The Mississippi Delta is a big place. It encompasses more than 7,000 square miles of alluvial floodplain, stretching from Tunica in the north to Vicksburg at its southwest corner. The Delta contains some of the earth’s most fertile soil. And it’s a fertile place for the imagination if you’re the visiting type.
I like accessing the Delta through Greenwood. It’s an easy drive from Jackson, about an hour and 40 minutes. As you thread your way through Lexington and Tchula, Route 49 becomes quite flat. Cotton fields to your left and right. And then you find yourself in Greenwood. In many ways, it’s like time has stood still.
There’s Delta Feed on Main Street.
Architecture from the late 1800s persists and evolves, as this structure on Howard Street does.
If you plan on visiting Greenwood, I would aim for September when the cotton is high. To see cotton fields in the cotton capital of the world is a pretty cool experience.
March 2019 marks the end of my third winter in central Mississippi, and I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I’ve noticed all the beautiful azaleas.
This shrub produces some fantastic flowers in the most saturated colors. A bright pink, as observed on Quinn Street in #Belhaven:
And vibrant red on Whitworth Street:
And even fuchsia at the Mississippi State Capitol in downtown Jackson:
Jackson is counting down to St. Patrick’s Day, or St. Paddy’s Day as it is known here. And the 2019 St. Paddy’s Day Parade on March 23 is expected to draw 75,000 visitors–pretty massive for a city of 167,000 people. Central to the St. Paddy’s Day Parade is a little somethin’ called the Sweet Potato Queens. You might be thinking, Sweet Potato Queens? Read on.
In 1983, Malcolm White (of Hal and Mal’s fame) decided a St. Paddy’s Day Parade would be fun to produce, so he did. And Jill Conner Browne, a local Jacksonian, decided to be the parade’s Sweet Potato Queen. As Browne explained to the Houston Chronicle:
You know, in the South we’ve got a beauty queen for every event, every organization, every day of the week, every food group. I was pretty far removed from the beauty queen circuit, but I just declared it [being the Sweet Potato Queen] to be so. I just found it funny, and still do.
Source: Natalie Maynor via Flickr
The Sweet Potato Queens have a reputation of adding bawdy fun to the parade and since that first parade have mushroomed as a network of 6,400 chapters in 37 countries. No joking. Can’t make it to the parade next Saturday? Consider checking out New Stage Theatre’s Sweet Potato Queens: The Musical, which is based on Browne’s best-selling books and is appropriate for ages 18 plus.
As a consumer, there are a few purchases where you might benefit from being expertly fitted. Buying cowboy boots seems to be one.
Last September I was itching for a pair of cowboy boots. I headed to the only place I could think of–Boots & More on High Street just east of downtown Jackson.
You could easily get lost in this store (big selection), but one of the staff members found me and I found these beauties, which I absolutely love. The turquoise bluebirds seem to dance across the leather. And the tiny red hearts here and there? Love.
Having never purchased cowboy boots before, I was impressed with the variety of choices. Boots are available in snip toe, rounded toe, and box toe as well as in different leathers. Think cowhide, goat, snake, ostrich, alligator. Prices also vary considerably–from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Goodness.
Andrew Evans wrote a great article for National Geographic on what to look for when buying cowboy boots. You can access his advice here.
Every time I think I have the state of #Mississippi mostly figured out, I learn something new. Every time. As I’ve learned since moving here 2 1/2 years ago, Mississippi was home to more than a dozen Native American tribes–from the Pascagoula tribe on the Gulf Coast to the Tunica tribe in the Delta. The largest tribe was (and still is) the Choctaw. The second largest? The Chickasaw.
Before their forced removal in the 1830s, the Chickasaw occupied northeastern Mississippi, with villages located between the headwaters of the Yazoo and Tombigbee rivers. The Chickasaw were skilled war makers, hunters, and gatherers. They had highly developed ruling systems. The present-day Chickasaw Nation occupies 13 counties in south central Oklahoma, with its capital in Tishomingo, and its people, culture, and traditions thrive. Chickasaw artists also thrive, as I found out yesterday at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The MMA has an exhibition titled Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art, and I loved what I learned.
Painter B.L. Hensley interprets Chickasaw leaders and peoples through a cool lens.
Designer Maya Stewart incorporates buckskin as part of her sculptural work.
Joanna Underwood Blackburn uses ochre-colored clay and steel to resurrect prayers with this installation, which throws some crazy cool shadows.
Erin Shaw conjures imagery from underneath the ancient sea.
Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art is open through June 2. You can plan your visit here.
If you’re a bookish sort and favor independently owned and operated bookstores, #Mississippi has some cool gems, all within a three-hour drive from Jackson.
Let’s begin with Square Books in Oxford. The heart of Oxford is the courthouse square, known as The Square, so it makes perfect sense that the local bookseller is Square Books. Square Books is actually three bookstores, but the main store is big enough that you could spend hours uncovering Southern writers. Book hunting can be hungry work, but don’t despair. John Currence’s City Grocery is just steps away from the main store.
In Jackson, Lemuria Books rests on the third floor of Banner Hall off Interstate 55. Lemuria hosts weekly, sometimes daily, book signings and author readings. My friend Stacie Wells recently visited Lemuria and captured this wonderful photo for her Instagram account, Jackson and Beyond.
Source: Jackson and Beyond
Down on the coast, Pass Christian Books and Cat Island Coffeehouse are the bomb dot com. The bookstore may be tiny, but the coffeehouse has a beautiful deck where you can read, savor a glass of iced coffee, and look at the Gulf of Mexico and Cat Island in the distance. Dreamy experience.
I love old stuff, I really do. Old houses, old streets, old trees–all of it. Was fortunate to spend a Sunday afternoon in Laurel, Mississippi, a couple weekends ago, and the Busy Bee News-Coins-Pipe Shop on N. Fifth Street? Imagination sparked.
The news and pipe shop made complete sense to me. But coins? Something I’d have to research/parse later.
Fifth Street is a main artery from the historic downtown area, and it’s dotted with old buildings and Southern live oaks. More lovely than I could have anticipated.
A little further down is the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art and although the museum doesn’t permit photos outside of the lobby area, the collections are diverse and exceptional.
Across the street from the museum is the Rogers-Green House, which is pretty magnificent, at least to this passerby.