, I get to drink some white rum.” Hoping to create a food offering that would draw on her decades of experience, Regina’s concept for King’s Tavern quickly began to unfold. It seemed to go back to an item high on her culinary wish list. “I really wanted a wood-fired oven,” she said. Once she purchased it, the wood-fired oven became the centerpiece, and the rest was simple. King’s Tavern was reborn with a simple menu, a simple concept and high-quality ingredients. Regina’s vision for the space was to build on its uniqueness. While the building’s history is storied, complete with a resident ghost named Madeline, it was easy for Regina to develop a modern twist on the local treasure. Gutting the kitchen and making it more focused was likely the biggest challenge. “I didn’t want a typical restaurant kitchen, because I was very focused in my direction of the food I wanted to do,” she said. “Everything is cooked in the wood-fired oven. We have a prep stove to make custards for ice cream and sauces, but that’s it.” Regina and her staff don’t use mainstream products. Goat cheese comes from a small farm in Liberty. They make their own Italian sausage. All of the seafood is sustainable, 48
and they grow what they can in the courtyard garden full of lettuce, chard, kale, Thai basil, okra and peppers. All of the desserts are made with homemade ice cream and are Regina’s twists on sweet classics. “From the time we looked at the building and made an offer with the bank for the building, it took me about two hours to design it — menu, concept, everything — I thought, OK, this is it,” she said. “It just made sense. Everything just clicked.” Regina’s favorite salad offering at King’s Tavern is seasonal greens tossed in preserved lemon vinaigrette, shaved apple, shaved Parmesan and crispy prosciutto. “We don’t have one deep fried item. And, my salads are, I think, the best salads in Natchez because they’re fresh, fresh, and they’re not overdressed. They’re creative,” she said. Craft and creative seem to be the themes throughout the tavern. Despite the non-traditional menu, King’s Tavern is drawing crowds of both locals and tourists. “I knew we would carve out a niche market. If somebody wants pepperoni pizza, that’s not who we are, and it’s OK,” Regina said. While the food was, of course, key to the theme, Regina wanted to spotlight craft cocktails, an idea equally inspired by her urban influence and the upcoming Charboneau craft rum. She also has a liquor gift shop upstairs called Craft Retail, where she offers hand-crafted
liquors, such as bourbon, moonshine and rum, and sells specialty, hard-to-find wines. “I thought, ‘We’ve got to do the craft cocktail thing. You can’t have a craft liquor and not totally embrace that whole concept,” she said. Regina hired bar manager Ricky Woolfolk and craft cocktails and mixology classes became a main focus of the tavern. “He was just made to order,” she said. “He is masterful at it. He so gets it. He doesn’t just talk the talk.” Ricky began his bartending career in the New Orleans French Quarter. He later moved to Dallas and spent 14 years there, eventually owning two nightclubs and a restaurant. It wasn’t until he moved to Miami Beach and worked for Kimpton Hotels that he learned mixology, the art of mixing cocktails, and decided to take it to the next level. “I’ve always been a good bartender but you can only go so far with speed. You have to actually learn well-built, quality cocktails,” he said. “At the time I started getting into it, a movement started sweeping the country and people started appreciating quality cocktails over quantity.” Ricky took the job at King’s Tavern after a five-minute phone conversation with Regina. “It was almost like a match made in heaven,” he said of working with Regina. “I just think it’s kind of a cool thing being paired up with Regina and with Doug doing the
distillery. It was a fortuitous circumstance across the board.” Ricky said King’s Tavern is one of only a few bars in Mississippi celebrating craft liquor and mixology, something he is proud is catching on. Another mixology bar that’s garnering national attention is Jackson’s Apothecary inside Brent’s Drugs in the Fondren area. “Now people are starting to appreciate artisan spirits and craft spirits,” Ricky said. “As somebody that’s been in this business as long as I have, it kind of makes me feel like a proud papa — to see people’s palates become more sophisticated. And people are starting to actually appreciate what goes into a cocktail. People are wanting good stuff and not big name brand stuff. It’s kind of a neat thing to see.” Ricky specializes in pre- and Prohibition Era cocktails — drinks that haven’t been made much since the early 1900s. He puts his creative spin on every drink he makes, even the classics. “I do this cool twist on a Manhattan, where I use fire and smoke,” he said. Ricky, a scientist of sorts, has a growing collection of bitters, plant extracts used as additives in cocktails, and he keeps egg whites and cedar planks stocked behind the bar for his crafty cocktails. He said the concept of craft cocktails and mixology has gone over well in Natchez, known by many as a drinking town with an affinity for bourbon. “It’s almost like America’s waking up and realizing
