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Southern Events2016-10-17T17:30:55+00:00

Elvis Week 2017: Memphis Sites That Honor ‘The King’

Elvis Week, 2017, begins in Memphis, TN on Friday, August 11 and runs through the 19th. If you’re in or near Memphis there are a number of sites you’ll want to visit in order to learn more about the King of Rock-n-Roll.

Fans of “The King” have no shortage of places they can visit to learn more about him and to honor his legacy, including where he spent his down time and where he performed some of his most notable shows. There are also a number of fan-created museums that border on kitschy but are fun for the die-hard enthusiasts.

Elvis Presley Birth Home, Tupelo, Mississippi

elvis landmarks

Elvis Birthplace, Tupelo

Start your Elvis journey where it all began at the Elvis Presley Birthplace. Visit the small town to see the two-room house where he spent his early years before the family moved to Memphis. You’ll see the inside decorated in much of the same way it was back then, thanks in part to father Vernon’s restoration efforts. Also onsite is a museum and a humble church that once sat a few blocks away when the family lived here. Visiting during Tupelo Elvis Festival is a unique experience, as you’ll see tribute artists perform here.

For more Elvis landmarks in Tupelo, see this listing of attractions in Tupelo. You can also visit the King’s booth at Johnnie’s Drive-In and see where he bought his first guitar at Tupelo Hardware. 

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

elvis landmarks

Graceland, Memphis

Perhaps the most well-known place associated with Elvis, his home, which he called Graceland, has the most memorabilia and information on the late singer. The complex contains multiple buildings, each focusing on a different aspect of his life. Inside the home, you’ll see the unique decorations he was known for, especially in the appropriately named “Jungle Room.” The garage features recording information and outer buildings showcase his famous cars and airplanes. For an even bigger fan experience, visit during Elvis Week and come by for the Candlelight Vigil, where you can pay your respects.

For more on Elvis-related landmarks around Memphis, see this story on The Guardian, including Sun Studio, Lauderdale Courts, and the Peabody Hotel.

Circle G Ranch, Horn Lake, Mississippi

elvis landmarks

Circle G Ranch, Horn Lake

While not quite an attraction like the previously listed landmarks, this Memphis-area property was where Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their three-week honeymoon after getting married in 1967 in Las Vegas. Circle G Ranch, in suburban Horn Lake, boasts over 200 acres of property. Here, Elvis had the honeymoon cottage, pictured, along with stables and a lake and spent time with his closest family and friends. It’s currently under development to become a mixed-use facility for events but has not announced an opening date.

Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee

Sun Studios in Memphis.

Rock and roll was born here. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their first hits in this small studio near downtown Memphis. Located at 706 Union Avenue, tours are conducted daily from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. There’s even a free shuttle from Graceland.

Other Notable Elvis Landmarks

  • Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum– This fan-driven museum in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee has honored the memory of Presley for over 30 years. The museum features pieces from the musician’s collection like his cars, movie props, and personal items donated by his friends.
  • Graceland Too– While no longer open because of the death of the owner, fans should at least research the offbeat Elvis museum ran by a mega fan who covered his home from top to bottom in memorabilia. All of the items have since been sold to a collector. Read this stranger-than-fiction account on Buzzfeed.
  • Mini Graceland– Built by a man in Roanoke, Virginia, this scale model of Elvis’ home and birthplace has been a beloved roadside attraction since the 1980s. He has since passed away, but his family continues to restore the miniatures and perform upkeep.
Mentioned in this post

  1. Elvis Presley Birthplace
    Attraction in Tupelo Mississippi
  2. Graceland
    Attraction in Memphis Tennessee
  3. Horn Lake
    City in Mississippi
  4. Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
    Attraction in Caddo Parish Louisiana
  5. Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee
  6. Graceland Too
    Attraction in Marshall County Mississippi
August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Lifestyle, Southern Events|Tags: , , , , , |

Southern Music Festivals You Shouldn’t Miss In 2017

With so many music festivals to choose from around the South, the folks at Style Blueprint selected some of the best to help you decide which ones to attend. All of the following are held between late April to Labor Day, so embrace the heat! Do more than dream about summer; make some plans and enjoy it.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

April 28-30 and May 4-7, 2017 — New Orleans, LA

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrates the city of jazz, its cultural history and Cajun and Creole cuisine in a two-weekend-long parade of craft booths and concerts. Nowhere else but New Orleans can deliver a multi-stage music festival with crawfish boils, tribal basket weaving, woodworking and more. Even at the very first Jazz Fest, renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington both joined a parading brass band for an impromptu performance, exemplifying the vivacious energy of the festival that continues today. This year’s lineup includes Kings of Leon, Harry Connick Jr., Meghan Trainor, Lorde, Snoop Dogg and more. Check out the website for additional details and ticketing information

Beale Street Music Festival

May 5-7, 2017 — Memphis, TN

Beale Street in Memphis has long been known for its musical offerings, especially blues, but the Beale Street Music Festival turns up the volume just that much more. The festival, located in the Tom Lee Park along the riverfront, celebrates all that Memphis has to offer, including but not limited to great barbecue, musical entertainment and tons of amazing local art. There is always a stellar lineup at Beale Street Music Festival with acts crossing all genres, so check back with the website for the forthcoming lineup.

