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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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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LaPointe-Krebs house sees renovations

Click the gallery above to view larger.

One of Jackson County’s hidden gems is undergoing renovations so that it will stay around for generations to come.

Located in Pascagoula, the LaPointe-Krebs house is the oldest structure in Mississippi and the oldest confirmed building in the entire Mississippi Valley.

“We did a dendrochronological study through experts at the University of Southern Mississippi, and the center room dates back to 1757,” said Mack Wixon, Executive Director at the La-Pointe-Krebs Foundation. “Additions to the house were built in 1762 and more in the 1790s. This is also the only surviving tabby structure on the Gulf Coast.” Tabby structures are made with a unique type of concrete that used oyster shells.

“It’s a direct tie to colonial times and a focal point in Pascagoula and Jackson County,” Wixon added. “It’s also one of the most important archeological sites on the Gulf Coast. Evidence on the property has been found of Native Americans, which dates back roughly ten thousand years. The area is virtually unchanged since then, except for the more modern museum that was built in 1986 or so.”

All of these reasons mean that keeping the LaPointe-Krebs house standing is extremely important to the community.

“The house needed attention even before Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” Wixon said. “Restorations have been performed beginning in the 1950s, but now we are trying to address any and all problems the house might have. We finally got a concrete base on it. The west room had sunk down a foot and half, so we raised the entire left side of the house back to level. We’re trying to make sure another storm won’t take the house anytime soon.”

Now that structural improvements are complete, the next phase involves restoring the aesthetic aspects of the house.

“Next we want to address the room, walls, and aspects of the interior,” Wixon said.

While it took roughly a year for the structural renovations to be completed, further renovations are expected to take longer.

“We don’t really have a set date for completion because restoration projects like these can be very expensive,” Wixon explained. “We want to make sure we are doing everything to the best of our ability and using the latest technology, so money is a factor for this restoration. However, if I had to give a ballpark estimate, I would say we hope to have everything finished in two and a half years.”

Even during renovations, the museum is still open to visitors.

“People can visit Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.,” Wixon said.”The house has a real cultural significance that can’t be matched. It features amazing architectural techniques that haven’t been seen in hundreds of years. It’s a colonial gem.

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Teacher lays foundation for academic career

It seems like kindergarten used to just be nap time, the alphabet and chocolate milk. However, times have changed, and children are expected to know so much more, from computer skills to narrative writing. Considering for some children it is their first time in a classroom, it is a lot to learn in a year. This is where teachers like Margaret Young come in.

“I have been teaching kindergarten at Gautier Elementary School for 10 years now,” Young said. “Before that I taught 2nd grade for two years.”

As a kindergarten teacher, Margaret works to make her classroom a fun learning environment.

“I have tried to foster a family relationship in my classroom,” she explained. “We do a lot of talking and sharing of feelings and emotions and ideas. We do learning through music, movements and gestures to help the students remember the lessons. I have learning centers to incorporate art and games to make them want to learn.”

Making learning engaging for the students can make it easier for them to learn the more challenging coursework.

“The work is very rigorous now, so that’s why I try to make it fun,” Young said. “Now they are writing narratives and informational text by the end of the year. They know how to read data because they have to do that on the computer every day. It is more challenging now than in previous years. We in Mississippi were falling behind in education in the nation, but now we have some of the most rigorous standards so we can catch up. It’s a lot of work, and there are tears from the kids, but they are excited to learn.”

Margaret was inspired to be a teacher by one of life’s first role models: her mother.

“My mom was as assistant teacher who worked in kindergarten and special education, so I’ve always been in that environment,” she recalled. “I’ve always loved little kids, even when I was a little kid. I’ve always sort of had this parental instinct and used to pretend to play teacher. I’ve also had some really great teachers, especially one of my math teachers at Colmer Middle School. I was having trouble in math, and she would always work with me and stay with me after school without getting paid anything extra to help me.”

As a kindergarten teacher, Margaret is often working with students who have never been in a classroom environment before.

“I would say my class is about half and half,” she said. “Some kids how been in a pre-k class or Head Start program, but it is an even split between those children and the children who are coming straight from home. They do cry the first few weeks because they miss being at home, but we use that time to teach them the rules and routines to make them more comfortable in the classroom. At that age, children really want to please you and do the right thing. The only challenge comes in that there’s 24 students to teach everything to between just my assistant and myself. But they see the reward, so they want to learn.”

As the school year comes to an end, it is once again time for the students to say good bye to Ms. Young as they move to the 1st grade.

