15th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival this weekend

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017

By Pat Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

The Crosby Arboretum’s 15th annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival is this Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18, and promises to be one of the largest ever.

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The public is invited to attend two free cultural-themed presentations this Friday from 6:30 to 8:30, which open the Heritage Festival, at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County, 45 El Patch Parkway in Picayune.

The talks are, “16 Native Plants and their Historical and Contemporary Uses among Southeastern American Indians” by Dr. Tammy Greer, a member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana and director of the Center for American Indian Research and Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi, and “A Towering Ghost: The Cultural Legacy of Longleaf Pine in the Deep South”, by Mitchell Robinson, the Conservation Education Manager at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

On Saturday, November 18, enjoy music and dance performances, exhibitors, demonstrations, and displays of traditional skills and crafts from 10 AM to 3 PM. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.

Music and dance includes performances by Hazel and the Delta Ramblers, the Choctaw Social Dancers, the Henleyfield Pickers, the Pineywoods Cloggers, and Pearl Strings Dulcimer Group. Children will enjoy storytelling with Gwen Williams, known as Ms. Chocolate, and Mary Beth Magee from the Poplarville Storytellers Guild. Nancy Crowe will give puppet demonstrations, and old-fashioned games and craft activities will be led by Crosby Arboretum volunteers. Children will also learn about local wildlife from outreach educator Sabrina Cummings with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

Food vendors include Lou’s Sho-Nuff Catering and RC Sweet & Salty Kettlecorn. Myra’s Jams & Jellies features baked goods and other tasty wares. Butter churning will be demonstrated by Lucille Gasecki, with cream kindly donated by County Girl Creamery of Lumberton. Visit the sugar cane and syrup exhibit, courtesy of the MAFES South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service will host exhibits and demonstrations. Learn about heirloom vegetables from Christian Stephenson from Hancock County Extension, home canning with Dawn Vosbein, Pearl River County Extension, and pine needle basket making with Dr. Judy Breland, Stone County Extension.

Woodcarver John Houston will be joined by members of his carving class, Will Sullivan will demonstrate flyfishing in the Piney Woods Pond, and Jac Coleman and Buddy Broadway will host a beekeeping exhibit. The Picayune Piecemakers will display their beautiful quilts and other wares, and the sound of hammers will ring through the trees from the forges of blacksmiths Chuck Averett and James and Charles Polk.

Area history will be well-represented this year! Mike Fitzwilliam will discuss how the town of Picayune got its name, Laverne Guy will provide an exhibit on Picayune’s Carver Cultural Museum, Ed Jackson from the University of Southern Mississippi will exhibit Native American artifacts, and Don Wicks will represent the Hilda Hoffmann Memorial Archive and the Pearl River Valley Railroad Association.

If you’re a fan of fiber arts, you’ll enjoy observing craftspersons who have mastered these traditional skills. Katie Bachman will demonstrate treadle sewing machines and exhibit her crocheting and tatting. Enjoy spinning and knitting with Ze’ daLuz, and Edie Flores will demonstrate weaving. EvaJoan Henderson from the Dyed-in-the Wool Weavers and Spinners Guild will feature both hand-spinning and weaving.

Judy Steckler will provide information on the Shaw Homestead, one of 80 properties owned by the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain in the six coastal counties. The purpose of the restoration plan for the Shaw property is to allow visitors to learn about the history of farming, timber, and shearing.

Mitch Robinson from the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, one of our Friday speakers, will host a booth featuring native plants and will talk about the Audubon Society’s new initiative for bird-friendly plants.

Support and funding for the Piney Woods Heritage Festival is provided by the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area. Rhonda Price and Kristen Kapiotis will host a table where you can learn more about the federally designated National Heritage Area, which consists of our six coastal counties, recognized for their unique cultural and scenic qualities. The Arboretum Visitor Center is one of the locations for a Gulf Coast National Heritage Area Kiosk, so come check it out!

Overflow parking for the festival will be provided at the Senior Center and the VFW once Arboretum parking areas have filled, and a shuttle bus will transport visitors to our site entrance.

The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM.