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Mississippi’s capital city prepares for its moment on the big screen with “The Help” filming in town last week. by Erin Z. Bass People were talking when native Kathryn Stockett published her bestselling book about white women and their black maids in 1960s Jackson last year, and now the town is abuzz again over filming of the movie version. Producers, including locals Tate Taylor and Brunson Green, came to town last December to scout for locations, but news was kept under wraps until townspeople began to notice changes in the city’s Fondren district last week. “We all knew they were going to film sometime soon,” says Chris Myers, who lives in Fondren and works on North State Street as an architect. “It wasn’t until they started painting the yoga studio, turned into a gas station, that I got really interested.” Myers could view the progress down the street from the breakroom of his office building and began chronicling Fondren’s transformation to a scene from another era (not that big of a stretch as the row of businesses down State Street, called the Fondren Strip, sport neon and a generally retro look anyway). “They started with the gas station and slowly started working down the

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The winning saying in our t-shirt contest with SweeTea - "Slow as Molasses" - is now available on a shirt! Congrats, and thanks, to our winner Heather Minton Fuller of Louisiana for submitting the hugely popular saying (it got votes from as far as California, Nebraska and Illinois). She received the first tee hot off the press recently and sports it here. As for the rest of y'all, you can order it from SweeTea for about $20. The shirt isn't up on the website yet, but give those nice ladies in North Carolina a holler by e-mail or phone if you want one. Ya know yawnto!

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But we're fit to be tied by this line of t-shirts printed with Southern sayings. by Erin Z. Bass Susan Bashford and Karen Hall aren’t Southern. Susan is from Connecticut, and Karen is from Detroit, but they both married good ‘ole boys from North Carolina. It wasn’t long before the two women noticed their husbands speaking what sounded like a different language sometimes, especially Karen’s husband, Steve. But they just laughed and wondered what they’d gotten themselves into when hearing phrases like “Are you smellin’ what I’m cookin’” or “I’m a tie a knot in your hind end and hunt ya.’” What else could these Yankees do? It wasn’t until the women took a trip to Boston and saw a line of t-shirts printed with the city’s slang that they thought their husbands might be on to something. “We both called our husbands from the airport and said, ‘start talking,’” says Karen. A line of t-shirts called SweeTea was born in 2006, and Steve became the official lexicographer. Now, when he starts talking, the women start writing. First to make it onto a shirt was “Bless yer heart,” still a bestseller, and sayings like “Hissy Fit, ”Don’t Get Your Panties in a Wad,"

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Burkville, Alabama’s annual Okra Festival sustains its rural community in more ways than one. by Amanda Burleigh The 10th annual Okra Festival will be held in Burkville, Alabama, on August 28 this year. What started as a neighborhood party thrown by two friends in Lowndes County has blossomed into an annual festival drawing thousands of people to this small town located outside Montgomery. “Everybody in my little community grows the mighty okra, which we call ‘the peoples’ vegetable,’” says festival co-founder Barbara Evans. “It’s like us, strong, Southern, can withstand anything and keep going.” After the success of the first festival, Evans says townspeople wanted it to continue. “Local people cook all kinds of food, from pig ear sandwiches to gumbo. Okra is fried, steamed, stewed, boiled and used in art,” she says. But that’s not all. Festival goers will also find okra casseroles, hors d’oeuvres, pie and pickled okra. Sunny Boy King, a local bluesman, has been performing from Evans’ front porch, located on the festival grounds, since the second year. Vendors sell art, preserves and crafts, and there is even the occasional yard sale. “One year we had pony rides, but it was just too hot for the ponies,” says Evans, pictured

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Cultural forces align in South Louisiana for a weekend of the best in Southern art & brew. by Erin Z. Bass Each year in February, the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette posts a call for artists for its annual juried exhibition, the Southern Open. Artists in all mediums living in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida can submit up to 10 pieces of work. A juror from the regional art world is chosen to judge, and the competition begins. In May, the exhibit opens, showcasing a sort of who's who in Southern art, and an overall winner is chosen. Then, in July, the center closes out the summer with Gulf Brew, where visitors to Lafayette can sample the best brews in the Gulf South. The intersection of these two events this upcoming weekend is a great excuse to make a trip over to South Louisiana. Southern Open juror Bill Arning, director of the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, and art center Curator Brian Guidry have assembled an exhibit that will make viewers rethink their definition of "Southern art." From a freestanding wall painted with a Confederate flag and another wall posted with "to do" lists from residents all over the

