DESTINATION MISSISSIPPI

From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,

Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy.  So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:

Natchez 

With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.

 

 

The Natchez Trace

Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history.  The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory.  The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.

The Mississippi River Trail

From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM)

This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage.  The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.

 

 

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.

 

 

 

Old Capitol Museum

Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.

Smith Robertson Museum

Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. 

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.

Vicksburg Military National Park

Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon).  The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863.  Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour

Chotard Landing Resort

Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow.  Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.

Clarkco State Park

Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad. 

Dunn’s Falls

The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours.  Also available are primitive camping sites.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 

Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife.  Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds.  Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.

 

 

The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.

Delta Blues Museum

The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.

Tanglefoot Trail®

In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871.  Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.

African American Military History Museum

Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish.  You can also play horseshoes and basketball.

Ship Island

Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day.  Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS

 

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment.  The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.

 

The Deason House

Built in 1845, the Deason home in Jones County, Mississippi stands as a Greek revival architectural gem from the antebellum era. As the oldest home in Ellisville, it was also the first painted home in the area and its detailed semi-octagonal vestibule is the only one of its kind known to exist in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

“It’s one of the oldest structures completely made of longleaf pines in the world because longleaf is only indigenous to the Southeast United States,” said Frances Murphy, Regent of the Tallahala Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). “Studies have shown that the wood was likely cut in the 1830s and the [longleaf pines] are estimated to have been growing in the late 1300s.”

The first owners, Amos and Eleanor Deason, built the home as a farmhouse.

In 1890, Isaac Anderson, Jr. and wife Sarah Rebecca “Sallie” Pool purchased the home and lived there until 1939 when it went into the Anderson estate. In 1965, Mrs. Frances Anderson Smith, a descendant of both Amos Deason and Isaac Anderson, Jr., bought the home and in 1991 presented it to the Tallahala Chapter.

“Actually a lot of the Chapter members are family or descendants of the Anderson family, so I guess you could say it’s still owned by the same family,” said Frances.

Oh, and by the way…it’s haunted.

“The claim to fame the home is most notoriously known for is that Major Amos McLemore, Confederate Army officer was shot and killed in the home during the Civil War by Newton Knight,” said Frances.

Newton Knight had deserted the Confederate Army because of the 20-slave law, which stated that a man owning 20 slaves or more didn’t have to fight. Knight, who had never owned a slave, felt the Civil War had become a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Jones County, being mostly wooded country, wasn’t a good place to raise cotton and therefore very few slaves lived there as compared to the rest of the state, Frances explained. Other soldiers with the same sentiments deserted the Confederacy along with Knight. Major Amos McLemore, who was from the area, headed up the troops sent to round up these deserters.

“Newton and his men could have stormed the house and killed everybody, but Newton specifically targeted McLemore,” said Frances. Everyone accepts that Newton Knight killed Amos McLemore even though there was no eye witness to the crime and Newton was never charged. “From this event, the house got the reputation of being haunted.”

Every year, the Saturday before Halloween, the Deason Home hosts a reenactment of the McLemore shooting, with the assistance of the Rosin Heel Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“They are dressed in Civil War Army uniforms and they sit around the campfire outside,” said Frances, adding that the ladies are dressed in the period costumes. When guests touring the home enter the bedroom where Major McLemore was shot, McLemore is waiting for them. “As he talks to the guests. the door flies open and Newton Knight rushes in. So guests get a little taste of what it was like when the shooting took place.”

The reenactment event, which has been going on for 20 years, is family friendly, said Frances, although it may be a little startling when the gun goes off.

“But nothing gory.”

Frances encourages parents to make the tour a family event because children experience what life was like during the war while learning about the oldest home in Jones County.

“It’s not your traditional Halloween spook house by any stretch of the imagination.”

The house will also be open Halloween night, but rather than a reenactment, the night will be a Ghost Tour with past residents of the house telling their stories.

After all, some stories never die…and some characters refuse to.

 

For information on special events, tours, cost, and space rental, visit the website: http://www.deasonhome.org/

photo courtesy of  The Deason House

Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest

Since the first Hwy 80 Songwriters fest in 2013,

which was made possible in part by an AT&T grant, the purpose and mission of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest were to expand the songwriter’s platform and territory, provide education in the songwriting craft for songwriters of all ages and levels of expertise, to build and support the creative economy in West Alabama and East Mississippi and to ignite the public’s understanding and appreciation for songwriters and their craft. Venues this year have included City Hall lawn, Demopolis, AL, Hal & Mal’s Restaurant and the Arts Center of Mississippi in Jackson. Now, the Montgomery Institute invites you to enjoy the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest in Meridian from July 28-30, 2016.

The Fest, through The Montgomery Institute,

was awarded a $4,100.00 from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC). This grant is a portion of the $1.5 million in grants the commission will award in the 2016-2017 and will be used for the 2016 Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest. The grants are made possible by continued funding from the Mississippi State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Organizations that support the arts play a pivotal role in growing Mississippi’s creative economy,” said Malcolm White, Executive Director of MAC. “The Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to support their work, which reinforces the value of the arts for communities and for the economic development of our state.”

The Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency,

serves the residents of the state by providing grants that support programs to enhance communities; assist artists and arts organizations; promote the arts in education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. Established in 1968, the Mississippi Arts Commission is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the national Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources.  The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.

The mission of The Montgomery Institute

is to “upbuild the people and places of the East Mississippi and West Alabama region guided by the leadership legacy of G. V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery.”  To accomplish its mission, TMI has undertaken initiatives in leadership development, rural place building, educational enhancement, workforce development, research and information dissemination, regional cooperation, and innovation.

On July 28, Squealer’s Restaurant and News Restaurant

in North Meridian welcome local and regional songwriters and with rounds beginning at 6:30 pm. On July 29, in downtown Meridian at 7 pm, Weidmann’s Restaurant, The Brickhaus Brewtique and The Echo Downtown welcome nine Mississippi/Alabama songwriters from outside the region. No matter what venue you choose, before the night is over, audiences will hear every songwriter come through their venue.  See the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details.

On July 30 at noon, the historical Soule Feed Steamworks

welcomes Tricia Walker, Grammy Award winning songwriter, Director of Delta Music Institute and a MAC Roster Artist, who will facilitate the pro songwriting workshop. At 2:30 pm Shawna P (Pierce), a finalist in The Voice, whose mentor was Shakira, will facilitate a vocal performance workshop for all ages interested in singing and performing. ShawnaP facilitates these vocal workshops all over Alabama, from Muscle Shoals to the FloraBama. At 4:45 pm, the Open-Mic session begins, which is open to all ages and levels. The Grand Finale begins at 7 pm with Tricia Walker, ShawnaP and MAC Roster Artist, three-time Blues Award Winner and eleven-time Blues nominee Eden Brent.

The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest would not be possible without grant awards from The Meridian Council for the Arts, Community Foundation of East Mississippi, and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Financial sponsors include Mitchell Distributing, Structural Steel Services, Mississippi Main Street and Mississippi Writers Guild. In-kind support comes from Kabana Productions, Soule Steam Feed Works and Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Supertalk Meridian 103.3. Media support includes The Radio People, WMOX, WTOK, The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations, The Eagle. Other support includes the City Meridian, Lauderdale County, East Mississippi and West Alabama and the communities therein.

Please check the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Facebook page for more details or call 601/880-1089

 

 

GRAMMY MUSEUM® MISSISSIPPI

 Mac McAnally, The Williams Brothers, Sonny Landreth, And Muddy Magnolias To Perform March 5 at Bologna Performing Arts Center

CLEVELAND, MISS. (FEB. 27, 2016)  – Following the opening of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi on Saturday, March 5, a benefit concert will be held that evening at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center, headlined by eight-time CMA Musician of the Year recipient Mac McAnally and multiple GRAMMY® Award nominees The Williams Brothers. Also set to perform are Mississippi-born slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and friends, and rising female soul rock duo Muddy Magnolias. Titled “Back Where I Come From,” the concert will explore these artists’ Mississippi ties through a special evening of music and conversation.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to pay respect to the people who have brought us so much enjoyment through their music than to have them perform during this exciting weekend,” said Lucy Janoush, President of the Cleveland Music Foundation. “There will also be special guests in attendance who will be recognized for their lasting contributions to the music we all love.”

“As native Mississippians, we are truly honored to be a part of this grand opening,” said The Williams Brothers’ Doug Williams. “The heritage of gospel music has very deep roots here in Mississippi and many gospel greats came from this state. We would like to personally thank the GRAMMY Museum for recognizing the rich musical heritage of this state, and for opening only the second museum of this nature here on these grounds.

Doug Williams’ brother Melvin added, “There are artists that put a stamp on my heart and soul so deep ‘til this day, it still remains relevant after all these years, especially ones with Mississippi roots like Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, and my dad, Leon “Pop” Williams, and the legendary Jackson Southernaires. Me being a country boy born and raised in Mississippi singing gospel music from the cottons fields to being recognized as part of such an historic event as the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening is priceless. I feel like Mississippi has been honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Williams Brothers are part of the presenters.”

“Back Where I Come From” will take place on March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State University, 1003 West Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Miss.  Tickets range in price from $50-$100 and can be purchased by the general public beginning Wednesday, March 2, by calling Bologna Performing Arts Center at 662-846-4626. For a full schedule of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi grand opening events, visit www.grammymuseumms.org.

Malcolm White, Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, said,

“The artists who will perform and be recognized represent the very best of Mississippi, our story and the goodness of our diverse and curious history. Mississippi’s rightful real estate in the American musical landscape is firmly anchored in gospel and country as well blues, rock, jazz and pop music. Every night is Mississippi Night in the wide, wide world of American Music.”

Mac McAnnally –

Chart-topping recording artist, accomplished producer, hit songwriter and studio owner Mac McAnally marked another note in history with a record-breaking eight consecutive wins as the Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year in 2015.  McAnally was first honored with the Musician of the Year award in 2008, and has won every year since.  Beyond being one of the most respected guitar players and vocalists in Nashville, he has also been nominated for a CMA Award as an artist.

A.K.A. Nobody is McAnally’s latest solo album, sung, performed and produced by the much beloved session ace.  All but one of its songs were written by McAnally, either on his own or with illustrious co-writers including Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, Sonny Landreth, Chris Stapleton, Al Anderson, and others.  Working with an all-star assembly of friends and studio colleagues, McAnally achieves a rare blend of deep soul and polished technique on each track.  The ironic tile notwithstanding, the music of A.K.A. Nobody speaks to everybody.

