Happy Halloween!  Whether you are trick-or-treating with costumed tots, celebrating with friends over ghoulish cocktails, or watching horror movies from the comfort of your couch, we wish you all a very happy Halloween!
In keeping with the spirit of the day, we are thrilled to share an adorable Batman-themed birthday party.  Feast your eyes on delightful details centered around the hero of Gotham City.
{Name} Molly Frascogna
{Hometown} Jackson, MS
{Event Site} (name and location) Our house in Belhaven
{Tell us about the occasion for the event?} Penn’s 4th
{What inspired your event location and theme?} I hate to admit that I tried to talk
him out of the Batman theme for months. I had been scouting ebay for vintage
robots hoping we would stick with a robot theme, but he was adamant about
Batman. I figured I could come up with a way to do a Batman party without it
looking store-bought, so we ran with it.
{What inspired your color scheme/flowers?} Vintage Batman
{What’s your favorite event detail? Is there a story behind it?} I got really into
Batman ephemera and obviously a lot of other people do too. After being outbid
many times, I finally got a set of 1966 Batman trading cards for a steal. I doubt
the seller would appreciate that I took them all out of their plastic covers and
hung them along my mantle, but he will never have to know that. Penn would
definitely say his favorite details were the Batman masks and the capes made by
my mother.
{What was your favorite part of the event planning process?} My favorite part
of the event planning process is brainstorming with Penn. He really gets into
the party planning and decorations. He gets so excited when he sees his ideas
come to fruition. He starts dreaming up his parties a full year in advance. He
is already planning a Christmas themed 5th
Christmas trees. I should probably mention his birthday is in late May. 
birthday party full of fake snow and
{What was your favorite moment of the event day?} Well, my least favorite was
that it stormed like crazy before the party. It could not have been more muggy,
but the kids did not seem to mind. Gotham City would have been much more
fun outside of the garage. My favorite moment of the party was watching 10 kids
running around our yard wearing the plastic Batman masks.
{Your favorite picture from the event day?}
Probably the one of the three of us in masks.
{Photographer} Molly
{Event Planner} Penn
{Venue} Our House
{Florist} Molly
Thank you Molly Frascogna for sharing!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  Breast cancer forms when malignant cancer cells grow in the breast tissue.  A whopping 1 in 8 women will unfortunately be affected by this disease during their lifetime.  It is the form of cancer most commonly found in women, and over 220,000 women will be diagnosed yearly in the United States alone.  This entire month is dedicated to increasing awareness about the disease, supporting women who are bravely batting cancer, and raising funds for research, diagnosis, treatment and a cure. 
The diagnosis can be overwhelming.  Survivor Emily Myers Garner says, "To hear the words 'you have cancer' is completely devastating...At the time, my only thoughts were that I was going to lose my breasts and my hair - the two things that made me feel feminine and beautiful."  However, there is positive news for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Death rates have been steadily decreasing since 1990 because of screening, early detection, better awareness and highly successful treatments.  Today, we are honored to share the stories of two Mississippians who have courageously faced - and defeated - breast cancer.
Emily Myers Garner's Story

