by Connie Vigil Platt I had company over the holidays. I have a large extended family that will use any excuse to get together. Don’t misunderstand me I loved having them visit. They all came loaded with baskets of food and problems to share. It seems that my house is more centrally located, bigger, more available or something like that. But it reminded me of a Little Jimmie Dickens song “Sleeping at the foot of the bed:” It was always fun when the kin folks came And the kids brought brand new games You could see how fat the old folk were And learn all the babies’ names We got chicken and biscuits And custard pie We all got Sunday fed But when night time came you knew You were sleeping at the foot of the bed Fortunately nobody had to sleep at the foot of the bed but there were some strange sleeping arrangements. Chairs, love seats and couches were put into use. I have always been a collector of quilts in anticipation of such an occasion, so we had plenty of blankets. No one seemed to mind sleeping on the floor but it was wall-to-wall people, you had to be careful where you stepped if you got up in the

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Tales and Treasures from Canton's First Monday Trade Days. by Christy W. I’m so thrilled to be guest posting on Deep South! I’ve lived in the South all my life, slowly but surely shopping my way through some of its fabulous venues. Most recently, a friend and I made a girls' weekend trip to First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. Canton is about one hour east of Dallas, tucked away right off I-20. The world's largest outdoor trade days takes place Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of every month. According to Canton's First Monday website, "what started more than a century ago as a flea market has become home to some of the most exciting, cutting-edge home furnishings, antiques and collectibles that can be found anywhere." The original First Monday Trade Days got their start in the 1850s when the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the first Monday of each month to hold court. People from all over Van Zandt County and beyond came out to watch, many bringing their own goods, like farm equipment and livestock, to sell or trade. As a result, Canton earned a reputation statewide as the best place to buy a horse. One hundred and fifty

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by Erin Z. Bass Today is day three at Orange Beach, and I'm so glad we didn't cancel this trip. The water is getting clearer and bluer by the day and is the perfect temperature of cool and refreshing. No signs or smell of oil. Just a trio of stingrays in the water today and the smell of saltwater and sunscreen under our beach tent. Lots of shells are washing up on the beach and with the amount of broken sand dollars we've seen, I have to wonder if there's a stash of whole ones out there on a sandbar somewhere. The family on the beach next to us has a sailboat, so our ocean view includes bright sails bobbing in the water. Yesterday, we visited the North Shore Grill & Deli (home of the Big Kahuna Burger, which I'll have to try later in the week) in San Roc Cay for the free wifi. I ordered a pina colada smoothie, and it was the best I've ever had. Blended with real coconut, this drink would be dangerous with actual rum in it. Today, we're at Orange Beach Public Library using the wifi and I've picked up a copy of local author

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South Carolina's Annual Fine Arts Festival is the Belle of the Ball. by Reid Hardaway It's never a bad time to go to Charleston, South Carolina. Amongst the cobblestone and brick laid streets, a genuinely affectionate community fuels a commercial industry that has earned its reputation for Southern hospitality. Arching light poles illuminate the restless nightlife, and anyone who spends an evening downtown can attest for its good times. And there's also Charleston's ubiquitous view. Whether one is looking off the pier or admiring centuries-old architecture, the city breathes sea air into every crevice. Merely being in Charleston is a soothing, invigorating experience. For one big reason, the best time to visit Charleston is during the summer. There are constant opportunities for entertainment, whether one prefers countless venues for the arts, historical exhibits, commerce, the market, aquarium or simply taking in the excitement of the streets. But during Charleston's summer months, the 17 days and nights of Spoleto should not be missed by any Southerner who has a penchant for the fine arts. Since 1977, the Spoleto Festival has been a premier cultural event of the South. It was founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who wanted to create an American counterpart to Italy's own Spoleto