Shaky Knees Festival

May 12-14, 2017 — Atlanta, GA

If you have plans to be in or near Atlanta this summer and are craving some music festival fun, the food truck-fueled Shaky Knees Festival is the perfect event for you. Held in the beloved Centennial Olympic Park, the festival invites attendees to take in the music, pop in and out of photo booths and grab screen prints of favorite bands. Must-see acts include The XX, LCD Soundsystem and Phoenix. Purchase your tickets and find the complete lineup of artists here.

Hangout Music Festival

May 19-21, 2017 — Gulf Shores, AL

What more do you want at the beach than a few beers and some good tunes? Hangout Music Festival delivers with its major beach party vibe and consistently chart-topping lineups, which, this year, include the likes of Twenty One Pilots, Frank Ocean and Mumford and Sons. At no other festival can you see talent this good with your toes deep in the sand and the Gulf of Mexico as your backdrop, truly setting Hangout apart from the rest. Our wish list of acts to see is too long to count, but some favorites are The Head and the Heart, MGMT and Band of Horses. A general admission, all-weekend ticket is $289, and VIP packages are also available. View the entire lineup and purchase tickets here.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

June 8-11, 2017 — Manchester, TN

When the topic of Southern Music Festivals comes up, perhaps the first to come to mind is likely Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and with this year’s top-notch headliner U2 on the line-up, it’s positioned to be the most popular iteration yet! For the unfamiliar, Bonnaroo takes place for a few days each summer, turning the quiet town of Manchester, TN, into a bustling, groovy campground as concertgoers from all over the world show up for some serious musical entertainment. Bonnaroo gives a nod to its festival predecessors, most notably Woodstock, and features jam bands and folk rock aplenty. However, the selection is diverse and spans all genres, from pop to hip-hop to bluegrass. Attendees of the festival get to participate in the melting pot of creativity the festival has become and engage with music and visual arts of every sound and color. Other notable names on this year’s lineup include Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Weeknd. Click here to create a custom lineup, view your ticket options and see what’s new this year at this one-of-a-kind, you’ve-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it festival.

Sloss Music & Arts Festival

July 15-16, 2017 — Birmingham, AL

Sloss Music & Arts Festival, promoted by Jill Wheeler and her team, is preparing for its third year, and the lineup is nothing short of amazing. Held at one of Birmingham’s most unique historic sites, Sloss Furnaces, the music festival’s backdrop is the 20th-century ironmaking complex, which provides a funky, industrial setting for some seriously great talent, which, this year, includes Alabama Shakes, Widespread Panic, NEEDTOBREATHE and so many more! Concert-goers can find more than musical entertainment, though, including a beer garden, art for purchase by the American Poster Institute and even a hands-on iron pouring demonstration by the Sloss Metal Arts Program.

This post originally appeared in Style Blueprint.

It's an amazingly impressive lineup (again!) for this year's Beale Street Music Festival, celebrating its 40th year.

4 Southern Wine Festivals to Enjoy In Spring ’17

Southerners know great wine can be enjoyed year around, but warm spring weather somehow makes enjoying fine food and vino even better. Check out these four festivals held each spring in four unique southern locations.

Around the country, wine and food festivals attract those with discerning taste buds. Folks gather to sample and savor regional cuisine and national wines and spirits. As we plan our spring vacations, we can’t ignore the opportunity to pay a visit to one of these festivals. With options aplenty, we decided to narrow down our destinations to four Southern wine festivals coming up this spring. Of course, there will be more this summer and even more come fall. But for now, we direct our focus to 30A Wine Festival at Alys BeachAtlanta Food & Wine Festival, Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend and Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Each of these festivals spans multiple days during which you can fill up your schedule with tastings, pairings, dinners, educational opportunities and lots of wine drinking. We hope to wet your whistle with a quick overview of four festivals we are adding to our must-attend (and must-attend again) list.

30A Wine Festival at Alys Beach

When: March 9-12, 2017
Where: Alys Beach, Florida
Tickets: Weekend passes are $350; tickets to individual events are also available

Head to the breathtaking Alys Beach for this springtime wine festival. In its sixth year, this year’s festival takes place March 9-12. The weekend kicks off with a wine dinner at Caliza Restaurant featuring Aaron Pott of Pott Wines. The fun continues with Bourbon, Beer & Butts, which is an event not to miss. Distillers from across the country offer tastings of their bourbons as barbecue is served. On Saturday, learn a bit about specific vineyards during seminars before heading to the Grand Tasting, where you can try wines from more than 80 wineries as you enjoy captivating ocean views. Feel free to overindulge, but save a bit of energy for Sunday’s Rosé & Croquet. Guests don white attire for the brunch, booze and croquet event. The four-day festival benefits Children’s Volunteer Health Network.

Charleston Wine + Food Festival

When: March 1-5, 2017
Where: Charleston, South Carolina
Tickets: Tickets to individual events start at $40

Since the festival got its start in 2006, folks have been flocking to Charleston for a taste of the low country. This year’s opening night celebration takes place on Wednesday, March 1, with bites from more than 35 local chefs, a selection of wines and live music by JD McPherson. For the next four days, you can choose from a selection of culinary events that range from hands-on cooking classes to an oyster bar champagne brunch. With more than 25 events, the options are almost endless. Celebrate Charleston’s rich culinary culture during the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend

When: April 19-22, 2017
Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
Tickets: Ticket prices are not yet available. 