McAnally’s depth and breadth as an artist are no secret with the recording community.  McAnally grew up in Belmont, Mississippi and was raised on church choirs and formal lessons, playing pro gigs at 13, tutored on the mysteries of session excellence at the historic Muscle Shoals Studios and relocated to Nashville, he was an essential ingredient on studio dates with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis, George Jones, Billy Joel and many other headliners.  And with a track record that includes writing No. 1 hits on his own for Kenny Chesney (“Down the Road”) and Alabama (“Old Flame”) as well as penning chart-toppers for Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”) and Shenandoah (“Two Dozen Roses”), it’s no wonder that he has been voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Sonny Landreth –

Born in Canton, Mississippi, Sonny grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. The melding of those two places gave him the name “King of Slydeco” from his inimitable slide guitar technique together with southwest Louisiana influences of zydeco. He has enjoyed a prolific career for decades as a solo artist, celebrated sideman and session player. Over the years he performed and recorded with artists that include British blues innovator John Mayall and toured as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s band as well.

Landreth’s latest album Bound by the Blues was released in 2015. Vintage Guitar magazine said, “Landreth is arguably the finest living slide-guitar player on the planet.” The instrumental “Firebird Blues” from that album was created for his hero and fellow guitar ace Johnny Winter, who also grew up in Mississippi.

As Landreth said, “It’s always been about getting out on the road and playing these songs anyway. For me, it’s a continuum of that, with the songwriting process, going in to record and taking that out on the road. That’s still a familiar format for me, although a lot of the other moving parts have changed. As long as it’s soulful and I can get the message out there, I’m in.”

Muddy Magnolias –

the soulful duo of Kallie North and Jessy Wilson, are fresh on the music scene after meeting in Nashville just three years ago. Within six months of individually landing in Music City, North and Wilson met, became songwriting partners and bandmates. Before releasing a single, Muddy Magnolias had earned rave reviews from national press.  Rolling Stone praised, “a sound that melds city grit and Delta dirt, exploding onstage not like two lead singers but more like parts of the same whole…performed as if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards inhabited the Indigo Girls.”  They also landed a coveted spot in Elle magazine’s 2015 Women in Music issue. Now, with new music produced by Butch Walker (Weezer, Pink, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy) the pair are poised for their real breakthrough.

About GRAMMY Museum Mississippi

Built and operated by the Cleveland Music Foundation —

a non-profit organization developed in 2011 — the 28,000-square-foot GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be housed near the campus of Delta State University, home of the Delta Music Institute’s Entertainment Industry Studies program, which features the most unique audio recording facilities in the South. Similar to its sister Museum — the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE — GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music, and the cultural context from which it emerges, while casting a focused spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. The Museum will feature a dynamic combination of public events, educational programming, engaging multimedia presentations, and interactive permanent and traveling exhibits, including a Mississippi-centric display that will introduce visitors to the impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on the traditional and modern music landscape. The Mississippi Museum’s debut special exhibit will be Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! Curated by the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE and Fab Four Exhibits, Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! provides fresh new insight into how and why The Beatles impacted America in the 1960s — and beyond.

For more information on about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, visit www.grammymuseumms.org. For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi

Christmas on the Coast: Unique Holiday Traditions

Around the U.S. and even in Northern Mississippi,

folks are busy raking piles of autumn leaves of red and gold, harvesting fresh veggies for the winter coming soon, and getting their coats ready as the temperatures begin to get cooler each day. But not on the MS Gulf Coast! It’s an area of the country where it rarely gets cold enough this time of year to move things indoors. That’s great at Christmas-time, when the celebrations often stay outdoors, and where folks in that area love to be on the water. Living a life on the sea and according to the rhythms of the waves has been their way for many generations, after all. And that is one thing that’s especially unique about Christmas on the Coast. Life revolves around the sea and all of its bounty every day, and this includes the holidays.

Susan Dufek Gates, a native of the Coast, says that her family usually spends the summer and fall season catching fresh fish and seafood to prepare for the big family-get-together at Christmas. Then they all gather and have fried oysters, fried shrimp, and crab cakes for their holiday meal. She adds, “We just celebrate the holidays the way we grew up with them. Having seafood at Christmas is really an honoring and a celebration of our surroundings, granted by God, and living next to the water that provides our meals.”

“Food, family, and God”

are the way we Southerners live our lives, and Jesus is always the reason for the season. Quite a few Coastal families have started the tradition of baking birthday cakes for Jesus at Christmas. They gather with their loved ones around the Christmas tree and sing “Happy Birthday” before opening presents.

Most family gatherings revolve around food–

it’s the way people socialize and connect with one another, and everybody likes good food- no matter which state or country you are located. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is no different. “Come Christmastime, everyone makes their favorite dish or pasty, like pusharatas or lady fingers. Most of these recipes have been handed down from one generation to the next,” sometimes adding their own special secret ingredient…a dash of this and a little of that, and wah-la! That’s what Cynthia Baker Powell, who comes from a long line of seafaring folks on the Coast, tells us. She adds, “Of course, everyone thinks their version of the recipe is the best!” (FYI: Pusharatas are a traditional pastry from Croatia, from which many Slavonian families descend on the Coast. For those unaware, pusharatas are a type of deep-fried nugget that is filled with yummy things like chopped lemons, dates, oranges & spices such as cinnamon, and usually a splash (or two)of whiskey…. Learn more about how to make pusharatas here: http://www.southernfoodways.org/film/biloxi-croatian-pusharatas/)

The Coast would not be the Coast without boats…or a Boat Parade on the Water!

Just about all of the bigger coastal cities have their own boat parade, often accompanied by fireworks, face painting, vintage car shows, lots of food, downtown shopping events, and Santa (of course!). Many a generation ago somebody decided, “Hey, let’s decorate our boats for Christmas!” Moss Point, MS is the most famous for their boat parade, dubbed Christmas on the River. They even have costumed boaters throwing goodies and candies out to the kids. Everyone joins in the fun, watching the glittering lights cruise past on the harbor and taking in the sights of the festive decorations. Biloxi, Ocean Springs, and Gulfport follow suit, as does Bay St. Louis and Pascagoula.

