The Southern Agenda: Feb/March 2012

Illustration by Tim Bower
by Elizabeth Hutchison and Ronald Coleman - Feb/March 2011

Goings-on in the South & Beyond

Fisherman’s Paradise is technically a boat, but you wouldn’t know it from the inside. Opening February 24, the custom-designed, 385-foot floating fishing lodge looks and feels more like a four-star hotel. Currently anchored off the coast of Clearwater, Florida, Fisherman’s Paradise offers easy access to Florida’s legendary Middle Grounds; plans for future moorings in the Dry Tortugas, Louisiana, Cancún, and Panama are in the works. Guests can cast in seclusion by renting one of the lodge’s six smaller crafts, ranging in size from twenty-eight to thirty-seven feet, or request a guide. At the end of the day, the resident chef will prepare your catch while you unwind with a massage or catch a movie in the theater.

Given the wealth of museum and gallery space in Atlanta, a primary school gymnasium is an unlikely place to find a top-notch art exhibition. But what began thirty-one years ago as a small school fund-raiser has grown into one of the art world’s best-kept secrets. Today, the Trinity School’s annual Spotlight on Art Artists Market (February 6–11) showcases the work of 350 artists, and insiders contend it is the place to score works by up-and-coming talents before they get discovered. Artists Market alums have gone on to exhibit everywhere from the Whitney to MoMA to the National Gallery. Keep an eye out for Pascal Bouterin’s romantic oils, Steve Penley’s bold acrylics, and Sally King Benedict’s contemporary canvases.


Founded by Louisville-based filmmakers Kristopher and Ashley Rommel, the Derby City Film Festival (February 17–19) caters to a pioneering group of independent auteurs. With each frame, they prove that you don’t need megabucks to make movie magic. This year, the festival will screen close to fifty original films, including several with Kentucky roots, such as first-time director Scooter Downey’s buzz-worthy horror flick, It’s in the Blood. Filmmaker-led workshops will focus on everything from how to use a green screen to tips for staging fight scenes.


To draw the crowds back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Stephen Rushmore, president of, appealed to—what else—their stomachs by launching the New Orleans Roadfood Festival (March 23). Now, the communal feast draws nearly 30,000 eager eaters each year. Tents line French Quarter sidewalks, and vendors from the country’s most popular back-road restaurants dish out everything from soft-shell crab po’boys to Texas-style brisket (Rushmore recommends Louis Mueller’s Barbecue out of Taylor, Texas). The food skews toward Southern tastes, though you’ll even find Yankee favorites like Maine seafood chowder. Just remember to pace yourself.


Attendees at Baltimore’s annual EcoBall (March 18) are more likely to show up in their grandfathers’ 1950s suits than in the latest Tom Ford creations. Organized by Baltimore Green Works, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental efforts in the city, the EcoBall is all about sustainability—your wardrobe included. The event, a favorite among locals, hosts a Top Chef–style competition that challenges culinary students to create dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Cast your vote for best dish, then don your dancing shoes (last season’s, preferably).


Commenting on the strength of Southern writers, Flannery O’Connor once said, “We live in a complex region and you have to tell stories if you want to be in any way truthful about it.” This year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration: Legends, Lore, and Literature: Storytelling in the South (February 23–26) brings together an all-star lineup of regional talent well versed in the South’s written and oral traditions. Contemporary raconteurs and G&G contributors Roy Blount, Jr., and Julia Reed discuss humor, Curtis Wilkie talks nonfiction, and Virginia native and filmmaker Scott Cooper leads a screening and discussion of his Oscar-winning film, Crazy Heart.

North Carolina

The only American to compete in the first Olympic pentathlon, George S. Patton (yes, that George Patton), swore he lost the pistol shooting competition, and thus the gold medal, because what the judges counted as a miss was, in fact, a perfect double shot. Introduced at the 1912 Stockholm Games by Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the modern pentathlon originated as a grueling simulation of the tests soldiers faced. Catch the pre-London action at the UIPM World Cup (March 8–11) in Charlotte, the only stop in North America before the Summer Games. “The sport is incredibly exciting to watch,” says Rob Stull, three-time Olympian and silver medalist. “We ride horses, shoot pistols, and sword-fight. What could be better?”

South Carolina

Historic finds like President Andrew Jack-
son’s dueling pistols distinguish the Charleston International Antiques Show (March 23–25) from your run-of-the-mill antiques market. Organizers at the Charleston Historic Foundation are choosy, selecting first-class antiques and fine art dealers from across the United States and Europe. If you’re looking for a piece with Southern provenance, check out Virginia-based purveyor Sumpter Priddy Antiques, which has one of the largest regionally focused inventories. For a first look at the goods, snag a ticket to the Thursday night preview party.


Linus Hall, a Mississippi native and engineer by trade, ditched his day job to study under Brooklyn Brewery pioneer Garrett Oliver before launching Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Company in 2003. Since then, the award-winning brewery’s fan base has exploded, thanks to creative craft suds like the Johnny Cash–inspired Beer Named Sue, a rich, smoky porter made with chocolate, caramel, and cherry-smoked grain. On February 23, at the Tennessee Performing Art Center’s “The Art of Yazoo Brewery,” Hall will lead guided tastings of Yazoo’s best creations, exploring the intricacies of the brewing process. “It’s the perfect marriage of skills needed to be both an engineer and a chef,” Hall says. “And you get to drink the fruits of your labor.”


“Texas has a weird relationship with the South,” Foodways Texas director Marvin Bendele says. “Sometimes we’re in. Sometimes we’re out.” To shed some much-needed light on the food culture of the Lone Star State, a group of culinary-conscious Texans in 2010 founded Foodways Texas, which hosts its second annual Foodways Texas Symposium in Austin March 23–25. Over the course of two dinners, two lunches, and Sunday brunch, guests will sample (and discuss) tasty topics ranging  from authentic Tex-Mex dishes to heritage pork from Revival Meats. Seed saving, canning, heirloom breeds, and oral histories are also on the agenda. Sounds pretty Southern to us.


The Museum of the Confederacy’s vast collection of artifacts has grown so large that only about 10 percent of it fits into its existing exhibit space. But on March 31, the new Museum of the Confederacy Appomattox will provide additional viewing room less than two miles from the site of the Civil War’s final battle. The new 5,000-square- foot structure will house relics such as Lee’s sword, the uniform he wore at the surrender, the parole he signed surrendering, and even his pen. But the museum needs still more space. Look for future sites in Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads.

Washington, D.C.

Wining and dining is part of the job description in the District, so it’s no surprise that the Washington D.C. International Wine and Food Festival (February 11–12) draws more than six hundred different wines from more than a hundred international vineyards. The big five—Spanish, French, Italian, Argentinean, and American—are well represented, as are local eats from the area’s top dining establishments. (You’ll need some sustenance if you intend to make it through the day on your feet.) If you’re more beer drinker than oenophile, sip craft brews at the festival’s new Beer Garden.