there’s better stuff out there,” he said. “There are better cocktails. If you look nationwide, there are more cocktail lounges opening now than there are bars and nightclubs.” To further promote the notion of craft cocktails, King’s Tavern offers mixology classes twice a week — 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Ricky said he teaches a rum class and a freestyle class, in which he throws in one of his favorite Prohibition Era cocktails. Participants learn what goes into a crafted cocktail and techniques, such as how to properly shake or stir. Craft beer also is a popular push at the tavern. He sells only beer from small batch breweries, and he tries to change the entire beer menu about every two weeks. Even though Regina’s travels have certainly influenced how she developed her restaurant and craft bar, her Southern signature is strong. Even as a young chef, with formal training at La Varenne, one of the first professional cooking schools in France to offer accredited, professional culinary degrees, her dishes had at least a tinge of Southern flair. “I found myself, even though I had French techniques and I was in California, I kept bringing Southern ingredients into my cooking. All the things I loved — you know crawfish and corn, catfish and pecans,” she said. “Even if I would do some non-traditional Southern dishes, the ingredients would sneak in.” She was known as a Southern chef long before she made her way back to Natchez. “Food writers would label my cuisine as contemporary Southern cooking,” she said. “My father was a great cook. He was from South Louisiana and my mother was a wonderful hostess. I grew up with that South Louisiana good cooking,” she said. Regina is also known for the Southern hospitality she serves up, no matter where she is — inside her restaurant or at her home. “People feel very comfortable here, because I treat everyone the same in my home and don’t make a fuss,” she said. “I have never asked for an autograph. I’ve never asked to have a photo taken. I just don’t ever take advantage of those friendships. I have the memories. I just don’t do that.” Mick Jagger, lead singer of The Rolling Stones and producer for the James Brown biopic, “Get On Up,” is comfortable enough in the Charboneau home to eat chocolate mousse from her refrigerator. The world-famous singer was a guest while filming in Natchez last year. Regina’s friend Tate Taylor, the Mississippi native who is director of the film and well-known for directing “The Help,” brought everybody from the movie into the restaurant, which Regina claims helped get the tavern off the ground. The restaurant even received a shout-out from the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, who told Garden & Gun magazine that he enjoyed hanging out in a “cool, hip 50
place called King’s Tavern.” Regina is passionate about bringing people to her hometown and enhancing their experience once they arrive. Her involvement with the American Queen, the paddlewheel passenger boat that made its post-Katrina return to the Mississippi River three years ago, has given her a great opportunity to do just that. “It brings 400 people on a trip to get off on our streets, tour our houses and shop in our shops. And, they come here 29 weeks a year,” she said. “I definitely wanted to be involved in that, and I helped get them here more.” Steamboat passengers end up at her home for an entertaining class, where she has anywhere from 60 to 100 people in a day. She also tries to get on the boat every six weeks or so to check on the quality of the food from the menu she prepared and get guest feedback. As with her restaurant, she developed a concept that clicked — contemporary Southern cooking with a few basics. The menu, which, she said, includes all of Mark Twain’s favorites, has everything from an avocado crab tower to fried chicken. Southern favorites, such as mashed potatoes and shrimp and grits are also featured — Regina-style. Her work as culinary director and chef for the American Queen is what inspired her most recent cookbook, “Mississippi Current,” a culinary journey down the Mississippi River. The 336-page photo-rich book is chock-full, not only with mouth-watering recipes, but also stories and culinary histories of the people and places along the 2,340-mile river. “I know this region of the river so well, but I really did a lot of research on the entire river, and then I started traveling with the American Queen,” Regina said. While she says her own culinary journey has never been a planned one, the renowned chef seems to be floating along in the right direction. “I always have a good gut feeling that I’m on the right path,” Regina said. It seems as though Regina has come full circle, her heritage deeply rooted in a place that encouraged her to experience the world. “There’s something about growing up in Natchez. Because, since 1932, we’ve opened our homes to the world through Pilgrimage that you grow up and you meet people from all over the world, and the world always seemed very accessible to me,” she said. “People from Natchez, we never meet a stranger.” Now, she’s perfectly happy and at home back where it all began in Natchez.
STORY Lauchlin Fields PHOTOGRAPHS Eli Baylis
“You start realizing what you left behind. I lived in fantastic places — San Francisco, New York, Paris — great places, but I love Natchez.” — Regina Charboneau
JAC KSON, MS
Fondren artist turns despair into art
Inspiration comes in many forms. Fondren artist Rosalind “Roz” Roy gets it from memories in her life and gives it to others by overcoming physical barriers. Roz considers herself an inspirational folk artist moved by God. Every piece she paints or sculpts reminds her of a specific person in her life, even if she doesn’t realize it while creating the piece. “Green grass in the trees reminds me of my brother who died in 2006. The chickens I paint remind me of my great-great uncle, who was a country man from Bolton. The clotheslines remind me of my great-great grandmother, and the little black girls remind me of my nieces,” the 53-year-old artist said. “I don’t study artists or read about other artists. I don’t look at images to paint or sculpt. It just comes to me sometimes when I sit down ready to do it or sometimes even as I’m doing it. It just depends on the spirit,” she said. Roz has never been one to sit still, even as a child, when she was diagnosed with polio. She remembers always wanting to spend time doing projects and activities with her hands. “I talked a lot as a child, and my mother bought me coloring books to keep me quiet. I just love art of any kind—school projects, paper dolls, drawings, anything and everything,” she said. Her studio and gallery, Heavenly Design, hold quite the menagerie of creations — canvas paintings, collages, clay sculptures, note cards and stationery, and even hair bows, dresses and T-shirts. “I call that my wearable art. When my brother had my nieces, they became like my dolls. I could dress them and comb their hair. That was a whole new inspiration for me,” Roz said. A 1979 graduate of Provine High School, Roz studied art at Jackson State University for three years before dropping out to pursue her own design business, creating stationery and graphic cards from a computer paint program.
“None of my teachers really liked me. I liked art, but I wasn’t focused. I had one professor who saw something in me, and he said ‘Roy, if you could just slow yourself down, you’d really have something.’ He told me I could be a great artist one day, but God wouldn’t let me see it,” she said. After college, Roz did some freelance work and spent most of her time taking care of her ailing father. It was in 2003 when her personal and professional lives took monumental turns “Two weeks before my dad died, I was introduced to this organization called VSA Art Mississippi, which was a non-profit that promoted the artwork of people with disabilities,” she said. “I started taking classes they offered at Tougaloo College, and I really started getting into it all.” Her talent grew from there, and she started working with clay to make sculpted characters such as Big Booty Lucy and Gone Laquita, two of her more wellknown creations on display in her gallery on North State Street. In 2006, after her only brother died of a heart attack, Roz found herself back in the deep despair of grief again, but this time with a therapy that was all her own. “I just created and created and created some more. I was busier than I had ever been, which was such a blessing. I see now why God sped up the process for me. I didn’t have time to grieve in a sad way. I was inspired,” she said. Roz spends much of her time now hosting workshops for elementary students and teaching classes at the Mississippi Craft Center, in addition to volunteering with other organizations. She’s the true definition of a local artist whose goal is to give back to the community. To her surprise, her artwork has clearly proved to be an inspiration to others.
STORY Elizabeth Grey PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis
I always painted black people.
“ I never imagined white people would like black art. It amazes me,” she said with a laugh and a shrug. “I’m a dreamer, always fantasizing. God showed me that through my struggles art breaks the color barrier. No matter your color, through art you’re communicating.” ~ ROZ ROY
MCHAN NEW RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION AND REMODELING
Licensed Residential Builder, Electrician, Plumber, HVAC and Septic Tank Installer 601-529-3263
CITY WIDE PEP-RALLY! AUG.9th SHOPPING EXTRAVAGANZA SEPTEMBER 27th
GET TICKETS ONLINE, www.OutletsAtV icksburg.com TICKETS CAN ALSO B E P U RC H A S E D AT CUS TOMER SERVICE IN THE MALL
TEXT “SHOPPING” TO 955-77 TO GET EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS AND I N V I TAT I O N S TO I N S I D E R E V E N T S , CONTESTS, & MORE!
PHONE 6 0 1 - 6 3 6 - 74 3 4
EXIT 4A or 5B of f I-20
unique shopping in
1406 Washington Street Vicksburg, MS 39180 601-638-3744 www.sassafrasonline.com
In every corner of Mississippi’s 82 counties, Walt Grayson has found a story. Some, the Jackson TV personality has realized, weren’t so great, ”but you don’t have the option of coming back without one. You make what you have into a story or find another one while you’re there.”
On assignment for Jackson’s WLBT, Grayson has criss-crossed the state, telling viewers stories of people, places, fowl, fauna and even ghosts and, along the way, has become one of Mississippi’s most recognized faces and voices.