If you want to kick up your season just a notch,

in the famous words of Louisiana’s native son Emeril Lagasse, then you might take a stroll through Lowe’s or Home Depot to pick up some alligator-shaped lights for Christmas. A few Coastal folks have been known to spice up their holiday season by hanging these beauties up around the house. You haven’t lived until you’ve sung Christmas Carols surrounded by the glow of Cajun gators beaming all around you. And more than a few tables can be found serving a hot plate of Alligator Meatballs or Gator-on-a-Stick!

Down Louisiana way, they are known for their tradition of “Bonfires on the Levee.”

Forget the simple flashing lights from a bulb on a string; the Cajuns prefer to light the way for Pere Noel (A.K.A. Santa Claus) by using 30-foot-high flaming bonfires! Can you say, “Gone pecan?”  Families gather and build the bonfires, often accompanied by music, a visit from Pere Noel, lots of food, and fireworks. Everyone has a grand evening on the eve before Christmas, and the tradition continues the following year.

  • “You’re never too young to learn the tradition of making lady fingers at Christmas.” (Pictured is Jason Powell)- Photo courtesy of Cynthia Baker Powell

The holiday season is a time of gathering together with loved ones.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, we hope you celebrate them surrounded by friends and family in the warm glow of love and many blessings. If you come to visit us here on the MS Coast, we’ll set an extra place for you at the table and warmly welcome you to our holiday gathering before we head out the door to the boat parade or the Bonfire on the Levee…but only after we’ve eaten a handful of grandma’s famous pusharatas and fresh seafood! Merry Christmas, y’all!

By: Kristina Mullenix

 

Columbus, Mississippi – Home of Tennessee

The 14th Annual Tennessee Williams Tribute & Tour of Victorian Homes

will take place from September 6-13, 2015 and pays tribute to one of the most important playwrights in American history, Tennessee Williams who was born in Columbus. Many of the struggles in Williams’ own life show are portrayed in A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie.  He was awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955, both of which were successful as films.

This annual event celebrates the life and work of Mr. Williams. During the festival week, attendees will enjoy special performances, educational presentations, and a 5k race.

 

COOL PLACES TO STAY IN COLUMBUS:

 

LOCAL RESTAURANT FAVORITES:

 

THINGS TO DO:

VISIT COLUMBUS

Corinth: Mississippi’s Gateway City

 

“Corinth holds a place in history, but history is only half our story.”

Located in the northeast corner of  the state, Corinth is often referred to as Mississippi’s Gateway City. Southern Roots caught up with Christy Burns, Executive Director with Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, to find out more about the other half of the story.

“Although our town is rich in Civil War history, we have so much more to offer our visitors,” said Christy. “Our Downtown is an attraction in itself.  We are blessed with many locally owned restaurants and boutique shops that can make any visit worth the time.”

For those with only a few hours to spare, Christy suggests stopping off at the Civil War Interpretive Center.

“The center is a 10 million dollar facility that takes you through how the railroad crossing in Corinth played such a pivotal role in the battle,” she said. “It also talks about the Contraband Camp where freed slaves came to learn skills to equip them to be successful in their new found freedom.”

Plan your few hours in Corinth around lunchtime because dining at any one local spot is a must to enjoy Corinth’s rich culinary offerings.

An overnight trip can start off the the Civil War Interpretive Center, Christy explained. “I would then suggest the Crossroads Museum that is located downtown along with a stroll through our Art Gallery.”

Another “must see” for the entire family is Borroums in Downtown Corinth, the oldest drug store in the state. Borroums is the stop for everything from a slugburger , to cornbread salad or just a milkshake. Former CSA army surgeon A.J. Borroum founded the drugstore in 1865.  It also houses Native American artifact, Civil War relics, and an authentic, working soda fountain.  This business has been owned and operated by the Borroum family since its founding. Another longtime family business is Biggers Hardware, which opened 1918. Its ownership is in the fourth generation of the Biggers family.

If you decide to stay over on a Thursday, Pickin’ on the Square begins at six that night. “People bring lawn chairs or sit on the courthouse steps to listen to local musicians playing bluegrass music.”

The entire year in Corinth is filled with festivals with summer kicking off with the Slugburger Festival. Then, the Alcorn County Fair runs from Tuesday through Saturday every September.

“Hog Wild is a BBQ cooking contest and festival combined into the first weekend of October,” said Christy. “ Changing things up to make our festivals more of a regional pull is what we are trying to do.”

And Corinth has accomplished that with the Slugburger Festival adding the MLE sanctioned Slugburger Eating Contest, which happens the weekend after the MLE Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.

“We get national coverage when they talk about the MLE eaters coming to have a slugburger.”

New art exhibits are on display monthly at the Corinth Artist Guild Gallery.  Every year, the Corinth Symphony Orchestra performs five concerts.  The Crossroads Arena hosts a variety of entertainment events and big-name entertainers.  Art exhibits and educational programs are held at the Corinth Library. The Crossroad Museum, through permanent and traveling exhibits, tells the story of Corinth’s past.  The Corinth Theatre-Arts season offers a variety of productions and readings.

Corinthians never meet a stranger, so when you visit Corinth, you may arrive a visitor, said Christy, but you leave a friend.

For more information, go to our website or download our free app, “Visit Corinth” from your smartphone app store.