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by Erin Z. Bass Kathryn Stockett's Southern book club favorite The Help will begin filming in Greenwood, Mississippi, this July. Dreamworks announced the news today, and Mississippi's Clarion Ledger reports that the film is also being directed and produced by Mississippi natives. The filming is expected to create numerous jobs and an economic impact in the millions for the state. The Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive program was a major factor in getting The Help made in the state. Associated Content helps to further explain the Mississippi connections, reporting that Stockett, director Tate Taylor and producing partner Brunson Green all grew up within a mile of each other in Jackson. Taylor wanted to option the film rights to the book before it was even published, hence the short turnaround time. After the book's instant success last year, he took it to director Chris Columbus, who in turn took it to Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks. If you or your book club hasn't read "The Help," we'll try not to automatically assume you're a Yankee, but you've still got a little time to get over to the public library or town bookstore and pick up a copy before the movie comes out. The book's group of

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A weekend in Houston for the Art Car Parade was well worth the trip. by Erin Z. Bass Houston's Art Car Parade dates back to 1984, when artist Jackie Harris covered a Ford station wagon with plastic fruit. The "Fruitmobile" was auctioned off at The Orange Show Foundation's annual gala, then donated back, symbolizing its first official "art car." After the Lawndale Art Center featured two art cars in an exhibit that same year, art cars began driving the streets of Houston. This led to a parade of cars down Montrose Boulevard two years later, finally culminating in a "Road Show" of 11 art cars, including the Fruitmobile, on June 29, 1986. The official Art Car Parade was born in April of 1988, consisting of 40 cars and an estimated 2,000 spectators. Today, the annual parade attracts over 250 vehicles (I use this word loosely) from 23 states and an audience of over 250,000 people. Parade entries include anything on wheels, whether it be an actual car, van, bus, bike, go-cart or rolling port-o-let (pictured right). Since 1991, the event has also included a pre-parade caravan of art cars called the Main Street Drag that stops at schools, hospitals and community centers. The

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by Erin Z. Bass Kicking off National Travel and Tourism Week, the state of Mississippi made two exciting announcements on Monday. On site at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Gov. Haley Barbour unveiled the Mississippi Culinary Trail and the Mississippi Agri Tours Trail. A culinary trail in the state known for barbecue and tamales is a no-brainer, so we expect tourists to jump on this immediately. Divided by region - Hills, Delta, Pines, Capital River and Coastal - the trail includes everything from groceries to drive-ins, juke joints to bakeries. A little bit of history, other notable attractions, like the World's Largest Rocking Chair, and even food festivals are also included for each region. Taking advantage of the current interest in agri-tourism and eating local, Mississippi's Agri Tours Trail tells "the story of culture created by agriculture." Including a diversity of farms, plantations, old country stores, pottery studios, pumpkin patches, pecan orchards and more, these trails showcase a leading resource in the state's economy.

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by Erin Z. Bass If you're still not sure about that upcoming beach vacation and having a hard time disbelieving all the oil spill impact rumors floating around, just watch this video taken yesterday, May 10, in Fort Morgan, Alabama. Posted by Meyer Real Estate and included in an email the company sent out to renters, the footage clearly shows that the coast's white, sandy beaches and shoreline contain no trace of oil. Meyer went on to say in the email that no coastal impact has occurred and none is expected. In fact, beaches are more beautiful and cleaner than ever!

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by Erin Z. Bass I know many of you, myself included, are concerned about your upcoming beach vacation to the Gulf Coast because of the oil spill. Should you cancel, plan on volunteering instead of lounging on the beach, or just wait it out? A few hours helping out while you're there is probably a good idea, but the message coming out of Gulf Coast tourism organizations and rental companies is that there is currently no oil on the beach, no smell, and guests should take a wait and see approach if possible. Bird's eye view courtesy of Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. Public Relations Manager with the Gulf Coast CVB Kim Chapman sent us the following statement: "Currently, there is no oil on the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. According to the NOAA forecasts, no shoreline impact is expected for this area for at least the next 72 hours. We are encouraging our guests to seek out official and confirmed information from the unified response team, which we are posting continuously at www.gulfshores.com/issues. All of the businesses along Pleasure Island are committed to ensuring a quality vacation for their guests. Please contact your rental company for additional details regarding

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