Tell me about your diagnosis.  How was your breast cancer detected?
I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in 2002 at age 29.  As a former healthcare marketing professional, I was tasked with promoting my hospitals’ “Pink October” breast health awareness campaign in the community; this meant coordinating health fairs around the Metro Jackson area and educating the public about the importance of self–breast exams (SBEs) and mammography.  After educating over 500 women that month, I decided that I needed to practice what I was promoting.  So, in October of 2002, I performed an SBE at home and found a lump in my left breast.  After observing it for a few days, I decided to contact my OB-GYN to get a professional opinion.  When the nurse practitioner performed a clinical exam and also felt the lump, I insisted that I get a mammogram that day.  After the mammogram and ultrasound showed a suspicious mass with calcifications, I was referred to a breast surgeon who performed a stereotactic breast biopsy and diagnosed my cancer within two days.  Just two weeks later, I was in the OR undergoing a radical mastectomy on my left breast.
How did you feel about the news?
To hear the words “you have cancer” is completely devastating.  To hear the words “you have breast cancer” is even more life altering as a woman.  At the time, my only thoughts were that I was going to lose my breasts and my hair - the two things that made me feel feminine and beautiful.  As a young, single woman, it was a truly devastating diagnosis. I thought I would never marry because no man would ever find me attractive again and that would also mean no children or family of my own. After much soul searching, I finally came to realize that I was “not my hair and not my breasts” and that perhaps I could find someone that would love me for all of the other parts that made me Emily.
And how did your family react?
My parents and sister were extremely supportive and nurturing.  I was unmarried at the time, and I depended heavily on my sister to help me through my surgery and subsequent treatments. I call her my “guardian angel” through those very difficult months of recovery and chemotherapy.  She was the one who stripped my drains after surgery, nursed me after chemo, shaved my head when my hair started falling out, and administered my shots to help keep my blood cell levels high enough for treatment.  She truly was my biggest support system and I could not have survived without her.
What was your treatment like?
I underwent a radical mastectomy of my left breast and removal of necessary lymph nodes. That was followed by 8 rounds of chemotherapy, breast reconstruction and five years of oral Tamoxifen.  In late 2010, I chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy on my right breast with immediate breast reconstruction.
Are you in remission?
Yes, I will celebrate 12 years cancer-free on November 14, 2014, the date of my mastectomy.  I choose to celebrate this as my “pink anniversary” each year as a reminder of what I survived and in honor of those who have lost their brave battle.
What were the hardest days like?  And the best days?
I continued to work full time while undergoing chemo and that proved challenging when trying to keep my energy level high and attitude positive.  Some days were really difficult to motivate myself to get out of bed, put on a wig and go to work with a smile on my face. Fortunately, I had a wonderful support system at home and work that encouraged me through their love and faith.
What inspired you to fight daily?
I was inspired by my faith that God was in control and had a plan for my life.  I knew that what was meant to be would be and that if I survived it would be for a reason.  I believe that reason is to serve as an advocate for breast cancer and breast health awareness. Through my work in healthcare marketing or as a volunteer and consultant for the Central Mississippi Steel Magnolias Susan G. Komen Foundation, I have talked to countless women and men about the importance of knowing their risk factors, practicing their monthly SBE’s and scheduling a yearly mammogram.  Early detection is a key component to surviving this disease. If I had waited to have my lump checked out by a physician or until 40 to get a mammogram, I would not be alive today.  You must be your own health advocate because 1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer. If you are at high risk for breast cancer, tell your primary care physician and be aware of changes in your body.
What is the best thing about living and being treated in Mississippi?
Having wonderfully supportive physicians like Dr. Bill Gibson, Dr. Christina Dial, Dr. Tammy Young and Dr. Stephen Davidson was the best thing about being treated in Jackson.  They all took such amazing care of me and treated me as if I were family.  I also appreciated that I could receive quality health care in my home state and I didn’t have to travel to another cancer clinic out of state to receive the best care.
Do you have any advice for other women facing cancer? 
I have shared this poem with many women I know that have been facing a cancer diagnosis.  It was given to me by a friend and I find the words very inspiring.
Cancer is so limited.
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot erode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot conquer the spirit.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
Post cancer, I have been married to my husband Mack, an engineer, for six years.  Believing that we were unable to have children because of my cancer at such a young age, we were elated to find out that I was pregnant just three weeks after our honeymoon!  We are the very proud parents of a beautiful 5 year old little girl, Lily Frances, who attends kindergarten at St. Richard Catholic School.  I currently own McLaughlin Garner Group, an Advertising/Event Planning/Marketing/PR firm with my business partner, Shannon McLaughlin, and we specialize in creative solutions for small businesses, nonprofit organizations and professional associations.
Heather Moak's Story
Tell me about your diagnosis.  How was your cancer detected?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 3, 2013, at the age of 35  - with no family history. Two weeks prior, I awoke one morning and my right arm brushed the side of my chest and I felt an unusual lump.  It was tender because I was curious and I kept touching the spot just hoping it would go away, but it didn’t.  With a loving push from my husband and friend, I make the call.  Still believing it wouldn’t be anything, because in July of 2013 I had my yearly routine test and my OB sent me on my way with a clean bill of health.  I wasn’t scheduled for a mammogram until the next year when I turned 36. Well...cancer is fast and sneaky!!

I made the call and they scheduled me to see the nurse practitioner that afternoon.  The nurse practitioner also felt the lump so she sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound.  I walked over to Woman’s hospital and had my first mammogram.  The doctor’s office called me the next day and said the radiologist confirmed the mass and I needed a biopsy by a breast surgeon. What?  A breast surgeon. Within a day, I was in the office of Dr. Christina Dial for my biopsy. She was a book of knowledge, but also compassionate.  She genuinely cared for me.  Right away, she explained my mammography films and what we were looking at.   She was confident, 90% sure it was cancer, but she would need to biopsy the lump to know which type of caner.  I was informed there are more than 15 different types of breast cancer.  Who knew!  Two days later she called with my results and was ready to meet with my family so she could provide us with all the information we needed to know about my cancer. 
What was your treatment like?
I had a CT, MRI, Bone scan and met with a plastic surgeon.  Cancer doesn’t wait on you, you have to take control and move fast!  My scans were all clear and my cancer had not metastasized to any other area in my body! Praise Jesus!!  I quickly make the decision to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction on October 25, 2013. 