 

  • Photo Courtesy of Visit Corinth

CORINTH FACTOID:

Ninety years ago (July, 1924) the palatial, multi-purpose Coliseum Theater celebrated its opening in downtown Corinth. The Coliseum has been and remains today the most monumental theatre space in Corinth, Mississippi and the surrounding area. Built in 1924 by self-styled architect, Benjamin Franklin Liddon, the Coliseum has long been integral to the cultural development of Northeast Mississippi as well as being architecturally significant in its city and state: in the City, as a major congregation space and physical reminder of the richness of the City and County’s past; and in the state, as a breed of shelters for culture built in a day when concern for quality was manifested in people’s reverence of the arts. In its life the Coliseum has served a variety of purposes.

VISIT CORINTH:

Corinth Theatre

Crossroads Arena

Corinth Green Market

Magnolia Car Club

 

 

Yazoo City – Gateway to the Delta

When entering Yazoo City, the Gateway to the Delta,

you feel the Delta Blues slowly start seeping into your soul. It’s a different world, quiet, rural, and yet so vast, the land spreading into field after field of rich farmland.  If you listen, you can hear the Yazoo River as it veers toward the Mighty Mississippi.

Yazoo City began in 1825 as a one-square-mile of land

granted to Choctaw Chief Greenwood LeFlore, who considered the piece of property to be the only location on the Coldwater-Tallahatchie-Yazoo River system perfect for the steamboat shipping of king cotton from Delta fields. LeFlore bought the land with this thought in mind and plans to later sell it for a good profit, which he did in 1828.

The planning of a great port city began.

However, at this time the name of the town was Manchester, not Yazoo City. By 1840 the port town had over 1,000 white and black residents. Every year, 25,000 bales of cotton were shipped from the Manchester docks down the Yazoo River. The River had proven itself to be the lifeblood of the community and in 1841 citizens of Manchester voted to change the town name to Yazoo City.

Yazoo City, being a major port town,

during the Civil War it came under the control of the Union fleet and was occupied and plundered six times, the last being the most destructive. The courthouse was burned along with other buildings.

However, the major burning of Yazoo City happened May 25, 1904

when a little boy was playing with matches and accidentally set fire to his home.  The winds that day carried the brutal flames that completely destroyed downtown businesses and 100 homes.

Again in ruins, Yazoo City residents would not be dismayed or disgruntled. They united and rebuilt their town. Many buildings on Main Street are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Yazoo City has been home to some pretty famous individuals, such as Comedian Jerry Clower, author William Morris and Governor Haley Barbour. In 2014, Yazoo County, Mississippi received a Delta’s Best Tourism award from the Mississippi Delta Strategic Compact. Plus,for three consecutive years–2012,2013,2014–Mississippi Tourism Association named it CVB of the Year.

Everyone visiting Yazoo City will want to park their car and stroll

down both sides of Main Street to admire the beautifully painted pastel buildings and browse the shops and surrounding neighborhood where historical homes, including a few antebellum homes that survived both fires, welcome you to the neighborhood.

Don’t miss dining at one of the local  favorites,

like Stubs Restaurant, Tom’s on Main, P-Reaux Cajun Mud Bugs and Shrimp, Clancy’s, Ubon’s and more. In fact, why not just stay overnight and discover some Yazoo City’s attractions.

Here are a few:

  • The Sam Olden Yazoo Historical Society Museum located inside the Triangle Cultural Center, 332 North Main Street. Exhibits include the Civil War era, the fire of 1904, World War I, Main Street School, now the Triangle Cultural Center, the 1927 flood, political history, the daily lives of Yazoo’s early citizens and the contributions of Yazoo County’s famous sons and daughters. The Sam Olden Historical Museum is open weekdays, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and at other times by appointment and admission is free.
  • The Oakes African-American Cultural Center, 312 South Monroe Street. For almost 124 years, the Oakes House was home to the Oakes family and is now the Oakes African-American Cultural Center, which highlights the contributions of Yazoo County’s African-American citizens, from artists and craftsmen to musicians, educators and statesmen. The Cultural center is open weekdays, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon and 1:00p.m.-3:00p.m. and on weekends by appointment. Admission is FREE.

Also, plan your trips around these special Yazoo City events:

Jerry Clower Festival – 1st Saturday in May
Held annually on the first Saturday in May on Main Street in Yazoo City, this event offers something for all ages, including arts and crafts, clowns, children’s games and rides, food and lots more. Stages offer diverse entertainment of local, regional and national musical acts, drama, magic and dance.  For information call Brenda or Colon at 662-746-7676.Gospel Explosion – May
Held annually on a Sunday in May, this event features live regional, local and national gospel entertainment at the New Zion Multi-Purpose Center in Yazoo City. For more information, call 662.571-2269.Bentonia Blues Festival – 3rd Saturday in June
Held annually on the 3rd Saturday in June, this festival celebrates the unique and haunting Bentonia style of country blues, which originated in Bentonia, Mississippi.  Hear from various blues artists including Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, creator of the Bentonia Blues Festival in 1972 and the last artist known to perform the Bentonia blues.  For information visit Bentonia Blues Festival on Facebook or call Jimmy “Duck” Holmes at 662-528-1900.Fire & Feast MBN Sanctioned BBQ Competition  – First Weekend after Labor Day (September)
Held annually in September on the 1st Friday and Saturday after Labor Day, this event features three barbecue competitions and over $20,000 in cash prizes. Presented by the Yazoo County CVB and the Yazoo County Fair Association, this event takes place at the Yazoo County Fairgrounds in Yazoo City.  For more information visit the official Fire & Feast website at www.fireandfeast.org.Antique Days – October
Event held at the Triangle Cultural Center on Main Street in Yazoo City. Features live entertainment, arts & crafts, activities for children, a kibbee cook-off, antique engine demonstrations, cane syrup cooking and much more. www.antiquedays.comYazoo County Fair – October
Known as the second oldest county fair in the state, this event offers amusement rides, exhibits of local canning, arts and crafts exhibits, talent stage, youth exhibits and more.  One gate fee includes all rides.  Free parking.  Visit the Yazoo County Fair on Facebook for dates.Holiday Open House – November
Yazoo merchants open their doors for a preview of their holiday offerings.  Held annually in November. Contact the Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce for more information.Veterans Day Parade – November
The Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce salutes, honors and thanks local veterans for their service to the country with a parade through the downtown district of Yazoo City.Yazoo City Christmas Parade – December
Floats, bands and other entries liven the streets of Yazoo City in a celebration of the winter holidays.   Held annually on the first Tuesday in December.

