Fishing rodeo goes on despite rainy weather

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Even though the first weekend of June wasn’t met with the most ideal weather, that did not stop local fishers from coming out to the Ocean Springs Marine Mart Fishing Rodeo.

The two-day tournament ran Saturday and Sunday, and fishing began first thing Saturday morning.

“We have two different divisions for this tournament,” said Kenny Deniro, tournament director.” We have the offshore division, which involves Cobia and Red Snapper. The in-shore division has Red Fish, Speckled Trout, Flounder and Blackfish.”

The event wasn’t exclusive to competitors, as there was also live music, food and drink offered for anyone just wanting to see the fish and feel like part of the community.

“This is a good economic driver and an old-fashioned way of getting the community together,” said Jim Franks. Franks works at the Gulf Coast Research Lab with the University of Southern Mississippi and served as the Weigh Master at the tournament. “Everyone is interested in fish, so this is good all around for Jackson County.” Franks has served as weigh master for similar events for 30 years.

Winners, announced Sunday evening, were Tomas Pojer for Cobia, Jerry Plaskett for Red Snapper, Todd Lipps Jr. for Black Fish, Donnie Bosarge for Speckled Trout, Jeffery Waltman for Red Fish, and Aaron Chu for Flounder. 

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Ocean Springs holds annual Red, White & Blueberry Festival

June is the beginning of blueberry season, so there is no better way to spend the first Saturday in June than to enjoy the annual Red, White & Blueberry Festival in downtown Ocean Springs.

“We have it every June here in downtown, and what it is, we partner with the Ocean Springs Fresh Market,” said Cynthia Sutton, executive director of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce. “They beef up the vendors. We have blueberry growers, we have blueberry lemonade out here. We have all kinds of other good stuff. Then, courtesy of the Chamber, we give away free vanilla ice cream topped with blueberries from the vendors and strawberries. In addition to all of that, we have some cooking demonstrations out and here and some talks from the master gardeners, so it’s a fun day.”

Mixed amongst the usual Fresh Market vendors selling local produce, baked goods, and homemade crafts were tents specializing in blueberry treats, from fresh fruit to blueberry lemonade, a drink that was a welcome refreshment to the afternoon humidity caused by the morning showers. While it did rain during the festival, that did not seem to scare away any customers.

“The rain hasn’t kept anybody away,” Sutton said. “It has been amazing. I can’t tell you how many cups of ice cream we’ve given out so far, but the line has gone halfway through the fresh market, so it’s been a great turn out.”

During the festival, a shower did make an appearance, but that did not drive customers away. Knowing South Mississippi weather, some attendees took shelter from the rain under the train depot awning, choosing to wait 10 minutes for the sun to come back out. Some visitors simply pulled out their umbrellas, and others just walked through the rain completely unfazed and determined to get some good deals on some local goods. A few children even took the opportunity to splash in some puddles.

Other blueberry offerings included jams, blueberry baked goods and even a blueberry-pepper jelly, unique yet deliciously sweet and spicy offering from The Grumpy Man out of Purvis.

Visitors of all ages, from retirees looking for a fun weekend event and ways to supplement their home gardens to new parents needing a chance to get out of the house and also expose their young children to healthy eating at an early age, took the opportunity for experience this annual event as welcome to the summer season and get them exploring downtown Ocean Springs.

For anyone that might have missed the Red, White & Blueberry Festival, the Fresh Market will continue in Ocean Springs every Saturday, and with blueberry season still in its infancy, there is sure to be no shortage of blueberry offerings in the weeks to come.

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Moss Point holds inaugural farmers market

The River City has a new option for local produce. Saturday, June 3 saw the grand opening of the Riverfront Farmers Market. 

Located downtown along the Escatawpa River, residents and vendors spent a wet Saturday morning shopping for fruits, vegetables, plants, baked goods and homemade soaps

“Moss Point is a wonderful little city that’s got a lot going for it, but there are some things the city wants changed,” said Felicia Yearwood, the city’s grant writer. “People were really excited about the idea of a farmers market to support our local industry, our local farmers, make sure they are successful selling their produce here. It is also giving us an opportunity to have fresh local food that’s grown here in Mississippi. It isn’t shipped in from California or flown in from Brazil. It just recently came out of the ground yesterday. It’s fresh and good for you and at a good price, so people really do appreciate it.”

The farmers market was made possible thanks to a partnership between the Moss Point Parks and Recreation Department and the Healthy Hometown Committee.

“The Healthy Hometown Committee has been very active in promoting healthy eating in terms of improving the quality of items that we have in our city vending machines, encouraging people to grow their own gardens for their families,” Yearwood explained. “We’re looking into possibly having a community garden in the future.”