After surgery, we learned I had 5 lymph nodes positive so this bumped me to stage 3a cancer, but we also learned I have triple negative breast cancer, like Joan Lunden, the former co-host of Good Morning America.  I learned Ninety percent of all breast cancer is estrogen positive.  The cancer is fed from estrogen, but that was not the case with mine.  Triple negative breast cancer means the growth of cancer is not supported by the hormones estrogen and progesterone and it does not respond to hormone therapy drugs. The cancer I had does respond well to chemotherapy.
How did you prepare for chemotherapy?
Before I would see my oncologist to begin my treatment plan, I just rested, healed and prayed a lot.  For months, friends delivered meals, sent flowers, mailed encouraging letters, prayed for me, watched my children and cleaned my house.  God just provided in every way imaginable!  He took a bad disease and made it good. He gave me a peace and a strength that was not possible in my earthly 'take charge, be in control, worrying about everything self!'  I had to let go and give it to Him.
After four weeks of resting and healing, I met with my oncologist to get a plan to be cancer free.  The first visit to Jackson Oncology was hard and sad.  When I was waiting to see Dr. Young, I was the youngest person in the waiting room.  Everybody looked sick and was bald.  How could I be sitting in this room waiting on my treatment plan!  I just wanted to be home waiting on my youngest son (3) to get up from his nap and my oldest (7) to get off the bus, but I was sitting in an office waiting to find out which chemotherapy drugs I would take.  My family was my reason to fight, so I had to quickly snap out of it and focus on getting well.  I got my plan that day.  I was scheduled to receive a chemo port and then after Thanksgiving, I would begin 8 rounds of chemotherapy with radiation therapy to follow (you have radiation if you have 4 or more lymph nodes positive and I had 5).  I started chemotherapy in December of 2013, and my last round was in March of 2014.  I started radiation right after chemo in April of 2014, and finished in June of 2014.  Radiation was a breeze compared to everything else.  Dr. Balfour and his staff at St. Dominic were so personable. They become like family when you see them everyday for 35 days.
Are you in remission?

Since then, I’ve had a PET scan, CT scan, Bone Scan and there is no disease present in my body!! My oncologist will continue with routine testing every 3 and 6 months for five years.  I just finished my reconstructive surgery with Dr. Song.  I have the best team of doctors.  Mississippi doctors genuinely care for their patients and it’s important to feel cared for when going through treatment.
What advice do you have for other women facing a similar battle?

For others facing cancer, do not wait to start loving God, loving others and loving life!  Every day is a spiritual battle with or without a disease living in your body so put on your spiritual armor and be prepared for whatever life gives you. The enemy tried to tell me, this disease would overcome me and my children would not have a mother, but fear is not from God and Satan will do everything he can to make you fearful of this disease. Your best defense is to pray, pray, and pray some more!!!  I would pray many things, but I would always pray, God, your Kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven and in Heaven there is no sickness and no disease so bring it here to me and He did!!  I’m a SURVIVOR!!
Thank you Emily & Heather for sharing your stories!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters
Followell Fotography has been widely recognized for their beautiful, poignant photographs.  The husband and wife team behind the award-winning business is even more impressive.  Jessica and Robby Followell met and fell in love at Mississippi College.  Robby started Followell Fotography in 2007, and the two were married in 2008.  Four years later, Jessica left her position as a teacher and joined Robby as his studio manager. 
In August 2011, Jessica and Robby welcomed a precious baby girl named Meg.  They were completely enthralled.  “Meg was a great baby and slept like a champ.  She had such a sweet and happy nature,” marvels Robby.  When Meg turned five months old, their world was unexpectedly shaken.  “We saw a trailer for a documentary called it’s a girl.  The film follows families in India and China who despite repeated pregnancies, continue to abandon or abort a child because of her gender,” says Robbie.  “Shockingly, it grabbed us.”
Gazing lovingly into Meg’s eyes, they couldn’t imagine not wanting their precious baby girl.  Jessica and Robby took a deep breath and a step back, but adoption began tugging at their hearts.  “We were talking about building a family, and we began studying the orphan and the widow at church.  It happened all at once; it seemed like the Lord was gearing us toward adoption.  We began taking steps of obedience.”
Robby and Jessica prayerfully filled out an application for international adoption.  “It was the right timing and we decided to choose India.  We felt like it was placed in our laps,” says Jessica.  In January 2012, they were officially applied to adopt, and even visited India on a mission trip with their church.  Almost two years and a mountain of paperwork later, they received thrilling news.  In February 2014 they were matched with a baby girl named Kaveri.  Once she is welcomed warmly into their home, Robby and Jessica have chosen to name her Eden. 
Jessica and Robby will travel to Calcutta in December to finally make Meg a big sister, and bring Eden home to Mississippi.  Adoption can be a very expensive process, but the Followell family has experienced an overwhelming outpouring of love and financial support.  Robby says, “So many people admit their first excuse to not adopt is the expense – we just were complete examples of the fact that it’s a silly excuse.  Adoption almost surprisingly tugs at people’s hearts in a way that you wouldn’t expect.  People become so engaged in the thought of completing a family – with a child that is unwanted.”
To learn more about Robby and Jessica’s incredible faith and their journey toward adoption, look for their story in Inspiration Mississippi Magazine, which will be available on 12.13.14!
If you are considering adoption, check out Jessica and Robby’s thoughts and advice on the process: 