Since the founding of the weekend in 1989, the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival has been celebration of food and wine. Last year, the weekend saw the addition of The Grand Tasting Tent that was open on Friday and Saturday. Individual events for this year’s weekend have not yet been announced but you can expect dinners, pairings, tastings, demonstrations and so much more! The event will contribute to charitable organizations that benefit children and their families in the Charlotte community.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (Gannett)

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

When: June 1-4, 2017
Where: Atlanta, Georgia 
Tickets: Ticket prices are not yet available. 

Each year, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival has something different to offer. Whether you call yourself a foodie with a knack for wine knowledge or you simply enjoy the taste of something delicious, this event is for you. For four days, Atlanta is transformed to showcase cuisines of the South, and you are invited to expand your knowledge at one of the many learning experiences, taste your way through every tent and sip at pop-up vineyards in the city. Keep your ears open for details about this year’s festival. Till then, read Atlanta SB writer Melanie Preis’ experience when she attended last year here.

Cheers to a new year of travel and new adventures in food and wine!

This column originally appeared in Style Blueprint and was written by Alex Hendrickson.

Octoberfest in the South – 5 Festivals of Fun

There’s nothing like a good Octoberfest to get you in the fall mood and thanks to CJ Lotz over at Garden & Gun for showing where the fun can be found.

German-Americans make up the United States’ largest ethnic group, and you can find plenty of signs that German heritage thrives in the South (see: historic Texas architecture and most of the beer industry). Each autumn, Oktoberfest celebrates all things Deutschland with dancing, bratwurst, and plenty of beer. Here are five of fall’s top places in the South to lift a stein and say “Prost!”

Courtesy Nashville Oktoberfest

Fredericksburg, Texas 
September 30–October 2

The majority of German Southerners can be found in the Lone Star State, and they know how to throw one Texas-sized party. Just an hour and a half west of Austin, stop in for steins of local beer (try the Franconia Oktoberfest or a classic Shiner Bock) as well as two-dozen imports straight from the motherland. Bonus: Fredericksburg is just 15 minutes away from Waylon Jennings’ heralded town, Luckenbach, where you can boot-scoot the evening away at a classic dance hall.

Courtesy Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg

Helen, Georgia
Daily through October 30

Tiny Helen (population: 510) swells by the thousands come fall. All the exposed timber buildings and cobblestone sidewalks make it look like a tiny Bavarian Alpine village dropped out of the sky and landed in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, the town’s annual Oktoberfest celebration with daily musical performances and dances makes an easy weekend trip for those in need of a little polka party.

Photographs by Whitney Ott

Tulsa, Oklahoma
October 2023

The Linde Oktoberfest along the Arkansas River has a major claim to fame: The 1981 festival introduced the “Chicken Dance” to Americans. Keep the quirk factor going strong—cheer on the Dachshund Dash where wiener dogs in hot dog bun costumes zig-zag across a field. Or, focus on the real prize: authentic bratwurst and sausages (from a fifth-generation Austrian sausage maker) crowned in kraut, plus more than 300 taps of Bavarian brews.

Courtesy Shane Bevel / Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa

Nashville, Tennessee
October 79

Last year, more than 140,000 people descended on Music City’s historic Germantown neighborhood to devour 8,000 pounds of potato salad, tens of thousands of bratwursts, and 700 kegs of beer, according to Nashville Oktoberfest’s record-keeping. And by its tally, only one pair of lederhosen was lost in the madness of the largest fall festival in the South. With this year’s attempt at the “World’s Longest Beer Slide,” revelers might just break some new records.

Courtesy Nashville Oktoberfest

New Orleans, Louisiana
October 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22

In the eighteenth century, so many Germans settled along the Mississippi River above New Orleans that the area became known as the “German Coast.” Traces of that legacy are felt today at the Crescent City’s Deutsches Haus, which hosts traditional dancing in its beer garden and serves authentic schnitzel, sauerkraut, and of course, plenty of brews. It’s all done in the spirit of good cheer, or as the Germans say, “Gemütlichkeit.”

October 3rd, 2016|Categories: Southern Events|Tags: , , , , , |

Franklin, TN Host World’s Largest Seersucker Party

Several years ago I lived in Franklin, TN, and met many wonderful people, one of whom was author Robert Hicks. In addition to our love for writing, we both have a taste for seersucker. Adding another credit to his resume, Robert and friends are hosting the world’s largest seersucker party this coming weekend in one of the south’s most quaint towns. Thanks to Anna McCollum at Garden & Gun for this wonderful article.

What happens when you give Southerners a good excuse to drink bourbon and sport their finest seersucker? At last year’s Seriously Seersucker—a Franklin, Tennessee, party organized to benefit the town’s college of design—host Robert Hicks found the answer: they’ll appear in droves.

So the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South is doing it again this year: On August 27, Hicks will host the second annual Seriously Seersucker party on the campus of its beneficiary, O’More College of Design. A ticket and a puckered pastel cotton garment will score you a signature cocktail (a spin on an Old Fashioned with fresh peach nectar), Southern-style dinner catered by Franklin’s Cool Café, and a chance to win such silent auction items as a custom-made suit by New Orleans’ seersucker-suit pioneer, Haspel. Also on the party docket: Motown tunes from Atlanta’s Jimmy Church Band, and “just a heck of a lot of fun,” Hicks says.