“In these last few weeks, I’m trying to make sure they are excited to move on and prepare them for the 1st grade,” Young explained. “I know all of the teachers they are moving to, so I’m not worried about them having a good experience next year. I’m happy to see how they’ve grown.”

 

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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Summer camps offered sure to please all

School is out for the summer. What are you going to do with your kids until August? If you don’t want them staring at a screen all summer, various campus are being offered across Jackson County for children of all ages. Check out some of the campus listed below.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Jackson County Campus

Summer camps offered at the Jackson County campus of MGCCC in Gautier cover topics such as robotics, chemistry, swimming, and outdoor adventures. 

Visit the website for details about prices and registration, or contact Terri Sasser at terri.sasser@mgccc.edu or at 228-497-7633.

Pascagoula River Audubon Center

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is offering fun, nature-based summer camp programming for a variety of age groups.

Elementary, middle school, and mini-camps run from 9 a.m. until noon at the center. The high school junior naturalist program runs 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. each day, and is field-trip based.

Visit the Audubon Center’s website for more details and to download the registration forms.

Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center

The center is all about the arts, whether performing, visual or culinary. This mission is reflected in the selection for their 2017 summer camps. 

Weeklong summer camps for all ages at the Mary C. run from the first full week of June all the way until the end of July, so there is plenty opportunity to for the kids to get their hands dirty learning how to cook, write, paint, craft and so much more. 

Visit the website for camp dates, details and pricing.

University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab

The GCRL’s three summer camp programs focus on the beauty of the ocean and all that inhabit it. 

Sea Camp: This summer Sea Camp is 30 years old. It has been the Coast’s most popular marine science day camp for children in grades 1 through 6.Activities include live animal encounters with coastal wildlife and opportunities to fish, crab, seine and sieve. 

Shark Camp: Why watch shark week on TV when you can live it? Visit the top shark fishing hotspots around the Barrier Islands aboard a research vessel. Catch and tag sharks to contribute to ongoing scientific research.

Shaggy’s Angler Camp: Fish everyday. This program introduces young people in grades 7 through 12 to fishing in the diverse waters of coastal Mississippi. The five-day camp includes sessions on the water, in the lab, and in the kitchen, as students learn everything from tying a hook on a line to finding and catching fish to cleaning and cooking their catch.

If you know of any other summer camps happening in Jackson County, sign up to become a contributor and write something up to let everyone know. Summer is fast approaching!

 

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Administrator serves her school, soap box derby

Education is a true time commitment. As educator is responsible for numerous children for a large portion of the day, not only in teaching them, but also for their well being. Being a teacher responsible for up to 30 students is daunting enough, so one can only imagine the stresses of being a principal for an entire campus.

“I supervise the 460 children and 50 adults every day,” said Susan Stachowski, principal of Magnolia Middle School in Moss Point. “I am responsible for monitoring grades, instruction, attendance, behavior, everything.

There are moments I think “Oh goodness, I’m responsible for that building and everything in it.’ However, Dr. Vincent believed in me, and I won’t let her down.” 

Stachowski is completing her second year as principal of Magnolia Middle School. She was previously a teacher at Magnolia Middle School from 1994-2000 teaching English and Career Discovery, and has returned after 16 years at Colmer Middle School in Pascagoula.

“It’s exciting to be back home and back where I feel like i’m making a difference,” she mentioned.

Spending so many years in education, Stachowski has opportunities to see her students evolve and grow outside of the classroom.

“I enjoyed teaching Career Discovery because it was fun helping children prepare for the future,” Stachowski said. “I remember one student I taught my first year loved science, and now he actually works as my Science Department chair.”

Even though it is only her second year back in the district, Stachowski was named this year’s Administrator of the Year for Moss Point schools, showing that is she is making strides early on. 

Even with her work in administration, meaning she does not get to enjoy the upcoming summer break, Stachowski still makes time to be part of the committee that organizes the annual Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby

“It all started when my son was 10, and as a reference his is now 23,” Stachowski recalled. “Years ago some friends that were doing the derby said come do it with them, and that’s how we got involved. My children haven’t raced in 8 years, but we’ve always been part of the race. It’s become our family community service.”

Originally known as the Magnolia State Soap Box Derby, the event’s name was changed to honor Deborah Washington after she lost her battle with breast cancer. Washington started the event in 1992, and was a beloved Chevron Refinery employee known for her active community involvement.

“I love what the derby does for the city and for the children,” Stachowski said. “I believe in it and want it to continue. My children had a great experience with it, and the friendships I’ve created with the people on that committee mean the world to me. I love the people I work with. We all have a real passion for what we do because none of us on the committee still have children who race. We also enjoy keeping Deborah’s memory alive with the race, and we on the committee consider ourselves ‘Deb’s Angles.'”