1) “We are strong believers in Christianity and the Bible, and the Bible has some clear direction to believers that we should tend to the interest of orphans.  It is humanity’s responsibility to care for the less fortunate.  We feel like there is a responsibility on all people – not the calling to adopt necessarily, but to be involved in some way!  The need to help orphans is great in the world.” 
2) “If you ever wanted to better understand the power of community, and the value that living in a community of people can provide, then walk through the journey of adoption.  There has been this incredible outpouring.  It has solidified our love for Clinton and Jackson.  Even the photography community has carried this burden and walked it with us.  Be involved and expect to be amazed by the process of adoption.”
3) “Don’t be scared.  Everyone’s story is different, but there is some form of heartache.  There can be a lot of disappointment and a lot of waiting.  It truly teaches you endurance.”
4) “Special needs children can also be a deterrent.  It was for us [because Eden has special needs].  We were scared of those words.  We thought we couldn’t handle a child with special needs, or that we would have to give too much up.  However, my heart has completely changed when I hear those words.  Do not to be scared of the unknown – special needs or children you think you couldn’t care for… because you can.”
5) “Try to connect with other people who have adopted, or are adopting.  Just to have someone walk alongside of you.”  Robby and Jessica are not adopting Eden through 200 Million Flowers, but they recommend them as a wonderful resource for families considering adoption. 
We look forward to sharing more of the Followell family’s story in Inspiration Mississippi Magazine!  We will also feature incredible photos from their trip to India and an update with the family of four when Eden is happily settled into life in Mississippi. Thank you, Robby and Jessica, for loving this precious child and for sharing your story!
{Thank you to the Followells for sharing their story & photos!}
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}

The homeless community in downtown Jackson is facing a devastating loss. Due to a decrease of $190,000 in federal and local grants, Stewpot Community Services must close the Brumfield Shelter for Men and Matt’s House for Women and Children.  This unfortunate news carries a heavy burden:  a 75% decrease in beds for homeless men and a 100% loss of emergency shelter beds for women and children.
In 1981, seven churches across many denominations came together to discuss a problem – feeding and caring for the growing homeless community in downtown Jackson.  Calvary Baptist, Capitol Street Methodist, Central Presbyterian, Galloway United Methodist, St. Andrew’s Episcopal, St. Peter’s Catholic and St. James Episcopal lovingly formed Stewpot Community Services. 
Stewpot’s mission is to provide clothing, shelter, and warm meals to children, the elderly, the disabled, and impoverished persons in the Jackson area.   With their motto, “Faith Meeting Needs in our Community,” Stewpot acknowledges that every person is a child of God, and provides them with nurturing care.   
In 1987, the Billy Brumfield House was opened as a shelter for men, named after a homeless man who died of hypothermia while sleeping in an abandoned car.  The Billy Brumfield House is located in an old fire station and welcomes up to fifty men nightly.  The Shelter operates a homeless program, a drug-work transitional program and a special needs program. 
In 1992, Matt’s House was formed after Stewpot realized an important need for an emergency shelter for women and children.  Matt’s House is located near Millsaps College, and currently houses up to 30 women and children every single night. 
Unfortunately, Jackson is losing these incredible sanctuaries on November 15th. Funding is needed!  Stewpot has also been forced to borrow money in order to pay employees, and needs over $60,000 to quickly pay off their loan. 
Stewpot has touched countless lives, changing the hearts of those who have served and those who have received.  Mississippi, let’s come together to support this extraordinary non-profit organization. If you would like to donate to Stewpot, please click here.   Without these shelters, the homeless community is losing two great homes filled with hope, encouragement and love. 
If you are in the Jackson area tomorrow, October 25th, please support all of Stewpot's incredible ministries at the Red Beans & Rice Celebration!  From 11:00am to 4:00pm, bring your friends and family to the Mississippi Braves Stadium and enjoy amazing food, great fellowship, and child-friendly entertainment including balloons, bounce houses, and face painting!  Local vendors will also be selling beautiful crafts.  What a wonderful way to celebrate a gorgeous Saturday and support Stewpot!  For more information, click here.
{Photos courtesy of Stewpot}
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}