(Photos courtesy of Caleb Chandler)

Hicks is a staunch Franklin preservationist. He’s also long been an advocate for O’More, whose nineteenth-century Italianate-style administration building is listed on the national historic registry. Until last year, though, the school had no scholarship fund for its 200 students. The idea for the fundraiser came to Hicks last June 9—National Seersucker Day—and a Facebook poll confirmed his hunch that the theme would hold appeal. He pulled off the first gathering in six weeks and more than 300 guests arrived wearing the Southern staple.

Hicks (third from left) and guests in front of O’More’s administration building at Seriously Seersucker 2015.

“Because O’More is a design school, some of the seersucker dresses last year were designed by students,” Hicks says. “That will happen again this year, but the real ‘plus’ is that I believe we can make claim to being the largest seersucker gathering on the planet.”

And just under the wire, too—since, come September, it’ll be time to hang up that suit until next spring.

For more information, go to

Southern Town Mourns Tragic Loss of 3 Families

Note: This excellent post was written by Oxford, MS resident and writer, Toni Overby, about the three couples who died in a tragic airplane accident last Sunday while returning from a dental conference. Two years ago writer Paul Stanley wrote a similar piece about two Christian Brothers High School students who were killed early in their senior year. Toni’s article captures the essence of a grieving community and I encourage you to read her words.

When It’s Just Too Close to Home

I wish this could be one of my sarcastic posts. I’m good at those, better, I think, than of these posts that are somber and depressing.

But in true human fashion, the funny doesn’t always teach. The funny doesn’t pull us closer to God.

The tragic, however, often does.

I’m experiencing for the first time since September 11, 2001, a community that in its entirety is reeling from a loss so big we can physically feel it surrounding us.

The air is thick and it is suffocating, and it is choking the life out of my tiny town even as we celebrate our very own Olympian at the same time this tragedy has occurred (who really pulled through for us by the way, and for that, Sam Kendricks, I say a huge Thank You).

I’m not going to name the tragedy. I’m not going to give it life by bringing it to the surface once more. I’m not going to name names out of respect for families mourning and trying to cope with the loss of sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins. Colleagues and friends trying to make sense of these beautiful lights snuffed out too fast for our human mentality to process.

By far, the most important titles these precious souls held was the most sacred title of all: Mom and Dad. There are babies from kindergarten to college waking up without their parents this morning.

No more goodnight hugs, no more lovingly-cooked meals, or carpools to soccer, or talks about boys or baseball. No future walks down the wedding aisle; no prayers said over little foreheads at night, given from a mom and dad so in love with their babies they would do anything to keep them happy, safe, secure.*

The mind reels. We cannot understand a Good and Loving God who would rip a parent from a child.

What do we tell our own children about all this?

What in the world could we possibly say to them? How do we explain the concept of having strong and steady faith in a world constantly bombarding them with horror, hurt and sin?

It’s almost as if the enemy knows his time is near.

I have a child who was born with a healthy dose of fear. It’s been inside her since the day she was born, its blatant reality shown through everything from infant colic to being stuck in a large shopping mall in the middle of a tornado at the age of four.

These types of tragedies, they test her faith in the absolute worst of ways.

Tell me what my friends did to deserve their parents being taken from them, she said the day it occurred, followed with the words…by God.

She believes God created this tragedy.

And here’s the truth: I have no way to deny that. When we sit in church and we preach what we’ve been preaching for the last umpteen thousand years–that God sends rain on the Good and the Evil, that God knows All and allows All and is over All–and we do so without the large dose of Grace and Mercy that is supposed to accompany it but often doesn’t, there isn’t much else we can do but to attribute blame to the Creator of the Universe.

I can’t sit here and write on a blog and pretend I have the answers. Any of us who even tries to explain the hows and the whys of tragedy and horror and even sin–why does sin need to exist, why did God need to create bad things–will never, ever, EVER get that answer.

His ways are Higher. His thoughts are Higher.

We will never understand.

And still, we the faithful, we believe. We pray. We cry out. We choose to mentally will ourselves to acknowledge that though we don’t understand, we trust. Every single day, every single minute–sometimes that’s all we can do–we trust that we serve a God who will one day rectify this.

We choose to believe that we worship a God who loved the Creation He’d made so much, cared for us so much, that He chose to set aside His kingship to live as a poor carpenter and die like a criminal to set us free from the horror of death.

We don’t see that side, you know. Not now. We can’t see that we’ve conquered death on this side of Heaven.

To us, the gone are gone. Though we tell ourselves we will see them again, we can’t fully believe that what we trust is on the other side is actually on the other side.

That is, until we experience a tragedy like what has happened in my precious town.

Then, to many of us, it becomes more clear.

We long for the day we will be with the Saints, among whom our loved ones now sit.

We believe they are in perfect form, dancing with their King.

We no longer hear their prayers, but we feel them; we know they are interceding on our behalf.

Our senses suddenly become more attuned to the Creation. Sometimes that takes awhile; for many of those closest to these sweet people, there will be a numbness, followed by deep anger, deep depression.

But then, on a day when all seems hopeless, they will sit in a rocking chair outside, maybe, or in a hammock among green trees, and they’ll notice the most beautiful butterfly float by.