Discover Yazoo County, Mississippi.  “Colorful. Authentic. Unique. Just like you.” 

The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest – Building Community and Economic Development

To learn about the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest, you must first learn about The Montgomery Institute (TMI).

With a mission to “upbuild the people and places of the East Mississippi and West Alabama region guided by the leadership legacy of G. V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery” TMI undertakes initiatives in leadership development, rural place building, educational enhancement, workforce development, research and information dissemination, regional cooperation, and innovation. Working with partners to engage citizens, identify place building champions, and create regional networks of place builders, TMI seeks out resources and opportunities for innovation that will help partners do better, for the benefit of the people and places in West Alabama and East Mississippi.  Twice, in 2003 and 2010, the 13-state Southern Growth Policies Board presented TMI its “Innovator Award” in recognition of its innovative approaches to region and place building. The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest was born out of one of these initiatives, namely the West Alabama East Mississippi (WAEM) Mayors Network.  http://tmi.ms/

The seed of the Fest was planted during a WAEM luncheon facilitated by TMI.

The inaugural 2013 Hwy Songwriters Fest began as two “Musical Appetizers,” one in Demopolis, Alabama on July 6 and one in Meridian, Mississippi on September 17. The Demopolis event hosted 19 songwriters from Alabama and Mississippi in three rounds on the Demopolis courthouse lawn. The Meridian event hosted 13 songwriters in Dumont Plaza in downtown Meridian. All but one were from outside Lauderdale County. From the first fest in 2013, the goals and outcomes were to expand the songwriter’s platform and territory, provide education in the songwriting craft for songwriters of all ages and levels of expertise, to build and support the creative economy in West Alabama and East Mississippi, and to ignite the public’s understanding and appreciation for songwriters and their craft. Songwriter rounds in Mississippi/Alabama venues, the Grand Finale, the professional songwriting workshop and songwriting in the schools accomplished these goals. In fact, several Mississippi songwriters were invited to perform in other Alabama venues and Alabama artists were invited to play in Mississippi venues.

With the 2014 Fest, the committee moved into the expansion and progression phase, adding the educational component with songwriters going into Poplar Springs School and Northeast Elementary School in Meridian to work the students on the craft of songwriting and writing their own song. The activities helped students improve reading, writing, comprehension and critical thinking skills. Also offered was a two-hour songwriting workshop at Rhythm & Brews, Downtown Meridian on October 25 from 2 – 4 p.m. Facilitated by Marty Gamblin, Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center and the world-renown Ralph Murphy, Vice President of ASCAP and author of Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting. James Walton “Walt” Aldridge, Jr., an American musician, singer, songwriter, engineer and record producer, also helped facilitate the workshop. He has written dozens of hit country songs including the Number One hits “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” by Ronnie Milsap (1981), “Holding Her and Loving You” by Earl Thomas Conley (1982), “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” by Travis Tritt (2000), and “I Loved Her First” (2006) – recorded by Heartland. He is listed as a “Music Achiever” by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which is a precursor to future induction, and has been awarded a star on their Walk of Fame. Also involved in the workshop was Bob Regan, a Grammy and Dove Award nominated songwriter based in Nashville Tennessee, participated in the workshop round with Ralph and Walt.  Bob has had over 200 songs recorded by such contemporary artists as Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Jake Owen and Rodney Atkins as well as legendary artists ranging from Don Williams to Hank Williams Jr. to Andy Williams, from Kenny Rogers to cowboy legend Roy Rogers. In 2009, Bob’s song “Dig Two Graves”, by Randy Travis, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Song. 2, 3, 4. This extensive workshop covered how to write songs and the business of songwriting.

The 2014 fest rounds began in Demopolis on the courthouse lawn.