{Bride}  Summer Leigh Vander Boegh: Paducah, Kentucky
{Groom} Joseph Donald Pegram:  born in Oxford, MS but grew up in Memphis, TN
{Wedding site} Oxford-University United Methodist Church in Oxford, MS
{Reception site}  The Lyric on the historical Square
{Flowers}  Oxford Floral
{How did the two of you meet?}
Joe and I were set up through mutual friends in Oxford about 5
years ago. We like to count our time together by the football seasons,
so we are on our 5th football season (haha)
{What is your proposal story?}
It was actually Joe's birthday, Dec. 14, 2012, and we were going
to the University Club to meet Joe's parents for a pre-dinner
cocktail, at least that was what I thought we were doing...  We walked
to the club and couldn't find his parents and Joe suggested that we
walk up to the rooftop to see if they might have gone up there
instead. I followed behind Joe and as we rounded the corner to the
rooftop I noticed the gazebo was all lit with beautiful white lights
and there was a stunning flower arrangement in the middle.  I told Joe
that I didn't think his parents were up here and we should go back
downstairs to the other bar.  I was scared that we were going to ruin
someone's surprise....  Joe kept trying to get me over to the gazebo
just to take a peek and I wouldn't get too close.  So he dropped to
his knee and said " All I ever wanted for my birthday is you.  Will
you marry me?"   I, of course, was thinking he was kidding and playing
a prank on me, because Joe is known for his shenanigans.   But then he
pulled out that iconic black, velvet ring box, and I knew that this
was the real deal.  I said yes!   Finally, we walked over to the
gazebo where there was a white clothed table with beautiful flowers
and candles, and pictures of us from all of our trips.  There was a
sweet poem that Joe had written me, and at the end it read " will you
be my wife?"   The original plan was for me to read the letter and he
would get on one knee with the ring.   But that obviously didn't
happen! ha.   We popped the champagne and enjoyed the Christmas lights
on Square from the rooftop. Then, we called our family and they all
ran to meet us.  Joe even had my parents and little sister in town,
from KY,  to celebrate with us.  It truly was amazing.
{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?}
I never thought that I would have a winter wedding. I always
pictured a spring wedding.  But when we got engaged in December, I
started thinking and feeling differently. We love that time of year,
especially in Oxford.  The Square is even more stunning, with all the
buildings with christmas lights and wreaths hanging from the light
poles.  I quickly fell in love with having a classic winter wedding
and it had to be in Oxford.
{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?}
I really love a clean, crisp, look.  So, having just a classic
white and black wedding in the winter was just what we wanted.
{How did you pick “the dress?”}
It actually was pretty simple... of course it wasn't anything that
I was picturing I would wear.  My mom, my MOH, and I went to Low's
Bridal in Arkansas. And it literally was the first dress that I saw,
and as cheesy as this sounds, it truly was love at first sight.  My
mom was shocked because it was everything I didn't want.  Fully
beaded/ embellished and laced.... but it was so perfect, especially
for a Decemeber wedding.
{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?}
My favorite unique and slightly strange accessory, had to be my
"something old and something blue".  At the bridal breakfast my sister
gave me my something blue....  I opened the box, and it was a small
squared piece of fabric.  The fabric was cut from my  baby blanket, and
I should say baby blanket very lightly, because I slept with that
blanket for a lot longer than I probably should of have. So, when I
saw it we had a good laugh, and the fabric was patched into my
garter....  So I could have it close to me one last time to comfort
{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?}
Our favorite part was the food and cake.  Joe actually came to
these meetings and we had a lot of fun!  We absolutely love love food,
so no picky eaters in this party of two.  It actually was a little
challenging because we really loved everything they offered us. So
narrowing it down was hard.  But it was a great experience to work
with such creative and clever people.
{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding

One of my favorite moments from my wedding actually started at the
rehearsal dinner. My husbands family really made sure that we kicked
off the celebration right.  I loved sitting in Joe's Grandmother's chairs,
which were reupholstered in beautiful ivory velvet (Joe's grandmother
passed away before I met Joe but this was a special way for us to have her close to us) and listening to all our close
family and friends toast to us. And the icing on the cake that night,
was that Joe surprised me with a stunning diamond cuff to wear on our
wedding day. He actually added to my something new.
{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?}
My favorite moment of the wedding had to be surprising Joe with the
King Kobraz singing "Feed Moncrief"... and seeing the personalized pom
poms fall from the balcony. It was just perfect. Joe's face was
priceless and how crazy pumped he was that amazing.   I literally was
about to bust with excitement knowing about Joe's surprise! Loved it.
{Photographer} Scott Burton
{Event Planning Services} Ferriday McClatchy
{Cordinators} Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis & Angela Manley
{Hair} Marie Moore with Alice and Co.
{Make-up} Callie Moser with Zoe
{Bridesmaid Dresses} Watters/Wtoo from Low's Bridal
{Tuxes} Jos Banks
{Videographer} Christian and Lisa Harrison with Frameblender Films
{Floral Design} David with Oxford Floral
{Catering}  Elizabeth Heiskell Catering
{Bar} Lyric
{Band} DMP Band with RAM entertainment
{Cake Design} Cory Lewis 
{Print Material} Kara Giles with the Nest