They’ll look up at a bright sky and see a cloud shaped like an angel, or they’ll pick up a penny off the ground, and the year will have a significance only shared between them and the loved one they lost.

I believe that. I believe we serve a God who sends signs from above.

I believe He didn’t just create the concept of family for a temporary Earth. I believe we will love and know and serve and worship alongside those with whom we walked here.

Yes, we will know everybody, but no one can tell me that God created a bond this tight on Earth without intending for it to remain so in the Heavenlies.

Family is meant to be a gift, and for many of us who have the privilege to have ours today–no matter how imperfect they may be–we are holding them just a little tighter.

What do we tell our kids about all this?

We tell them Jesus wept.

We lead them to the Bible. We open it to the story of Jesus’ very best friend, Lazarus, and we read to them of how Martha and Mary met Jesus on the road, inconsolable after their brother had died.

We tell them that when the Creator of our Universe, the Almighty God, saw their sorrow, He broke down and wept.

He is a God who sees, knows and feels our pain.

That’s what we tell them.

We tell them that God filters All but doesn’t cause All.

We tell them that Satan has a limited time here and that while he has it, the kingdom-bringers—us—overcome his evil with LOVE.

We take that meal to the hungry.

We give that coat to the cold.

We wrap our arms around the hurting.

We don’t try to give answers.

We don’t try to ‘fix’ the problems.

We just LOVE.

I know so many of us in this tiny town are trying so hard to come to grips with what has happened.

These couples touched each of our lives in some way. They were so well-known, so loved.

I have my own personal stories about them: the way she lit up the room, the way he was so proud of the ballfields he had created, how kind they were to my children.

But even if you didn’t know them, you still hurt in unfathomable ways. And you might wonder why that is so.

I think it’s because we look at these sweet faces and the faces of these hurting children and we know that in this case, in this tragedy, it so easily could have been one of us.

While other horrors are so far removed, this one was just a little too close to home.

And it’s going to take our community giving each other an extra dose of love to see us through these dark days.

I have every confidence this amazing place, this temporary home I love so much, will do just that.



*The children in one of these sweet families do still have their mom and dad, respectively, since the couple was remarried. I wrote in general terms, so I did not mean to downplay those other parents or the many people who will come alongside these precious babies and continue these activities. 

August 18th, 2016|Categories: Southern Events|Tags: , , |

Natchez: 10 Things to Know About This Southern City

Natchez, Mississippi is full of southern history and prior to the War Between the States, Natchez was a booming town along the Mississippi River. Kendra Ablaze with Mississippi Today shares some of the city’s amazing facts on its 300th birthday.

While Natchez has found a way to commemorate its tricentennial almost every day this year, Wednesday is the big day. Celebrants return to where it all began — the site of Fort Rosalie — for an opening ceremony with Principal Chief and Great Sun of the Natchez nation Hutke Fields. The party continues around town throughout the day.

In honor of the city that boasts of being the birthplace of Mississippi, we offer 10 famous facts about Natchez.

1. Natchez Indians built Fort Rosalie for the French and took it back

Historical marker crediting the French, British, Spanish -- and cotton.

Gabriel Austin/Mississippi Today

Historical marker crediting the French, British, Spanish — and cotton.

The story of Natchez began on Aug. 3, 1716, when French settlers established Fort Rosalie on the Mississippi River in an area occupied by an American Indian tribe known as the Natchez. The original fort was built with Natchez Indian labor, according to Kathleen Bond, superintendent of the Natchez National Historical Park. In 1729, Natchez Indians attacked French settlers at Fort Rosalie, killing between 200 and 300 people and capturing a large number of women, children and enslaved Africans. This spurred the retreat of French colonists from North America, says Lance Harris, director of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

2. The human cost of commerce

In 1789, Andrew Jackson, who was a public prosecutor in the region long before he became president of the United States, built a trading post north of Natchez which trafficked in slaves. Natchez became the state’s most active slave trading city in the decades before the Civil War, according to the Mississippi Historical Society.

3. A capital with no capitol

Since it already was a substantial settlement on the Mississippi River, Natchez was chosen by the United States Congress as the first capital when they created the Mississippi Territory in 1798, though no official capitol was built.

4. Living the high life

Before the Civil War, Natchez had the most millionaires per capita of any city in the United States, making it arguably the wealthiest city in the nation at the time, boasts the Mississippi Historical Society.

The home of William Johnson, a free black barber in Natchez. Johnson kept an extensive diary from 1835-1851. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Natchez Tricentennial Commission

William Johnson, a free black barber in Natchez, lived here. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

5. Home to free people of color

Natchez had the largest community of free people of color in Mississippi before the Civil War, Bond says. Many were the children of white plantation owners and enslaved African American women. William Johnson, who gained his freedom at age 11, bought a downtown Natchez barber shop in 1830 and kept a diary from 1835 until his death in 1851. His diary is cited by the National Park Service as an important resource for the study of free blacks and African American history.

6. The classic Southern antebellum facade emerges

The Auburn mansion was built in Natchez in 1812. Its front porch with classical two-story columns, the first of its kind built in Mississippi, became synonymous with antebellum architecture.

Auburn, built in 1812, was the first building in the Mississippi Territory to have a front porch with classical two-story columns.