Committee member Peter Blank was very excited to describe some of the projects the group has been involved in.

“This committee is involved in getting more bike paths and sidewalks for the city,” he explained. “This farmers market is a way to get the community more environmentally conscious and more health conscious, promoting local food and healthy eating, supporting local farmers and cooking at home, which is good for your health.”

Even the though the clouds hung heavy Saturday morning, the weather did not deter visitors from this new farmers market.

“When we started out at 7 o’clock this morning, it was raining and people still came out,” Yearwood said. “We had people shopping with their umbrellas, and as the sun came out we’ve had more people show up. We’ve had people coming steadily through the whole morning.”

By 9:30 a.m., Blank said there were close to 100 visitors to the farmers market.

For anyone who may have missed the grand opening, the good news is farmers market is planned to be a permanent feature to Saturday mornings in Moss Point.

“The time is set right now from 7-11 a.m., but that can change depending on the feedback we get from our vendors and customers,” Yearwood said, “but definitely every Saturday of the year, rain or shine.”

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Mary C. to host ‘Old-Fashioned Political Rally’

The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center will host a political rally for all Ocean Springs municipal candidates June 3, three days ahead of the June 6 general election.

“This event is planned to mirror an experience similar to the old-fashioned stump speeches similar to The Neshoba County Fair,” said Stacy Howell, executive director of the Mary C.

This event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Mary C. While the original plan was to have a fish fry with plates for sale for $10, the expected inclement weather has changed plans.

“Due to the weather, we have had to move it inside, and we are having pulled pork plates, as they are easier to work with,” Howell explained. 

There will also be live entertainment provided by The Tall Boys.

“It should be a lot of fun and a great afternoon to learn more about the candidates, while raising money for our beloved Mary C.,” said Vicki Applewhite, a member of the Mary C. O’Keefe board of directors and co-chairman of the event.

The event will run from 3-5 p.m. Candidates will each be given five minutes to “stump” for votes.

The event, billed as an “Old-Fashioned Political Rally & Fish Fry” will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the front lawn of the Mary C. During the event, candidates will each be given five minutes to “stump” for votes.

“The goal of this event is to raise funds for The Mary C. and to showcase all of the candidates to the community in a fun and positive way,” Howell said. “It brings us together as a community and it educates us on the issues of the day.”

 

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Ocean Springs woman works to end hunger in community

Hunger is a problem for Mississippians, with ore than 20 percent of residents do not have consistent access to nutritious food. 

Some people can’t afford food. Some people aren’t able to get to the store to purchase food. People facing food insecurities are grateful for places like The Lord Is My Help soup kitchen in downtown Ocean Springs, and its founder Kay Woods.

After working with the Peace Corps for three years, Woods was asked to assemble a group from many diversified occupations to create a project that would benefit local citizens in need as her final project.

“We had a lot of meetings to discuss what was needed, and we felt like the community needed a soup kitchen for the elderly and shut-ins and the homeless,” Woods explained. “At that time, fruit pickers went through town on their way to Florida with their whole families, so they also needed a place to eat while in town.”

In 1983, Woods brought together the first group of volunteers to establish The Lord Is My Help.

“Churches got involved and we had a local building donated to us to serve as the soup kitchen, ” Woods recalled. It was a definite need in the community. People on social security got so little that they couldn’t leave decently on what they received. Even in the early days, we served a lot more people than you could imagine.”

From the very beginning, The Lord Is My Help assisted many of those in need through multiple facets.

“We were only supposed to last three years because we got the building donated for temporary use,” Woods said. “The first day we opened we didn’t even have a stove. The local ladies brought crock pots full of food. That first day 20 people came for lunch, and we though that was a lot. Now we serve up to 250 meals a day. Through the years we also had a job bank through an employment agency in Biloxi to help find jobs for people. We also formed a clothing bank. St. Alphonsus Catholic Church donated the building for that, but it had to be torn down. It wasn’t restored because by that time the Salvation Army was established here. We used to be able to give gas money to help with travel but as more things came into place, we had to keep putting more effort into our pantry and soup kitchen. We used to actually help with doctor’s appointments, but we can’t do that anymore. We have too many people to feed now.”

With the volume of meals prepared daily by The Lord Is My Help, it may be heard to believe that out of everyone that puts in time with the organization, only people are actually paid for their work.

“We only have two paid employees, our cook and general manager,” Woods explained. “We pay them because they have to be there every day, and we have to count on them 100 percent. However, the rest of the organization is run by volunteers. We’ve never even paid the director. A lot of local churches donate money, but now we do have to pay rent and utilities on our building, so it takes a lot of money to keep everything running.”