King Edward Hotel


Just ten years ago, one of Mississippi’s cherished landmarks haunted a dark street corner of downtown Jackson.  Vacant for over 40 years, the demolished structure housed vagrants and pigeons, with not even a whisper of what an extraordinary hotel it once was.  Before its demise, the building was a symbol of Jackson downtown’s renaissance, welcoming politicians and socialites with its grandeur, charm and Southern hospitality. 
The original hotel, The Confederate House, was built in 1861.  After being destroyed during the Civil War in 1863, it was rebuilt and renamed the Edwards House, becoming a prominent center of Jackson politics for some 40 years.  Governor Edmond Noel briefly lived there while his Mansion was undergoing renovations, and a banquet was held in 1909 in honor of President Taft. 
In 1923, a stately 12-story brick hotel was built in its place, designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style by William Nolan of New Orleans.  This impressive new structure was named the Edwards Hotel, boasting a magnificent lobby with six large columns set along the perimeter of an oval light well, skylights inviting in a pool of warm sun, and a luxurious marble staircase.  In 1954, the hotel was purchased, modernized and renamed the King Edward Hotel.  It continued hosting prominent events, balls, dinners and meetings.  But in 1967, its glorious reign abruptly ended, leaving the hotel towering cowardly at the edge of downtown Jackson.
Allison Peppers, now the Food and Bar Manager at the King Edward, moved to Jackson in 2002 and remembers exploring downtown Jackson in her convertible.  “I pulled up next to the vacant hotel and thought, how did this happen?   This could be something so beautiful.” 
Thankfully, a former New Orleans Saints running back teamed with Historic Restoration Inc. of New Orleans to restore the King Edward to its former splendor.  Deuce McAllister saw potential beneath the rotting exterior, and completed a $90 million renovation.  In December 2009, the historic hotel reopened its impressive doors as the Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown. 
Dixie Krauss, Senior Catering Manager says much of the hotel’s architecture remains.  “They basically gutted the building and kept the structure.  The lobby has all of its original flooring and columns, as well as the beautiful crown molding.” The building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and named a Mississippi Landmark in 1990, has become a modern destination. 
The hotel boasts 186 impressive rooms and four floors of luxury apartments.  The King Edward Bar has also become a downtown hot spot for both locals and guests.  Allison Peppers says, “We have a daily intermission from 4-6pm.  We want to close out the day with everyone and bring in downtown businesses after work.  We have drink specials, but most importantly, we are really focused on what Mississippi has to offer.”  Mississippi has seven craft beer breweries in the state and the bar represents all seven, selling at least one beer from each brewery.  Every tap runs Mississippi beer, and drinks are created with Mississippi-made Cathead Vodka and Bristow Gin.  “It’s about bringing people from out of town and showing them what we have.  People fought to get the King Edward built and wanted to see it revived.  When I first saw it, I could not believe the transformation from 2002!  We want to give back and focus on what Mississippi has given us.”
The historic hotel also provides a stunning backdrop for weddings and events.  Guests regularly catch a glimpse of a radiant bride being photographed on the grand staircase, which was created to match the original marble floor of the lobby.
The renovation of the hotel was one of the first steps in revitalizing Jackson’s downtown, and it continues to lure crowds.  Dixie says confidently, “In 10 years from now, everything will be just as glamorous as it was.  It is so timeless and gorgeous.  The ambiance is never going to change.”
For more information on the Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown, please visitor their website here.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}