Stachowski stays involved in the derby race because of all the unique experiences it offers children in the community.

“You get lots of experiences because winners of the race get to go to Akron, Ohio to compete in the soap box derby there against racers from all over the world,” Stachowski said. 

Another aspect of the races that helps to keep Stachowski involved is her family.

“This is our family community service,” Stachowski explained. “Both of my kids raced but now they are too old for it, but we still stay involved and help with the races each year. In 2006 we were actually honored as the National Soap Box Derby family for that year. It’s truly a family affair.”

With all that Stachowski does in her professional and volunteer life, it is clear she works hard to make Moss Point a gem of Jackson County.

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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Brady’s brings new dining option to Pascagoula

Pascagoula has a new downtown dining option in Brady’s Steaks and Seafood. 

 

“It’s a family concept that my brother Chad and I developed so we could keep people in Pascagoula, give people another option here in Pascagoula, and give Jackson County and the Gulf Coast another eatery close to home.” co-owner Steven Brady said. “It’s all family oriented. My brother Chad and I, our wives, our sister, and even our kids are all involved in the restaurant.”

One of the most instantly attractive aspects of Brady’s is the location.

 

 

“We knew we had an unbelievable opportunity for some waterfront dining, and we don’t have a whole lot of options here in Pascagoula for something on the water,” Brady said. We started working with the city a couple of years back, and this particular property had been for sale for several years, so we started sizing up our endeavor and the size of the property and it all worked out.”

Brady’s location brings something new and unique to downtown Pascagoula.

“We wanted to keep this place close to downtown to keep downtown as thriving as possible,” Steven explained. “The more options we have, the better we’ll do.”

People are coming from all over the area to try this new eatery.

“We’ve definitely seen activity from our neighbors in Ocean Springs and Grand Bay in Alabama,” Steven said. “We’ve seen people come from Bay St. Louis, St. Martin, D’iberville, Vancleave, Lucedale, Mobile and just all over the area.”

So far, feedback on the restaurant has been outstanding and business has been phenomenal.

“We wish we had built bigger, but hindsight is 20/20.”

With the overwhelming response, it gets the Bradys excited for all of the plans they have to expand the restaurant.

“We will be starting lunches soon in the next couple weeks,” Steven explained. “Right now we are just doing dinner from 5-9 p.m. When we add lunch we will also do a happy hour special around the middle of the afternoon, so we’re excited about that. We also have some plans for our downstairs area like outdoor activities and some seasonal boils.”

Ultimately, the family would just wants everyone to give them a try.

“We’re not fine dining, so we don’t want people to be put off thinking we’re too upscale,” Steven said. “We’re a family restaurant. We’re the place you can go after the baseball game or after church or have an anniversary dinner. We want to serve everybody. We’re excited to help the businesses here by bringing people from all over. We want everyone to just come try us out and make their way around the menu. We hope everyone can come and enjoy the view and to bring their family and friends.”

Brady’s Steaks and Seafood is located at 3801 Magnolia Street in Pascagoula.

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PGSD Athletics Gets An Overhaul

The Pascagoula-Gautier School District is making major improvements to War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula and Vaughn-Wallace Stadium in Gautier in anticipation of the upcoming school year.

     The plans include new field turf at both stadiums as well as a track straight away at Gautier as part of the practice track. For Pascagoula, stadium restrooms are receiving a facelift as well as new track and remodeling a dressing room for the girls’ soccer team. Painting and sealing the bleachers, renovations underneath the visitors’ side of the stadium and a new press box on the home side are also part of the summer plans.

     Other projects include painting the exterior of the Panther baseball field house, refurbishing the tennis courts at South Field, painting the South Field house and new sidewalks, bleachers and concession stand at South Field. Renovations for both football fields is $3.4 million with other venue improvements valued at $1.8 million.

     “These projects are among some of goals of the district’s 2017-2021 five-year strategic plan,” said Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich. “This strategic plan was written by 250 community members and school district employees. Improvements at both stadiums was one of the goals for members of the athletic strategic planning committee.”

     Rodolfich said the improvements to the stadiums will benefit not only those who come to watch the various sporting events, but those who use the field including the football team, lacrosse, team, soccer teams, band and cheerleaders as well as the members of the track team.