A group of young adults in the community saw the need to financially assist The Lord Is My Help, so they came together to create Feed the Need.

“It’s made up people 18-38 years old that meet once a week all throughout the year just to plan one large event to raise money for our soup kitchen,” Woods said. ” They are their own group, but do have a liaison on our board. They are just young people that decided to help support us. In the first year they raised $8,000. Last year they raised $22,000, and we needed at that because expenses are so high, we do have collection jars in different businesses to help as well.”

Today, 30 years after Woods first established The Lord Is My Help, the overall goal of the organization has not waivered. 

“We just want to help people,” Woods said. “Besides feeding people through the soup kitchen or delivering meals, we also have an emergency pantry. It might help people who are on food stamps or a single woman with a large family. Many of the other facilities like ours are in Pascagoula, and that kind of commute can be difficult for some. We want to be here to help the community.”

For anyone in need, the doors to the soup kitchen open at 6a.m., offering cereal, donuts and coffee for breakfast. A hot lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Local shop a must-visit for Donut Day

The first Friday in June is annually observed as National Donut Day, and for residents of Jackson County, there is no better place for donuts than Tato-Nut Donut Shop.

Situated in a small yellow building on the corner of Government Street and Kotzum Avenue in downtown Ocean Springs is a business that has been open so long and become so iconic, it has practically reached landmark status. Today, Tato-Nut is lead by owners David and Theresa Mohler.

“My husband’s father [Robert] opened a donut shop back in 1960 called Spud Nut, ” Theresa recalled. “In the early 1970s that dissipated, so they kind of changed the recipe they had been working with and soon after opened Tato-Nut.”

Theresa has been involved with the business since 1988, and involved does not just simply mean as a co-owner.

“We are involved in every aspected of the business,” Theresa explained. “We mix every batch of dough, make all of the glaze and make all of the chocolate the goes on the donuts. We arrive every morning around 2 a.m. to get everything ready to open.”

While it may be a Jackson County original, Tato-Nut is becoming known far and wide throughout the Southeast, and even internationally.

“When we travel, like to Mobile, people know about Tato-Nut,” Theresa said. “We’ll be in Florida or we’ll be in some other place and people have heard of the shop. We actually went up to Ole Miss not too long ago to move our daughter in and people up there even knew about us. I think social media is kind of helping to spread the word. We’ll have people who are in the military that were stationed on the Gulf Coast for awhile and they got to visit and then they will be stationed in Japan and they still keep up with us on social media. We’ll put something and they will comment saying they wish they could get some donuts. People from out of town will come have a visit to our shop on their to-do list for their trip here.”

Being such a staple of the community is something the Mohlers do not take lightly.

“It’s a huge honor. It’s why we get up in the morning,” Theresa said. “We have become part of people’s traditions and, in a way, part of their families. It is a huge honor, but it is also a huge obligation to make sure we maintain that quality, so it is a double-edged sword.”

The Mohlers also make sure to give back to the community that has shown them so much appreciation through donations to the Ronald McDonald House as well as donating the day’s leftovers to the local soup kitchen The Lord is My Help, located just blocks away from the shop.

So what is behind the success of Tato-Nut? Some might say it’s the unique recipe for these particular donuts, but Theresa Mohler has a different idea.

“We do add potatoes to our donuts, but I like to say that they taste the love,” she said. “You taste that we had a hand in everything that goes out of our front door.”

In honor of National Donut Day, Tato-Nut will offer a free coffee with any purchase on June 2, 2017.

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Developers hold condominium groundbreaking

The groundbreaking for a new mixed-used development was held Thursday afternoon in Ocean Springs.

Inlet will be located between Bienville Boulevard and the Old For Bayou Coastal Preserve, and is planned to house 95 condominiums and roughly 18,000 square feet of space for commercial or community amenities.

“The location [of Inlet] offers a great proximity to the great school system Ocean Springs has, downtown, and the hospital,” said Walker Thrash, one of the lead developers of Inlet.

Plans include having 34 one-bedroom, 48 two-bedroom, and 13 three-bedroom units, offering options for everyone from the young single professional to the family creating a home.

“Nationally, condominiums are a growing trend, so it’s taken a little bit to reach the Southeast,” Thrash explained. “But condo developments are on the rise, so this will be a great addition to Ocean Springs.”

With attendees such as Mayor Connie Moran, numerous alderman and representatives from the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, it is clear there is a lot of excitement surrounding this new addition to Jackson County. 

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OSMS teacher receives national recognition

The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese has recognized an Ocean Springs Middle School teacher for her outstanding work in the classroom.