Natchez Tricentennial Commission

Auburn, built in 1812, was the first building in the Mississippi Territory to have a front porch with classical two-story columns.

7. Southerners but not secessionists

On Jan. 9, 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union, but delegates from Natchez and Adams County attending the state convention voted against secession. Many planters in Adams County had moved there from northern states and retained financial and familial connections to the north.

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Historic Natchez Foundation

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.













8. Rev. Revels claims a first for Natchez and his race

Once the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed protecting the right of African Americans to vote, Hiram R. Revels of Natchez became the first African American to be seated in Congress as a U.S. senator in 1870. Mississippi was readmitted to the Union on Feb. 23, 1870.

9. The history of historic preservation

In 1925, Miss Charlie Compton, one of the earliest preservationists of Natchez, protested the demolition of Natchez’s historic city hall and columned open-air market to make way for construction of the city’s current city hall. But she failed to save them. In 1974, Ron and Mimi Miller founded the private, nonprofit Historic Natchez Foundation, which helps preserve local structures by seeking their designation as national historic landmarks or as listings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stanton Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, is located in downtown Natchez.

Kendra Ablaza

Stanton Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, is located in downtown Natchez.

10. Natchez shows off its finery

Natchez may be most famous today for its annual pilgrimage. In 1932, the tour of grand antebellum homes and their gardens became an annual event.
Thousands of visitors tour Rosalie Mansion, Longwood, Stanton Hall, Melrose and other former estates in spring and fall.

August 2nd, 2016|Categories: Southern Events|Tags: , , , , |

Oxford, Clarksdale, Tupelo: 3 ‘Must See’ Mississippi Towns

The south is filled with quaint small towns and here are three that are “must see” places this summer: Oxford, Clarksdale and Tupelo, Mississippi. Sally Walker at StyleBlueprint gives us planning tips for the trip.

With Memorial Day weekend kicking off the summer travel season, our wanderlust is palpable. If your summer travel plans are keeping you stateside and closer to home, here are three fantastic, not-too-far destinations in Mississippi that are steeped in history and each offers completely different experiences. So get packing, gas up and get ready to roll!

Clarksdale, MS

Clarksdale is just a 90-minute drive from Memphis, TN, and is known as Ground Zero for the Delta blues. It’s at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49, known simply as The Crossroads, a place where legend has it blues great Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil so he would be a success. Johnson, who was just 27 when he died, is considered one of the most influential of all blues musicians despite his early death. (One of our favorite songs inspired by Johnson is John Mayer’s “Crossroads,” a good download for the trip. See him perform it on YouTube here.)

The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Clarksdale celebrates Mississippi's blues heritage. Image|GRAMMY Museum MS

The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Clarksdale celebrates Mississippi’s blues heritage. Image: GRAMMY Museum MS

Clarksdale’s musical heritage is everywhere, from the shops to the museums and clubs around town. The soulful Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art store is filled with folk art, recordings, concert posters and the like. Plus, it is home to some mini blues festivals and other performances throughout the year. The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi opened in March 2016 on the campus of Delta State University and explores not only the history of American music and the GRAMMY awards, but its exhibits delve into the history of the blues and its influence on music across the globe.

The Delta Blues Museum, located in the old train station depot, is a branch of the Smithsonian and offers an excellent tour through the history of the blues and the artists who hail from the Delta. The rustic remains of the cabin that Muddy Waters lived in while a sharecropper on the Stovall cotton plantation is just one of the artifacts on display; on any given day, you’ll meet museum-goers from across the globe who’ve made the trek to Clarksdale to absorb its musical history.

Ground Zero Blues Club is co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, who was born in Memphis and grew up in the Delta.

Ground Zero Blues Club is co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, who was born in Memphis and grew up in the Delta. Image: Ground Zero Blues Club

The Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by actor Morgan Freeman and Clarksdale attorney Bill Luckett, rocks day and night with music. A blues hall/restaurant, Ground Zero is known for its Jukin Burger, as well as its daily plate lunch special, just $9. It’s also known for the random couches lined up on its front porch, where folks perch between sets to chat.

For a real taste of the Delta, head over to Hicks’ World Famous Hot Tamales & Banquet Hall at 305 State St. Hicks has been serving up Delta tamales since 1960, and a serving of three is just $2.75.

If you plan to spend the night, then catching the blues is a must. There are juke joints all over Clarksdale, including Ground Zero, the Hopson Plantation CommissaryLevon’s Bar & Grill, Red’s Lounge and the Delta Blues Museum. Cat Head has a great listing of performances on its calendar web page — just scroll  down after the festival listing and the ads to see the upcoming shows around town.

Lodging in Clarksdale is best termed “eclectic.” You can choose from an original sharecropper shack or cotton gin bin at The Shack Up Inn, located on the Hopson Plantation, or find a room downtown like The Squeeze Box, a 425-square-foot guest room that’s been furnished in a funky Delta style or stay in a room over Ground Zero. There are options for all.


Oxford, MS

Oxford is the epitome of a charming Southern town. Home to the University of Mississippi and its grand football tailgating tradition, Oxford also has a town square lined with boutiques and restaurants. And Oxford is also Ground Zero for Southern literature, the home of William Faulkner and the highly regarded Oxford American magazine.

The Lafayette County courthouse is the centerpiece of the square in Oxford.

The Lafayette County courthouse is the centerpiece of Oxford’s town square.