In Meridian, three venues, Faces Lounge, The Brickhaus Bar & Grill and Weidmann’s Restaurant became the stages for the 19 songwriters Friday and Saturday night. The 2014 Hwy Fest Meridian rounds included Dexter Allen toured with Bobby Rush for 3 years as lead guitarist, was inducted into the Mississippi Artist Roster and devotes time conducting Blues in School workshops sponsored by The Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in area schools throughout Mississippi. Cary Hudson made Gibson guitar’s “Top 10 Alt Country Guitarists” list in 2008. Steve Deaton recorded and performed with Buffalo Nickel and has shared the stage with the likes of Wilco, Maroon 5, Junior Brown, and Leon Russell. Scott Albert Johnson, accompanied by Chalmers Davis, was one of the “Hot 100” Harmonica Players worldwide by The Harmonica Company (U.K.); He also received a 2013-2014 Performing Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Bob Ray, an award winning singer-songwriter from the hills of north Mississippi, has twice been named a Kerrville Folk Festival – New Folk Songwriting Finalist. He has been a finalist in both the Ozark Folk Festival Songwriters Festival and the Gum Tree Song Festival. Christina Christian, an indie/country artist and songwriter from Foley, Ala., picked up the guitar at 12 years old, and began writing her own music at 16. Taylor Craven began writing songs as a hobby and soon was performing in songwriting festivals across the south, including the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival and winning contests, including recently both a 3rd place and honorable mention award in American Songwriters Magazine. He was selected to play in the first ever Gulf Coast Songwriters Shootout in 2014. He’s a 2014 top ten contestant in the Texas Troubadour Songwriter Classic, judged and selected by Ray Wylie Hubbard. Taylor is also a co-founder and current member of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Songwriters Festival, which was established in 2010. Sydney Beaumont began writing and producing her own music early in 2009 and formed Sydney Beaumont Band as a vehicle to showcase songs and also with goal to license and sell music. Sydney performed for Nashville “Play for Publishers” workshop and with other writers at Richards Café and also performed at the famous Bluebird Café. Alphonso Sanders is the Chair of Fine Arts and Director of the BB King Recording Studio at Mississippi Valley State University.  He has performed with such artist as Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, Mulgrew Miller, Rhonda Richmond, Cassandra Wilson, Paula West, Debra Brown, Bobby Rush, David Lee Durham, The Four Tops, and David “Honey Boy” Edwards among others. He is recipient of the 2010 MAC Folk Arts Fellowship; the 2011 Mississippi Humanities Award and is published in Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine 2011 (UK); the book “Musicians Up and the Delta”; and “Down in the Woods” a documentary of the legendary bluesman Willie King.  He is also an award winner in the 2009 and 2010 International Blues Challenge and was selected by the Delta Blues Society as the 2013 Blues Musician of the Year. These are the caliber of songwriters you discover at the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest!

The 2015 Fest, after careful evaluation of the past two years changed its date to coincide with the Demopolis venue,

which connects to its annual Freedom on the River July 4th weekend. However, before the rounds began, on June 22, songwriters worked students at The Meridian Freedom Project in Meridian. In October, they will conduct songwriting workshops with the 4th and 5th grades in October 2015 at Poplar Springs School.

The Mississippi rounds began with a new round at Hal & Mal’s (see round list below) in Jackson on Wednesday July 8 and in Newton on July 11 (see round list below. The night of July 16 local songwriter rounds were held at News and Squealers Restaurants (see round list below) in North Meridian. On July 17, rounds with Mississippi/Alabama songwriters from outside of Lauderdale County returned to Weidmann’s and Brickhaus Bar and Grill (see round list below).

Saturday, July 18, the songwriting workshop facilitated by Alphonso Sanders and Marty Gamblin was at Meridian’s historic Soule Steam Feed Works Museum.  Open Mic started at 5:00 p.m. and welcomed all ages, all levels and all genres to stage.  Alphonso backed up every songwriter with either Sax, trumpet, flute or harmonica. The Grand Finale of professional songwriters started at 7:30 and included Scott Albert John and Tony Sant’Angelo, Ron Etheridge, Thomas Jackson, K. D. Brosia and Alphonso Sanders. The caliber of the 2015 songwriters remained as high as the 2014 Songwriters with some of the same songwriters returning this year.  All rounds will bring more business into popular community venues. The Grand Finale location in Meridian showcased the beautiful historic buildings of Soule and most songwriters plan to return for the Soule Steamfest in November.

The Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest gathered communities, cultures, social groups and all ages together in one setting where music spoke a universal language and stories touched the deepest place within us all. The Fest was made possible through the generous contributions of these sponsors and grantees:

The Mississippi Arts Commission

Visit Meridian

The Mississippi Writers Guild

The Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center

Mitchell Distributing

Meridian Main Street

MEDIA SPONSORS:

WTOK TV, The CW, My-TOK2, Bounce TV, Cozi TV

The Radio People, The Meridian Family of Stations, New South Radio, SuperTalk Mississippi, 106.9 the Eagle, WMOX 1010

The Meridian Star, Lamar Outdoor Advertising, Premier Outdoor Advertising

 

The 2015 Rounds

Demopolis, AL Courthouse lawn, July 3

Derek Norsworthy

Cristina Christian

Alan Hartzel

Britt Gully

Mel Knapp

Shawn Pfaffman

Melissa Joiner

Megan McMillan

Steve Wilkerson

July 8 Hal & Mal’s, Jackson, MS

David Vincent/Richelle Putnam

The Stonewalls

Zac Clarke

July 11  Newton, MS Church Street Market

Jacky Jack White

John Marshall/Terry Cherry

Chuck Luke

Local Songwriters – Meridian – July 16

SQUEALER’S

A’keela Hudnall

Earl Aycock, Jr.

Red Bird

Chad Fuller

NEWS RESTAURANT

Richelle Putnam

Terry Cherry

John Paul Dove

Josh Burton

July 17 Weidmann’s, Meridian, MS

Robert Daniels

Stephen Lee Veal

Bob Ray

Brickhaus, Meridian, MS

Sydney Beaumont

Michael Hughes

Taylor Craven

SATURDAY WORKSHOP – 2 – 4 p.m.

Soule Steamworks, Meridian, MS

Master of Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Saturday Ceremonies – MAEC Executive Marty Gamblin

Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest Workshop Facilitator – Dr. Alphonso Sanders, Chair of Fine Arts and Director of the BB King Recording Studio at Mississippi Valley State University.

Open Mic:

4:30 – 6:30 p.m. (All songwriter/musicians, all ages, all levels welcome  to participate. Sign-up, play two songs, sign-up and play again, if time permits!