     “The new turf will provide a consistently-level playing field which will dry quickly, and the improvements will give our stadiums a cleaner, high-quality appearance,” Rodolfich said. “We moved our high school graduations to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum this year so we could go ahead and begin work on these stadium improvements and be ready in time for football season. There’s been a great deal of excitement throughout the community about the projects.”

Gautier-HS-Football-Soccer-Drawing-skinny-both-blue-end-zone PGSD Athletics Gets An Overhaul Gautier-HS-Football-Soccer-Drawing-skinny-both-blue-end-zone PGSD Athletics Gets An Overhaul

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Bacot McCarty experiences ‘Jolly’ weekend

It’s that “Jolly” time of year again. This weekend saw the return of the Bacot McCarty Foundation‘s annual two-day fundraising event, which consisted of a Gala held at the IP Casino & Golf Classic at Shell Landing.

The Jolly is the foundation’s largest fundraiser, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to help improve the lives of young people through educational and cultural programs across south Mississippi.

This year’s Gala had an “Austin Powers” theme, filled with costumes, bright lights and even a go-go dancer or four. Music was provided by Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster. Various items were donated from community members and organizations for a silent auction to benefit numerous Gulf Coast charities, such as the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center and the American Heart Association.

Appearances through the night were made by the Ocean Springs, Gautier, and Pascagoula high school’s cheerleaders, the Pascagoula High School drum line and even Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis.

Saturday, participants gathered at the Shell Landing Golf Club in Gautier for the golf tournament, which has become one of the largest golf classics in Jackson County history. Executive Director Todd Trenchard started the morning by once again thanking all who participated in the weekend’s events to raise money for youth education and all of their continued support of the foundation.

This year’s event was a great success, with $30,000 more raised at the beginning of the gala than previous years. While participants had fun, everyone remembered that they were all there for one reason: the children.

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Taste of Ocean Springs highlights best of city cuisine

Jackson County is home to many amazing local restaurants. Not only does the area obviously offer some incredible seafood, but there are so many different kinds of cuisines available just within the city limits of Ocean Springs. Downtown Ocean Springs is home to restaurants that offer steaks, seafood, pizza, barbecue, Mediterranean dishes, Southern favorites and so many more. Thanks to events like Taste of Ocean Springs, community members are able to sample all of that food in one place in one night. 

Featuring 20 different restaurants and 10 different wine brokers, the 9th Annual Taste of Ocean Springs Food and Wine Festival was sold out with everyone excited for this unique event. 

“We sold 500 tickets this year, so we have an amazing crowd and in addition to that we have a lot of fun stuff this year,” explained Cynthia Sutton, Executive Director with the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce. “We’re featuring a master potter Anita Hughes, so we have her vases on all the tables. We partnered with Mercedes-Benz, and we’re showing some of their cars here. We’re doing some fun giveaways with our partners like Golden Nugget, so it’s just a lot of great things happening here.”

However, with all of the wonderful additions to the event, everyone gathered at the L & N Depot for the star of the night: the food. The evening breeze carried the enticing aromas through downtown. The crowd looked like something out of My Fair Lady with the dress code asking attendees to dress in red, white or black, adding to the elegant atmosphere of the outdoor festival. 

So many different dishes were available at Taste of Ocean Springs that anyone could have found a dish to enjoy. French Kiss Pastries offered a decadent Tuxedo Cake with chocolate and espresso. Greenhouse on the Porter had a light chocolate chip biscuit. Chefs from the Mary C. Cafe at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural center offered Chipotle Sweet Potato Biscuits with Beer and Bacon Jam. McElroy’s had shrimp and grits as well as seafood gumbo samples. Vestige allowed attendees to sample a grilled pork loin. Different pizzas were offered from Tom’s Extreme Pizzeria as well as Marco’s Pizza for anyone that wanted felt the need for some comfort food.

Anyone looking for something to wash all of this amazing food down did not have to look far, because it felt like every other booth offered a unique cocktail. Mango sangria made with tequila, Mississippi Mules based with honey suckle vodka distilled in the Magnolia State and so many more concoctions were available for sampling.

Not only did this event allow community members to sample different dishes from Ocean Springs restaurants, but it also served to benefit the local economy of downtown Ocean Springs.

“It brings a big economic impact to the Gulf Coast and Jackson County,” Cynthia explained. “We have people come from all over that will stay in our boutique hotels and spend the night just to be able to attend this event. Restaurants will get new customers out of this event, and it showcases the best that Jackson County has to offer.”

As for what’s in store next for Ocean Springs, Free Food Fridays is continuing through the month of May, and Ocean Springs Restaurant Week will begin May 13 to further celebrate the dining culture of Ocean Springs. 

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