16th Annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival this Friday and Saturday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

By Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

The Arboretum’s first Heritage Festival was established with the goal of creating a community event where people could learn about the Piney Woods region’s traditions which are rapidly disappearing with the shift from rural to urban lifestyles.

The Crosby Arboretum’s sixteenth annual Piney Woods Heritage Festival will be held this Friday and Saturday, November 9 and 10. The festival’s opening event will be a living history presentation on Friday from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Meet Fannye Cooke, Mississippi’s pioneering conservationist and scientist, as portrayed by Dr. Cathy Shropshire.

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The short play will be presented on the Pinecote Pavilion. You’ll enjoy this rare opportunity to experience the Pavilion at night! Solar lights will guide you along the 400 foot Arrival Journey, the woodland pathway connecting the visitor parking area to the Visitor Center and the Pavilion.

Fannye Cook (1889-1964) was the state’s most widely known scientist and conservationist, and a nationally recognized authority on Mississippi’s biological and wildlife information. She was instrumental in the creation of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, now called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

In 1935, Cook received a WPA grant to conduct a comprehensive plant and animal survey of Mississippi. Her WPA crews collected specimens from all over the state. Under this program, eighteen museums were established within the state, including branch museums at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville and Perkinston Community College, as well as the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, which served as the hub for public education and scientific research. She retired as director of the Jackson museum in 1958.

A booksigning will take place following Dr. Shropshire’s historical re-enactment for the recently published book from the University Press of Mississippi, “Fannye Cook: Mississippi’s Pioneering Conservationist”.

This week’s heritage event will bring together many fascinating demonstrations and exhibits showcasing traditional crafts and practices that reflect the history and culture of the Piney Woods. Saturday’s festivities will feature musical performances and exhibitors with demonstrations and displays of traditional skills and crafts such as blacksmithing, quilting, spinning, basket-making, and more. Saturday admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Arboretum members are admitted free.

In “pioneer days”, being resourceful was a necessity. Cooking, spinning, weaving, and sewing were valuable skills for the woman in charge of a household to master. Knowing how to preserve food, and to cultivate a successful vegetable garden were critically important to supporting a family. Pearl River County Extension Agent Dawn Vosbein will have an exhibit on home canning and food preservation.

People living in these times knew how to “recycle”. Rags were woven or crocheted into rugs, and quilts were fashioned from scraps of cloth. Such talents will be featured in the beautiful quilts displayed by the Picayune Piecemakers Quilt Guild, and EvaJoan Henderson from the Dyed-in-the Wool Weavers and Spinners Guild will provide a spinning demonstration.

This year the heritage festival will include storytelling by Mary Beth Magee and a beekeeping exhibit by Jac Coleman. Dance and old-time music performances will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include the Piney Woods Cloggers, the Pinecote Pickers, dobro-playing by John Graves, and the Pearl Strings Dulcimer Group.

Pearl River County resident Bob Rouse will exhibit Pineywoods cattle. One of the oldest cattle breeds in the U.S., they are descended from Spanish cattle brought to the country in the 1500s. Other heritage animals such as Choctaw horses will be at the festival.

Harriet Greulich will please the crowds with butter churning (and tasting!) and Katie Bachman will demonstrate treadle sewing machines and exhibit her crocheting and tatting skills. Beverly Elston will exhibit doll-making, and Nancy Crowe will present her puppetry skills. A fly tying demonstrated by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Fly Fishers, and woodcarving will be demonstrated by John Houston, accompanied by group members from the Senior Center of South Pearl River County.

Area organizations include the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the Lacombe Heritage Center, and the federally designated Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area, Picayune’s Hilda Hoffman Memorial Archive, and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain presenting information on Pearl River County’s Shaw Homestead, where visitors can learn about the history of farming, timber, and shearing on one of their eighty coastal properties.

This is not a complete list of exhibitors and activities. Please visit the Heritage Festival this Friday and Saturday to see them all! See www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or visit the Arboretum’s Facebook page for more information. Visiting hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 5. Our public garden is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.