By Mickey Howley
Sometimes it is just lovely to just get away. Escape for a moment. You know get outta of town and hit the highway or the back roads. Not only is it great to see other places, but also it helps you put a perspective on your own backyard.
So a couple of weeks ago, I jumped in the Chevy and headed out to see the world and never left Mississippi. The route was a bit convoluted, but visualize this using that imaginary state map in your head. Southbound to the first stop in Clinton, then a short hop over to Vicksburg, down U.S. 61 to Port Gibson, a detour to Winsor ruins and Alcorn, on down to Natchez, across US 84 to Laurel, up to Bay Springs, back over to Jackson, rolling on U.S. 49 to Yazoo City and then up to Greenwood. Headed back to the Valley via Grenada and over the dam just for the view. Four days and 800 miles.
Naturally I go check out every downtown. Get out of the car, grab a coffee (if that’s possible) and walk around – look at the buildings and businesses. See if the upper floors are being used. And with the exception of Bay Springs, I’d been to all those towns. So I had a little perspective. Some are doing better. Some about the same. Some not. Clinton has just a sweet darling of a historic downtown, it is not very big relative to the size of the town, but what is there is nice and neat. Clinton has a great used bookstore and Wyatt Waters Gallery. Vicksburg has a funky flavor going on downtown, funk in the good context of the word. It’s an old river town back on the upswing with buildings being renovated and new restaurants. Port Gibson is a small but beautiful town. Port Gibson is famous for the prominent church steeple with a hand on top and a finger pointing to the heavens. It is the index finger. C’mon, I know what you were thinking. Natchez seemed about the same, that faded glory feeling. Laurel is a new town compared to those river towns.
Progressive and well built in the early 1900s, the downtown hit a hard bottom 20 years ago, but it is making a dramatic comeback. Drama-tic is an understatement in Yazoo City; the downtown is down right florescent. The historic commercial street just glows with a dozen wild paint schemes. Not sure if electric paint will be their saving gimmick, but they are trying. The intangible thing one senses is how a town feels, you can feel if they’re trying or not. And in the serious game of keeping your downtown alive and going, attitude is everything.
This coming Saturday will be the last day for the downtown Farmers Market this season. The heat has hit the crop0s and it is time to wrap it for another year. If you can remember back to spring, it was an unusually cool one with freezing nights up until mid April. It had the market off to a late start. It is not easy being a farmer.
If you have not been to the market this year make it this Saturday. Claud and Jean’s tomatoes are still going good. Carline and Wilbur have those famous fried pies and more. David and Anne Burke always have innovative tastings using market produce. New vendors Danny and Ginger bring delicious samples and a changing mix of goods. Kerry O’Donahue’s breads are great and this week music will be by Kevin Guyer. Get your morning coffee under the big magnolia Saturday morning from 8 to 11.