According to The Greyhound Echo, Erica Scott will officially receive the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award: Elementary Level from the AATSP during the organization’s awards banquet on July 8 in Chicago.

The elementary level of the award covers teachers who teach students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Ocean Springs Middle School Principal Adelle Register said Scott’s contributions to OSMS and its students highlight the reasons Scott was nominated for and received this award.

“Mrs. Scott has been asset to our foreign language department,” Register said. “She always maintains a positive attitude and demonstrates superb qualities in the classroom to engage and challenge her students.”

Scott, who just completed her first year at OSMS, has taught Spanish for a total of 11 years.  This past school year, Scott taught Introduction to Foreign Language and Spanish 1.  As part of the award application process, Scott wrote as to how she loved seeing the lightbulb moments occur with her students, which can make teaching the introductory levels of a foreign language so exciting.

“My favorite is the introductory level because I love seeing kids going from only speaking English to becoming an emergent Spanish speaker,” Scott said.

The AATSP promotes the study and teaching of the Spanish and Portuguese languages and their corresponding Hispanic, Luso-Brazilian and other related literatures and cultures at all levels of education. The AATSP encourages, supports and directs programs and research projects involving the exchange of pedagogical and scholarly information. Through extensive collaboration with educators, professionals, and institutions in other countries, the AATSP contributes to a better and deeper understanding between the United States and the Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking nations of the world.

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2017 hurricane season begins

Hurricane season begins June 1, and that means stocking up on supplies and being ready for anything that could happen. 

This year marks the 12 years since Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi, and as many learned that year, it only takes one storm to destroy everything. 

According to MEMA, the state is better prepared than ever to respond to a hurricane, but they advise Mississippians to take an active role in improving their ability to prepare for, survive and recover from the impacts of hurricanes by developing a family emergency plan, learning evacuation routes and assembling a three to five-day disaster supply kit.

Before a storm is even on the horizon, a lot of preparations need to be made. Checking homeowner’s insurance policies is a must, because they don’t always cover flooding. Talking with family members about an evacuation plan is helpful to make sure everyone is on the same page long before disaster strikes. 

The list of supplies to have for a disaster is long, but a few important things to have on hand are:

  • Batteries
  • Canned and non-perishable foods
  • Battery operated fans and flashlights
  • Clean water
  • Cash
  • Medicine
  • Copies of important documents

The Red Cross offers a more detailed list here.

Pet owners should also keep in mind extra steps that must be made in preparing for a hurricane. Not only should pets have extra food kept in the family’s emergency kit, but also make sure to ID your pet. Not only should the pet’s tag have a cell phone number, but the pet should also be microchipped to better ensure a safe return in case the tag is lost. 

When evacuating, pet owners should also make sure to have a safe place to go. Not all shelters or hotels will allow pets, so calling ahead to make sure pets are allowed is best. If you do decide to stay, bring all pets inside and make sure to keep areas safe for pets. More tips for specific pet safety during hurricanes can be found here.

As always, keep up with the weather through a weather radio to know exactly when a storm is imminent. 

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Annual fish fry to benefit local soup kitchen

The Lord is My Help is hosting its 4th annual Feed the Need Fish Fry on Sunday in downtown Ocean Springs. 

The Lord is My Help is a soup kitchen in Ocean Springs that feeds over 200 people a day and over 5,300 meals a month.

According to the organization’s website, Feed the Need began in the fall of 2013 when a group of concerned Ocean Springs citizens decided to band together and do a little something extra for the soup kitchen. The fundraising group decided to host a booth at the Peter Anderson Festival to sell T-shirts designed by local artist Chris Stebly and to raise awareness about the work done by The Lord Is My Help soup kitchen. The booth was so successful that the group decided to carry on and host a full fundraiser in the summer of 2014 titled Feed the Need.

This year’s Feed the Need will again be held at the Government Street Grocery on June 4 from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Each ticket includes entry to the event and one fish plate.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Paul Kirkland & Friends, Blackwater Brass, Cary Hudson, and Grayson Capps, Hadley & the Hillfire, Skoobie, & Bambi & the $2 Beers. In addition to the music, food, and fun we will also have T-shirts for sale, a silent auction, and a cornhole tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive a cornhole built and designed by Guice Woodworks.  

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and can be purchased at a number of local businesses including The Greenhouse on Porter, Hillyer House, The Government Street Grocery, The Office Bar and Lounge, Kwitzky’s Dugout, Paddles Up, The Office Bar and Lounge, Triple Threat Academy, and Eat Drink Love Catering.

For more information about The Lord is My Help, visit their website

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