City Grocery, located on the town square, is one of the most sought-after dining experiences in the South. Chef Jon Currence is the culinary force behind the restaurant, which serves up delectably Southern fare including corn bread in the bread basket and entrees that run from grilled (goat) cheese sandwiches to grilled Gulf tuna and a huge plate of shrimp and grits.

City Grocery is just one of Chef John Currence's four Oxford restaurants, and perhaps the most famous.

City Grocery is just one of Chef John Currence’s four Oxford restaurants and perhaps the most famous.

Small eateries, ice cream shops and college bars dot the square. Try the Ajax Diner for home cooking, plate lunches and veggie plates, or BBB (Big Bad Breakfast), another Currence eatery, for a killer breakfast or lunch.

Book lovers can get lost for hours at Square Books; it actually fills three separate storefronts on the square — one for children and two others categorized by interests and topics. Neilson’s Department Store has been on the square since it opened in 1839, and it is the oldest department store in the South. Neilson’s is a department store in the truest sense, with a bridal registry, makeup counter and all the usual departments. Hinton & Hinton is a men’s preppy outfitter, with a smattering of women’s clothing and accessories.

Outside the square, antique stores and malls, including The Depot Antique Mall, which features 100-plus booths, are scattered throughout Oxford and make for fun treasure hunting. And the Ole Miss campus is a beautiful spot for a walk or drive; the university’s museum features art and historical exhibits, as well as information about the historic homes associated with the university, including Faulkner’s home, the antebellum Rowan Oak, which features a glimpse into the writer’s life in Oxford.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau has a good map to make navigating all the stores and attractions easy as pie, too — download it here.

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's home in Oxford.

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, MS

If you choose to stay the night, try The 5Twelve Bed & Breakfast, which is tucked between the square and the Ole Miss campus and features five guest rooms and a studio suite. It’s in an excellent location to experience Oxford nightlife. Or reserve a room at Castle Hill, a bed-and-breakfast that doubles as a large event space and is located just outside of town.


Tupelo, MS

Tupelo’s claim to fame is that it’s Elvis’ birthplace, but there’s more to Tupelo than just Elvis-related sites. While most of us have heard of or driven parts of the Natchez Trace Parkway, few know that it is headquartered in Tupelo or how it got its name. The trace, an ancient route traveled by Native Americans, spans 444 miles from Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN. At the Tupelo Visitor Center, guests can learn more about the parkway’s history and inhabitants.

Elvis Presley's birthplace, a simple two room house, attracts 50,000 visitors a year.

Elvis Presley’s birthplace, a simple, two-room house, attracts 50,000 visitors a year.

If the kids are along for this day trip, then the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo is a must. This rustic animal kingdom began as a cattle ranch, and soon its owner started removing the cattle and added buffalo, eventually amassing a large herd. Set on over 200 acres, there are now 260 animals including a giraffe named Tall Boy and a Capuchin monkey (think Night at the Museum) named Oliver, who made two escapes back in 2007 that garnered him national media attention.

Buffalo are just some of the animals at the Tupelo Buffalo Park & Zoo.

Buffalo are just some of the animals at the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo.

Small shopping districts in the midtown and downtown areas are filled with boutiques and antique stores, including the fun-to-browse Tupelo Antique Market.

So, back to Elvis. Even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the King will enjoy a visit to his birthplace and the hardware store, Tupelo Hardware, where his mother bought him his first guitar. The small-town charm of Tupelo, paired with the story of Elvis’ humble beginnings, contrast greatly with the flash of Graceland.

Elvis Presley's mom, Gladys, bought him his first guitar at Tupelo Hardware; Elvis had wanted a shotgun.

Elvis Presley’s mom, Gladys, bought him his first guitar at Tupelo Hardware; Elvis had wanted a shotgun.

There’s an Elvis Presley Driving Trail, with a dozen sites celebrating his time in town, including the homecoming statue that commemorates the historic 1956 homecoming concert he played at the Tupelo Fairgrounds. Also on the driving trail is Johnnie’s Drive-In on Main, where a young Elvis used to eat Dough Burgers (hamburgers made with ground beef and bread, then fried up on the griddle) with his friends.

If you choose to stay the night, there’s any number of chain hotel options in and around Tupelo, with the Hilton Garden Inn right on Main Street and close to downtown shopping and dining.

Take a day or two this summer and explore this great region. The South is rich with history and character, and these three Mississippi towns are great places to start!

Iroquois Steeplechase Turns 75

Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase turned 75-years old on Saturday. While prior events have kept me from attending the past couple of years, its long been one of my favorite spring activities. Garden & Gun‘s Will Price has written a nice piece on this exciting day.

The mythology of steeplechasing is as simple as it is symbolic: two eighteenth-century Irishmen challenged each other to a horse race from the church grounds in which they stood to the next steeple visible over the treeline. The 1752 version of “bet you can’t beat me to that stop sign” mushroomed into a cross-continental sport—one that’s found a special home in the South.

(Photographs by Nikk Rody)

This Saturday, Nashville’s Rite of Spring—the Iroquois Steeplechase’s nickname since its first running in 1941—turns 75, and it hasn’t aged a bit. A classic steeplechase is meant to simulate a race through the countryside, forcing rider and horse to leap over obstacles at high speed. The Iroquois is a series of seven such races, each increasing in prize purse and prestige, run on three miles of Bermuda grass track at Percy Warner Park.