Whether you prefer ringing a cowbell in the historic Davis Wade Stadium or sipping a toddy in the Grove, it is a great time to be a football fan in Mississippi.  With seven weeks down and seven to go in the regular season, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are dominating the polls.  So who is it going to be…the Bulldogs or the Rebels?
Both teams have been in the national spotlight, being featured by ESPN’s College GameDay over back-to-back weeks.  Ole Miss and State were also featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine, with State gracing a second cover the following week.  All eyes are on Mississippi.
It couldn’t be a better time to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.  As Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com said after the Auburn game last weekend, “Davis Wade Stadium is the loudest stadium in the country…my ears are still ringing from Saturday.”  Bulldog fans are enthusiastically cheering on their talented team during an incredible season.
Dak Prescott has emerged not only as the leader of his team, but also as a role model.  Prescott’s beloved mother passed away less than a year ago from cancer.  With football as his refuge, Prescott attributes his teammates with lifting him out a difficult time.  The impressive player is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, and continues to astonish fans every Saturday.  Brady Quinn of foxsports.com says, “Prescott is playing like the best player in college football.  He is the driving force of the Mississippi State offense and carrying his undefeated team…it appears Dak is now the favorite for the Heisman.” 
The Rebels are equally remarkable.  “Ole Miss might have had the most impressive win of Week 7 by going to College Station and dominating the Aggies…Ole Miss’ defense is ridiculously good.  I would not be surprised if the Rebels move up to my No. 1 seed soon,” boasts Stewart Mandel of foxsports.com
Bo Wallace, a quality quarterback, now has a quality team surrounding him, thanks to great recruiting by Coach Freeze.  ESPN.com has called Wallace the “most accurate passer” in college football.
Ole Miss and State could remain two of the top teams in the country.  Regardless of what happens between now and November 29th, this is set to be the most anticipated Egg Bowl in history.   The rivalry is the tenth longest uninterrupted in the United States, with the two teams going head-to-head since 1901.  This year’s Egg Bowl carries playoff and SEC Championship implications.   All eyes will also be on Prescott as a potential Heisman Trophy winner.  Mississippi is experiencing an unprecedented year of success with college football, and we are proud to celebrate and cheer for these two great teams representing the Magnolia State. 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
This Friday evening, as a hush grows over the dark grounds of Rosalie Mansion, a stately antebellum home overlooking the Mississippi River, children and their parents will anxiously await the kick-off of The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.  Suddenly, a loud voice will shout, “1…2…3…GLOW!” while 30-40 hot air balloons hit their burners simultaneously.  The soft glow of colorful balloons will beautifully light the skies over Natchez. 
Held in downtown Natchez, the 29th annual Balloon Race is a wonderful, family-friendly event to enjoy all weekend.  From sunrise flights to fireworks and live music, the festival is filled with three magical days you will not want to miss.  Here are a few highlights:
Friday, October 17th
As you head to work in the morning in Natchez, be sure to look up!  The sky will be painted with hot air balloons, taking flight with local media stations and reporters.  At 7:00pm, Rosalie Mansion opens its gates, and will be a particularly wonderful evening for children.  After the spectacular balloon glow, brilliant fireworks will erupt over the Great Mississippi.  Once the show is complete, Ben Lewis & Co. will hit the stage while families dance the night away.
Saturday, October 18th
Another early balloon flight begins at 7:30am.  You can be anywhere in the city and have an excellent view of the floating colors in the sky.  Throughout the afternoon on the grounds of Rosalie, bands will play every few hours, and the balloons actually fly right over the festival around 4:30pm.  Rachel Price Lott, who serves on the Publicity Committee of the Race, says, “Flock to the festival sight in the afternoon, because you are guaranteed to see a balloon!  They are everywhere – it is almost surreal.  Then Irma Thomas, The Revivalists and Soul Asylum will treat the crowds to fantastic music.” 
Sunday, October 19th
The last competitive flight soars over Natchez early in the morning.  The gates of Rosalie open at noon, and country acts will perform throughout the day, including hits by Hannah Belle and Josh Thompson.
Over the weekend, a children’s carnival will be open adjacent to the balloon races, as well as an impressive assortment of local cuisine.  Rachel says, “Every type of regional food you could absolutely imagine is served.  All of the food is amazing!  Of course, we have your basic cotton candy and funnel cakes, but the rest of the restaurants serve ridiculously good food.”  Also, for those who prefer to stay glued to the football games all weekend, there is a Sports Bar Tent complete with flat screen TVs, showing college football on Saturday, and the Saints game on Sunday!  

Rachel says, “The Balloon Race is such a fun time.  We try to think of everything and make it a great event for all ages.  We are praying for beautiful weather and hoping for a wonderful, memorable weekend!” 
For information on tickets and pricing for The Great Mississippi Balloon Race, please click here.  To view a full event calendar, please visit here!
If you are looking for a lovely room in Natchez, we recommend the luxurious Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens.  But hurry, only a few rooms are still available this weekend!  Even if you are not staying overnight, you can dine in Restaurant 1818, where guests are treated to a feast of delicious fare, beneath glittering chandeliers and wall sconces, created by the Waterford Crystal artisans in Ireland.  Restaurant 1818 boasts a talented new chef, who will be featuring amazing dishes with everything from fresh Gulf fish to delectable vegetarian plates.  We hope you enjoy this unique Antebellum dining experience.  For more information on Monmouth Historic Inn, please visit their website here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Tamisha Thomas has created the perfect fitness studio in Jackson.  After giving birth several years ago, Tamisha was frustrated with the excess pounds weighing her down.  She tried working out in gyms, but the monotony of the machines and intimidation factor pushed her away.  Discouraged and still searching, she stumbled upon a strengthening pole class.  Tamisha was hooked.  She began taking barre, yoga, Pilates and TRX Suspension classes and fell completely in love.  Her body was changing dramatically and so was her attitude.  Today, a beautiful Tamisha simply glows with kindness, and you can’t help but notice her incredibly fit physique.
Though she was seeing results with all of the unique classes, there was a minor problem.   She couldn’t find a studio that offered all of these extraordinary classes in one location!  Tamisha says, “I wondered how many other women were feeling the way I was.  So, I decided to create something exciting, vibrant and new. ”
Tamisha opened Epic, a dance and fitness studio that offers all of the most creative and effective workouts.  With her motto, “enter as strangers, leave as friends,” Tamisha has designed a comfortable environment with no intimidation.  Studio walls are accented with a bright, cheerful pink, and each guest is treated to a personal training experience in a completely relaxed setting.  
Tamisha’s staff is equally impressive.  With each boasting CPR and training certifications, Tamisha’s teachers “are instructed to do three things: keep God first, offer impeccable customer service, and make sure our guests have the time of their lives.”
Aside from their wonderful roster of weekly classes, Tamisha has built a calendar with the busy mom or dad in mind.  Epic brilliantly offers late-afternoon traditional children’s dance classes (such as ballet or jazz) in one studio, while parents enjoy a Zumba or Epic Power Hour Class next door.  Children and their parents leave with strengthened bodies and refreshed minds.  Their newest class, Parent and Child Creative Movement, takes place Sundays after church, and is the perfect opportunity for a parent and their small child to take dance lessons and most importantly, bond.  Moms can also swing by the studio for Lunch Break with Epic, and experience a great hour-long workout before picking children up from school.  Tamisha wants parents to feel comfortable, get a great workout, and relieve stress while working out with Epic.
Check out Epic’s inspiring and unparalleled list of classes:
    Epic Power Hour – This is a low impact workout utilizing light to medium weights.  Each muscle group is worked
    then stretched to not only strengthen, but also lengthen the muscles.  The result?  Longer, leaner legs, firm thighs and
    seat, stronger abs, a defined upper body and a boosted metabolism!