SATURDAY NIGHT ROUND July 18

Soule Steamworks, Meridian, MS

Scott Albert Johnson

Thomas Jackson

Ron Etheredge

K. D. Brosia

GRAND FINALE

Alphonso Sanders

 

Life is Good in Linden, Alabama

 

City employee and Linden resident Bruce Ward loves to talk about his hometown.

“The traffic count is very large in Linden,” said Bruce. “People have to come here to take care of their tags.” One of the biggest draws to Linden is the local Papa’s Foods known for its meat department. “They actually still have groceries taken to your car. They’re very generous at Chilifest time to the community.”

Marengo County was established in 1818 and the “Town of Marengo” was surveyed close to the center of the county to serve as county seat. When lots became available in 1824, the early French immigrants named the town Hohenlinden for Napoleon’s victory in Bavaria in 1800. In time, the name shortened to Linden.

Located in West Central Alabama where U.S. Highway 43, and Alabama Highway 69 and 28 intersect, between Demopolis and Thomasville, Linden serves as the County seat for Marengo County and coordinates its events with its neighboring towns. A forty-year tradition has Marengo County residents and tourists going to Demopolis the first weekend in December for Christmas on the River and to Linden the next weekend for their famous Chilifest.

“Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson was one of the (2013) chili judges,” said Bruce. “We try to include Demopolis a lot.” (See Demopolis, AL feature here)

Chilifest includes a concert, vendors, a car show, Christmas parade of lights, a cornbread cook-off and the famous Chili cook-off. “It’s really neat to see what people come up with and create,” said Bruce. “The fireworks are wonderful.” Chilifest welcomes many tourists each year. “In the 2010, Southern Living and Alabama Living listed us as a top-ten event,” said Bruce. 380272_10151291654237074_503560682_n

Linden is much like any small town community.

“We have two schools, one private and one public,” said Bruce. “Football is big for both.  The private school last year won the state championship (2013).  That was a big deal.  Baseball is a big deal.  All sports are big, but especially football and baseball.”

In Scott Park where the ballgames are played, people can picnic in the pavilions while watching their children on the playground.

Just outside of Linden, fishing and hunting are popular outdoor activities.  Marengo Lake is 5 miles south of Linden, explained Bruce. A lot of people go camping at Miller’s Ferry.

11467_10151694233667074_1847339835_nThe Summer Carnival and art walk often happen at the same time.  “The art Walk has been successful,” said Bruce. “It’s really neat to see what people have done.”  Linden has a pretty big artist community, but Bruce said it’s unfortunately not utilized like it should be as far as music goes. “Most special music events are usually in the churches.” The Art Walk brings people into Linden because the artwork comes from around the county. “The Art Walk has really helped people see what’s in Linden,” said Bruce.

The Linden Nutrition Center offers seniors a place to eat while they mingle and converse. Various meetings are also held at the center. Linden residents attend the theatre in Demopolis, which Bruce advertises on the Linden Facebook page.

“We have a very informational channel that started out as a Linden informational channel. It’s on our cable here in town,” said Bruce.  “We worked with the Demopolis Chamber to get the information channel up there and I renamed it the Area Informational Channel.” Bruce updates this information at least every other week depending on how much information he receives. Bruce also works with Thomaston located about 11 miles east of Linden to help advertise Thomaston’s annual events on the Linden Facebook page, which has really grown.

The history of Linden remains strong in many of its structures. “The historic courthouse is still standing and the old hospital, but neither are very well taken care of,” said Bruce.  “The old hospital near the courthouse is for sale.” 552603_10151011837842074_2061888822_n

It is said that in the early 1800s when court was in session at the first two-story log courthouse, the town became so rowdy that it earned the unofficial name of Screamersville.

“Something that a lot of people don’t know is that we have Rube Burrow,” said Bruce.

“In the 1890s there was a gunfight between him and Sheriff Dixie Carter.”

The story began in Lamar County, Alabama on December 11, 1854, when Reuben Houston Burrow was born. After struggling and failing as a farmer in Texas, Burrow grew to be one of the most hunted outlaws since Jesse James. Burrow and his gang robbed express trains in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, the Indian Territory and Texas from 1886 to 1890. Lawmen and even the Pinkerton National Detective Agency pursued Burrow and his gang throughout the South. Sheriff Jeff “Dixie” Carter, with the help of a few Marengo County Residents, caught Burrow on Dec 7, 1890 at George Ford’s cabin in the Myrtlewood Community, Marengo County, Alabama. Carter carried Burrow to the jail in Linden. The next morning when Burrow said he was hungry, a not-so-smart jailer handed Burrow his bag which contained a gun. Burrow escaped jail and went in search of Sheriff Carter, who had taken Burrow’s money.  He waited for Carter outside of the general store. When Carter came out, they exchanged gunfire. Though Carter was wounded, he shot and killed Rube Burrow in the streets of Linden, Alabama.

Today, Linden is a quiet, quaint town of sidewalks where family afternoon strolls are safe and fun.

The town’s motto, Life is good in Linden, rings true to its community and to all who visit.

A few local favorites:

Papa’s Foods -The local small town grocery store that has been around forever, and even still has bag boys.

Charley Burl’s – Coffee, gifts, flowers, and goodies! It’s a place that just makes you feel happy, and makes the rest of your day a little brighter.

The mission of Linden is to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Marengo County, Alabama. The community strongly supports existing business and industry, as well as the development of new business and industry, while maintaining the integrity of our community and preserving our historical resources.