At age 65, he figures he has filmed, narrated and edited more than 6,000 stories in 30 years. He grew up in Greenville, a city boy “but just barely because our house was the first one inside the city limits.” The elementary school was so near the river that the levee was part of the playgrounds. In 1967, his senior year, he went to work for a radio station, signing on at 5 a.m., working until 7:30 before heading to class and heading back to the station for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Along with a diploma, he earned a third-class radio operator’s license, a requirement to run a station. One of his favorite subjects in high school was history “because I liked stories,” but at Mississippi College he prepared for a life in the ministry. For a time he pastored a country church, and though, “I enjoyed every minute of it,” he realized that was not his calling. Remembering those days he describes Sunday dinners at the homes of church 58
members as about the only good food a college student had all week. Walt began his Jackson career at WSLI radio along with the legendary Farmer Jim and his feist dog. The station was across the road from Channel 12, where Bob Neblett was presenting the weather. There was an opening at the TV station so Walt applied for the job, was hired and, “I did weekend weather for years. Nobody remembers how long. I vaguely remember.” A series of buyouts created an opening at Channel 3 and Bert Case hired Walt to present the 10 o’clock weather and an occasional story. He worked a split-shift — afternoon, home for supper, then back to the station. He wanted a full-time job “and I kept rooting for Woodie Assaf to either retire or die — but he wouldn’t do either one.” (Walt told that story at Assaf ’s funeral and repeated it later at the request of Assaf ’s family). What led to his popular TV series was a picture on the office wall of the ruins of Windsor in Claiborne County. He had no idea of what or where it was or that there was anything like that in Mississippi. He thought it might be the remnants of some castle in Europe, only to find out it was just a few hours away. On an assignment in Port Gibson, and with time to spare, he and the photographer went to Windsor where his cohort took countless artsy pictures of the stately, decaying columns. Back in the studio, Walt put the pictures together “and wrote something that I’m sure I thought was just this side of poetic and put it with the pictures.” After that, his job began to shift toward travel features. A problem was that he couldn’t always get a photographer, but that was solved after a merger with a Texas station. Money that have been invested in pension plans of profit sharing was refunded, and Walt used his to buy a TV camera, “and I’ve been shooting my own stuff ever since.” The result was, “Turn me loose, and I’ll show up with a couple of good stories every week.” The long-range result is that he has been to every county and courthouse in the state, to make nooks and corners of Mississippi, to places that are no longer on the map — finally to Michigan City and Ashland in Benton County.
In every place, there has been a story. In addition to “Look Around Mississippi,” he also has a show, “Mississippi Roads,” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Though he really likes doing the work himself, on public TV he has a full crew. Ideas for stories come from friends, folks who call with suggestions, from the Internet and often, while working on one story, another comes up. “They just kind of come to me,” he said. The stories run the gamut of subjects: travel, art, nature, festivals and celebrations, music, history, food, inventions — there is no limit. He also has reported strange tales, such as the Flying Squirrel Ranch, which actually was only one room in a double wide trailer, or the Elvis Presley B&B, which was a cinderblock house originally built as a home for wayward girls. For an hour-long show during the Civil War Sesquicentennial about the Siege of Vicksburg, Walt said he almost worked himself to death — but the film won first place in the Governor’s Tourist Award competition. Being featured on a Walt Grayson show might entertain, bring fame or increase business, but there was one very unusual result when he filmed the octagonal mansion Longwood in Natchez. He asked the manager, Mrs. Mae Burns, if the house was haunted, and she replied, “Oh, Lord, yes,” and related several ghost stories. 60
“As I was leaving, I got to thinking that not everybody wants it publicized that their house is haunted, so I asked if it was OK to put these stories on TV.” “Oh, please!” she replied. “It helps so much with security.” Is there an archive of his stories? Closets are full of them, he laughed, and said they show a time when he didn’t wear glasses, had long black hair and was 40 pounds lighter. Walt has authored two coffee table books based on his travels around the state and is a frequent speaker — sometimes without notice. A few years ago when attending an all-day meeting and dinner on the grounds at a historic Methodist church he was asked to preach when the minister failed to come. He told the congregation that he was an ordained Baptist minister — but not to worry — he would not talk long because he, too, could smell the aroma of the food from under the trees. Walt doesn’t plan to retire. Instead, he plans to “keep on doing pretty much what I’m doing now. It’s been lots of fun. I don’t know what else I would have done. It’s work that I want to do.”
STORY Gordon Cotton PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Thortis
6 01 - 619 - 76 6 3
CITY OF VICKSBURG
BUSINESS OPEN FOR
George Flaggs, Jr. Mayor
North Ward Alderman
South Ward Alderman
THE LAST ’SIP
photo by Melanie Thortis TH OR T I SP HOT OGRAP HY.C OM
VICKSBURG Your Key to History
Vicksburg’s key position on the mighty Mississippi River sets the stage for one of the most defining episodes in American history: The Siege of Vicksburg in the Civil War. You can relive that history in our museums and tour homes and the Vicksburg National Military Park which has been named the Mississippi Tourism Attraction of the Year. Vicksburg National Military Park Licensed Park Guides have been making history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park since the 1950’s. They offer visitors the unique opportunity to explore the battlefield with a professional guide who has excellent knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.
ExperienceCivilWarVicksburgatmany attractionsthroughoutthecity: • Antebellum Tour Homes • Cedar Hill Cemetery (Soldier’s Rest) • Historic Churches • Old Court House Museum • Old Depot Museum • Pemberton’s Headquarters • Riverfront Murals • Tour Homes • USS Cairo Museum • Vicksburg National Cemetery • Vicksburg National Military Park
Scan this QR to visit our mobile site and get your keys to Vicksburg.