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Birney Imes: Our town




There is something different about this place, all right. We would have a hard time counting the number of letters we've received over the years from visitors delighted, if not bewildered by the over-the-top servings of Southern hospitality they enjoyed while passing through our lovely ville. 


Were I one of those visitors last weekend, I'd write, too. I'd mention going to eat at a local ethnic restaurant and getting a table outside Friday evening. One of the diners inside, who we knew only superficially, came out to discuss issues of the day. After a while he signaled his family, and they joined us. 


We enjoyed a nice dinner enhanced by the company of these lovely people; we also received attentive service while doing so -- one the couple's children is a waiter at the restaurant. That same child, incidentally, will be attending the school at the Art Institute of Chicago this fall, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country. 


Saturday morning it was off to the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market. What more is there to say about this confluence of healthy things: vibrant people, tasty food (prepared and garden fresh) and unexpected encounters. 


The place has such a good vibe, nourishing in every way. This year the market seems to have a new crop of vendors selling all manner of prepared foods -- a woman from Starkville, whose grandfather was a baker in her native Switzerland, selling bread; a young couple just here from California with vegan foods and a pair hawking freshly prepared Mexican food. 


It's not uncommon at the market to see displaced natives back in town for a visit. What better place to reconnect with the town and people who raised you. 


That evening we were fortunate to be among the 90 strong -- a full house for Rosenzweig Arts Center's Omnova Theater -- who were regaled by the musical talents and widely varying personas of Roger Truesdale, Bo Jeffares, Paul Brady, Alicia Harper and Dale Robertson. 


The five were part of the Partial to Home series orchestrated by the Arts Council's extra-special program director, Beverly Norris.  


Each musician was splendid in his or her own individual way. Roger with his downhome earthiness and choice of songs (His ditty about Fried Chicken written by a songwriter from Panther Burn brought down the house.); Bo, the pastor of Hope Community Church, with his ethereal repertoire and repartee with Roger; Paul, a beloved local mainstay whose love for music and local musicians is plain to see (He assembled the group.); Alicia, who dazzled the house -- fellow musicians included -- with her vocal range and stage presence and Dale, a guitar virtuoso, who plays with the precision and intensity of a Chet Atkins. 


Beverly says she intends to reassemble this group for an encore performance of seasonal music after Wassail Fest in December. Bet I know 90 people who will be there for sure. 


Excluding the Led Zepplin concert at the civic auditorium in New Orleans I attended with Taddy Dean in the early 70s, I can't remember a concert I've enjoyed more. 


There is so much cool stuff to get into around here -- a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, a triathlon here and a rodeo in West Point, to cite several examples this weekend -- all one needs is a willingness to step outside one's comfort zone. 


Something about this place sets it apart from other Mississippi communities. It's not one of those "boutique" towns like Oxford, Ocean Springs or Madison, yet it has the bones, i.e. the historic architecture, a river, a distinct history and an authentic character of its own. Don't forget all those friendly people. 


Maybe I'll write a letter to the editor after all. 




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