    TRX Suspension – The TRX Suspension Trainer is the original workout system that leverages gravity and your body                weight to perform countless exercises.  You are in control of how much you want to challenge yourself in each                    exercise!  TRX helps build a rock-solid core.

    Kangoo Jump – This high-energy, fun class runs 45 minutes and impressively burns 20 calories per minute!  Kangoo            reduces up to 80% impact on your joints, and is recommended by doctors and physical therapists for safe                           rehabilitation of sports injuries.   This class is offered for both adults and children.

    Barre – a 55-minute full-body workout that targets hips, thighs, seat, abs and arms.  This class is low impact and                extremely effective!
Click here to view a full listing of Epic classes.
Epic classes are conveniently small and guests are seeing tremendous results.  Even new friendships are being made.  Tamisha laughs, “By the end of our first class, women were laughing, talking and exchanging phone numbers!  We love seeing our guests get a great workout and leave feeling great.  That is the Epic Experience.” 
For more information on Epic Dance and Fitness, please click here or call Tamisha at 601.398.0137.  We hope you all visit Epic to enjoy a class, and have a very happy Columbus Day!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Photography by Caitlyn Sullivan}

I was recently perusing the floral section of a Whole Foods in Birmingham, AL, and became enthralled with the beauty of a delicate, vibrantly colored flower crown.  I noticed that the piece was handmade in Dennis, MS, at the Happy Trails Flower Farm.  With my curiosity brewing, I reached out to the Farm’s delightful owner, Tanis Clifton, to learn more about her business and of course, those exquisite flowers.    
With just four years in the commercial flower business, Happy Trails Flower Farm is quickly becoming known for their gorgeous, organically grown flowers.  Tanis laughs, “Our Business just kind of evolved.  I’ve always gardened…my parents always gardened…it’s in the blood, I guess!  We had an opportunity to get a large greenhouse and we started thinking, ‘what in the world are we going to do with this?’”
Tanis and her husband, Rick, traveled to a workshop in Crystal Springs, featuring lectures on vegetable, fruit, and flower production.  During the flower production talk, Rick briefly stepped out to his truck.  Upon returning, he was greeted by an enthusiastic Tanis who declared, “I know what we are doing – flowers!”
Tanis and Rick began cleverly growing lilies in December, knowing they would be in full bloom just in time for mother’s day.  The demand for their flowers grew, so Tanis and Rick added more flowers to their list and expanded their business.  They currently sell to several florists in the Tupelo area, as well as Whole Foods in Birmingham.  They even sell at the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market in Birmingham on the weekends.
As for those gorgeous crowns that caught my eye?  Tanis recently read an article about a woman in New York City who was making similar crowns.  “I decided to try it for fun one morning at Pepper Place in Birmingham.  I placed one on my head, and several young people said, ‘you should sell those!’  We were so inspired and business for the crowns began growing!” 
Tanis grows Straw flowers that already have a dry texture and rich colors.  She calls them the “everlasting flower” because they always remain fresh and bright.  She happily admits the crowns continue to be a hit.  “Mostly young girls comment on the crowns.  Their eyes immediately light up!  We always let them try one on, and they feel like a little girl again.  It is so much fun and such a feel-good thing for them!”
Though she admits that owning a small local business has it challenges (over 80% of the flowers in the USA are imported from foreign countries), she and Rick believe their business is very rewarding.  Tanis has become the regional director of the southeast region for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, a wonderful networking organization for local flower businesses. 
Tanis’s positivity is infectious, and her flowers simply dazzling.  Check out the Happy Trails Flower Farm’s Facebook page here, or view their website here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{All photos courtesy of Happy Trails Flower Farm}