From the race’s early days to today, the event is as dressed-up as the attendees make it. (Photograph courtesy of the Iroquois Steeplechase)

The race takes place the Saturday following Derby weekend every year, and it’s a more casual affair than the Run for the Roses. Folks dress as far up or down as they like. “We all started out sitting up on the grass hill, and you came in whatever your level of comfort was,” says Marianne Byrd, Nashville native and veteran of more than 45 Iroquois runnings. “To some, that’s a coat and tie with a trilby, and for some, it’s jeans and a picnic blanket. Either way it’s a great place to people watch.”

Early race attendees cover the grass hill overlooking the track; trilbys, picnic, and coolers blankets in tow. (Photograph courtesy of the Iroquois Steeplechase)

One of the most popular draws is the Parade of Hounds, says race chairman and former jockey Dwight Hall. “A while back, we were being broadcast on live television, and there’s tight schedule with that,” Hall says. “The broadcasters suggested cutting out the dogs and the crowd just about exploded. We could’ve cancelled the whole day, just not the dogs.”

Then and Now: The Parade of Hounds, a fan favorite at the Iroquois Steeplechase. (Photograph courtesy of the Iroquois Steeplechase)

Nowadays there’s box seating, fully staffed kitchens, open bars, and shaded tents available for attendees who want a cushy experience. But there’s still the green grass hill, where you can throw down a blanket, wheel in a cooler (yes, you can bring your own beverages and food, too), and enjoy the race like it was 75 years ago.

May 15th, 2016|Categories: Lifestyle, Southern Events, Sports|Tags: , , , |

Jockeys & Juleps Derby Watch Party Brings Fashion & Food Together to Raise Funds for Therapy Riding Program

(MEMPHIS, TN) – Kirby Dobbs Floyd and her husband Glenn, both of whom dreamed of using their horse farm to help people with disabilities tackle their physical and emotional challenges, came one step closer as 900 well-dressed Memphians gathered to watch “The Run for the Roses” at the inaugural Jockeys and Juleps event to raise a hearty six-figures for the Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

In 2015 the Floyds joined forces with a handful of civic-minded equestrians with a simple goal in mind: to give children and their families an opportunity to use horses to heal the mind, body and soul. At that moment, the program was born. With a goal to provide equine-assisted activities for people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities throughout the Mid-South, Southern Reins has grown from 13 riders to 35 – yet without significant funds, the horses, hay and help required to meet those needs for continued growth would be stymied.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

“We saw first-hand how equine therapy could change lives,” said Floyd. “And we are very thankful and grateful to be able to offer this service to our Mid-South community.  The need is so great, and we are making incredible strides in helping people with disabilities through therapeutic riding.”

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

So what did this group of motivated women do? What any southern belles would; they threw a party.

Within a couple of months, dozens of businesses such as FTB Advisors, Lexus of Memphis and Dobbs Management Services were on board with other companies and community volunteers close behind.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

“We had a really strong team and everyone brought a different skill set to the table,” noted Courtney Smith, one of Southern Reins’ co-founders. “I grew up riding and got my masters in special education. Bridgett Ternary, Kim Jordan and Kirby were riders too. All the pieces just came together. This really was a ‘God’ thing.”

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

Bulleit Bourbon and Buster’s Wine & Liquors, along with bartenders from The University Club of Memphis, supplied all the necessary ingredients for a race-worthy Mint Julep at the five open bars strategically placed on grounds of the elegant East Memphis Dobbs’ family estate where Kirby and her siblings grew up.


Sampling of one of many dessert’s offered (4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

Turning into the long, winding driveway, guests made their way past two therapy ponies where members of Longreen Foxhounds were onsite in their striking red riding coats atop their elegant mounts. Passing through the main house’s grand double doors en route to the property’s backyard stood an enormous theatre sized screen and several smaller monitors showcasing horse racing’s most exciting two minutes.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)


In addition to their Kentucky Derby betting purses, race fans were encouraged to bring their appetites, and everyone was treated to a variety of southern fare that included golden fried legs and wings from Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken, beef sliders from Belly Acres, award winning Memphis barbeque, along with a number of other sandwiches and desserts by many of Memphis’ top restaurants and chefs.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

And no respectable Derby party would be complete without a double shot of high fashion and patrons of Jockeys & Juleps did not disappoint.

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

(4Memphis/Mark Ramirez)

Gentlemen donned their finest racing attire ranging from seersucker and white bucks to Vineyard Vines derby themed bow ties and elegant sport coats from Oak Hall Clothiers worthy of making the trek to the betting window or winner’s circle.

Not to be outdone, ladies’ high fashion was on full view with Dinah Makowsky themed hats topping a variety of colorful dresses by Trina Turk, Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines suitable of any Louisville brunch or grandstand suite.



As the last guests departed, everyone was asking if Jockeys and Juleps would become an early May Memphis tradition?

“Absolutely,” said Floyd. “Many of our sponsors have already renewed their support for next year and we’re already planning for the 2017 party. And in the meantime, many more kids and families will be living a better life through our program – thanks to the generosity of this wonderful community.”

Paul Stanley is a seventh generation southerner whose passion for the South and southern lifestyles are profiled at