October 31, 2009 10:01:00 PM
This past weekend made six for six Great Delta Bear Affairs in Rolling Fork, a festival held to commemorate President Teddy Roosevelt''s bear hunting trip to the south Delta.
I''m a festival kind of a guy. It really doesn''t matter the size, what it''s about or the location. If a festival has the scent of hickory smoked barbecue in the air, music of any kind, a few decent arts and crafts and -- most importantly -- someone selling piping hot funnel cakes with mounds of powdered sugar, I''m in the briar patch. The Bear Affair checks every box on my scorecard, plus some.
The president''s famous hunt is just a part of what the festival is about. The Bear Affair also focuses attention on the natural resources so abundant in the south Delta. Various conservation groups have worked hard in the last few years to bring the black bear back to the area. Years ago, they were plentiful.
Having black bear in Sharkey and Issaquena County gets me excited.
My mama owns a bit of acreage that borders Steele Bayou, just a couple of miles west of the Mississippi River. I was pleased to find, in conversation with some of the conservationists, that their efforts have been rewarded with an established breeding population.
After studying the map with the experts on hand, I was thrilled to find some of them may spend a night or two on our family''s land from time to time. Mama doesn''t share my enthusiasm for a prolific black bear population. She -- how should I put this -- likes to maintain the status quo.
After telling her how proud I was that her land might be playing a part in bringing back the bear to the south Delta, she replied, "Well, I just don''t know if I like that or not. It might get so we can''t hang out our sheets or put our garbage out."
To which I replied, "Mama, if we have enough bear that they become a nuisance, Rolling Fork will have two Holiday Inns."
Which brings me to my take on tourism.
Columbus understood the value of visitors (tourists) years ago and created the Pilgrimage, which has drawn folks from all over the world to see our beautiful antebellum homes. Others saw the value of Tennessee Williams and the importance of establishing a beautiful downtown.
Some Delta towns, for whatever reason, didn''t catch on and simply fell down along the way.
Folks over in the south Delta, like here in Columbus, "got it." Their main street businesses left long ago. They didn''t give in. They revitalized downtown by painting facades on vacant buildings. You can eat off the streets.
They recognized the value of being Muddy Waters'' birthplace by placing a "Blues Cabin" next to his Blues Trail marker. It''s first class in every respect, complete with furniture and landscaping.
All of Sharkey County -- 7,000 strong -- went to war to make sure the interpretive center for the Great Bear Hunt led by Holt Collier will be built in Rolling Fork, not a larger town.
And, they have two festivals every year that are beginning to draw folks from all over.
You never know who''s coming to your town, or what they might be interested in seeing. Here''s my best Rolling Fork tourist story:
Years ago, a man -- obviously a rocker, with his long hair and jeans -- walked in the liquor store. A good friend of mine, who is a world class percussionist, owns the store. My friend said the man looked familiar. When he put his fifth of Crown Royal on the counter to check out he asked, "You''re Robert Plant, aren''t you?"
"Yes, and that''s Jimmy Page outside waiting in the car," the man answered.
"Why are you in Rolling Fork?"
"Came to see where Muddy was born."
I want you to visit my old hometown. Stop in and see "the Judge" at the liquor store. He''ll be glad to give you directions to Muddy''s place, and a deal on a fifth of Crown Royal.
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.