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A Southerner returns home from the North and brings her tea punch with her. by Erin Z. Bass When Leslie McKinney Bass moved to Chicago from Nashville 22 years ago, she had no idea she’d miss the South so much. Blues music and the sounds of banjo and harmonica drifting from the city’s streets helped to ease her homesickness, but “I always longed for home and whenever I heard that music, there was a sense of place, sky, water, seasons,” she says. “I missed that romantic part of being in the South.” It was a recipe passed down from her grandmother that gave Bass a way to “sip her blues away.” With a base of lime and orange juice, tea punch was a staple in the Bass family. “We would have Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s after church and we always drank it there,” Bass says. “I think I was, out of my four sisters, the one that gulped it down the most because I really liked all that sugar in there.” While grandmother Polly had her own guarded recipe for the punch, so did her friends and neighbors. In Nashville, tea punch was served all over town. “Our national bank had something

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A Southern Barbecue Favorite serves up an otherworldly eating experience. By Debi Lander There's a little joint in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that just seats 68, but its reputation is known far and wide. Dreamland BBQ boasts the motto, "Ain't Nothin' Like 'Em Nowhere," and I reckon that's true. I recently visited the place and met Jeannette Bishop, the current owner and daughter of now-deceased originator John C. Bishop and his wife, Lilly. The Bishops opened their establishment back in 1958. John had purchased the land and considered building a cafe and funeral home. He figured if the food gave his patrons high blood pressure, he'd end up burying them. His wife flatly refused that notion, so John built the drive-thru rib joint. Wonder if the name came from his funereal plans or, as Jeannette (pictured at bottom) says, "God just whispered it into his ear." No matter, the barbeque sauce is so renowned and tasty that a plate of white Sunbeam bread comes to every table, just so you can sop it up. The slabs of barbeque ribs are cooked in an open pit for 45 minutes or there's smoked sausage and pulled pork. Up until a year ago, that was the extent of the

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Cool off with ice cream made right here in the South. by Erin Z. Bass A big bowl of ice cream can’t help but cool you down, even on the hottest of days, and lucky for us, there’s no shortage of producers in the South. (Or shortage of indigenous flavors like maple bacon brittle, blackberry cobbler or Creole cream cheese.) From one of the best-selling ice creams in the country (does “Have Yourself a Blue Bell Country Day” ring a bell?) to smaller companies like New Orleans Ice Cream, Wright Dairy in Alabama or Leopold’s in Savannah, Georgia, there’s probably a local ice cream shop around the corner no matter where you live. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best, but if we left out your favorite, let us know! If you really feel the need to scream for ice cream, events like the Austin Ice Cream Festival next month are the way to go. The fifth-annual event has a screaming contest, ice cream eating and making contests and popsicle stick sculptures. Could you ask for more? Blue Bell Started on a hot summer day in Brenham, Texas, Blue Bell Creameries opened its doors in 1907. First delivered to neighbors by horse

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As July 4 approaches, there's no better place than Alabama's beaches for fireworks and fun. by Erin Z. Bass On June 18, Alabama announced the launch of a new advertising campaign featuring celebrity chef Lucy Buffett, who asks vacationers to "Come on, get back to the beaches we all love." Buffett owns Lulu's on the Intracoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores and is the sister of beach crooner Jimmy Buffett. Her restaurant has become a hot spot in the area, and no trip to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach is complete without some Lower Alabama Caviar, a Cheeseburger in Paradise and Lulu's Rum Punch overlooking the water. With live music every day of the week in the summertime and an art market on Saturdays, you may want to visit Lulu's more than once during your trip. As Lulu herself will tell you, her restaurant is just one example of hometown places that give Gulf Shores/Orange Beach its charm. Everybody's got their favorites, whether it be cheesecake at Hope's just over the bridge from Lulu's, pancakes at Tacky Jack's, shopping at Tallulah's or the outlet mall in Foley. We know many of you are skeptical about a beach vacation where the beach could possibly

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