THE SHOT

A Celebration of Florida’s Gentle Giants

Plus: Husk opens in Savannah, a possum drop ends its run, and more news from around the South

Snow banks on sand dunes; frozen iguanas dropping out of trees; Georgia and Alabama battling for the national football title in Georgia. Welcome to 2018 in the South, G&G readers. It’s already been one to remember, and we’re only 10 days in. To prepare you for the other 355 days of 2018, we’ve mixed up the best of what’s happening, and what just happened, in the South. We call it The Shot.

Meet the Manatees

photo: Courtesy of Carol Grant/Discover Crystal River

Manatees are attracted to the warm, shallow waters in and around Florida.

It’s cold, college football season is over, and your New Year’s resolution to do the Whole 30 has only broken your soul. But not to worry: The cure for nearly everything that ails you can be found this weekend at the Florida Manatee Festival, when the little town of Crystal River throws a two-day party in honor of the manatees who spend their winters close by. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the Florida manatee, which is considered an endangered species. So a manatee festival in these parts is no joke. The fest includes live music, a market, food, and a kids’ zone, but the real draw are the boat tours of Kings Bay, an unspoiled and undeveloped Florida manatee habitat, and bus tours to Three Sisters Springs, the country’s most pristine winter sanctuary for the animals, the most gentle creatures of the sea.

Hello, Husk

It’s hard enough to open a new restaurant on a regular day. But when the restaurant is Sean Brock’s hotly anticipated Husk Savannah, and its opening coincides with Savannah’s first snow storm in 25 years, you can forgive Brock for holding off two days to let everything melt. But it was smooth sailing after that for the fourth installment of Brock’s Charleston original, which also has outposts in Nashville and Greenville, South Carolina.

Husk Savannah debuted Friday night with a full house in a 200-seat renovated former Elks Lodge in the city’s famed historic district. The opening-night menu was Savannah-inspired as promised, with everything from a Georgia citrus salad to griddled scrapple to a half chicken with turnips and Savannah green rice, and purple ribbon sugar cane cake with sugar cane syrup from Sapelo Island. Brock’s hyper-local philosophy extended from the menu, which will change daily, to the art on the walls and even the wooden serving bowls, from Savannah’s Coastal Wood Design. Even with a familiar name, Brock is serving up a Savannah original.

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Goodbye, Possum Drop

New Year’s Eve rang in a new year, of course, but it also rang out a famous (or infamous) tradition in Brasstown, North Carolina, where the annual Possum Drop lowered its little marsupial passenger for the very last time, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. Instead of dropping a sparkly ball as they do in New York City at the stroke of midnight, Brasstown has for years lowered a live possum, festively contained in a tinsel- and bow-festooned Plexiglas box.

But once the event caught the attention of CBS Morning News years ago, it also caught the attention of PETA and other animal rights activists, who said it didn’t look like much of a party for the possums. Although the town once substituted a pot of possum stew for the live critters, locals still found themselves defending the practice, until deciding to forgo it altogether. It looks like the people of Brasstown are going to have to make do with New Year’s Rockin’ Eve like the rest of us from now on.

ICYMI

A lot happened at G&G while you were entertaining your in-laws over the holidays, so we put together a quick guide to what you can catch up on now, including: 

• The latest edition of the Whole Hog podcast, in which John Huey takes listeners through the best of Southern music, food, books, and culture from last year and gives a preview of what’s to come, including a shout-out to our favorite read lately, Bill Heavey’s newest book, Should the Tent Be Burning Like That? A Professional Amateur’s Guide to the Great Outdoors;

• A look at the South’s answer to Red Rocks, a stone’s throw from Ruby Falls;

• Photos from Charleston’s rare, but beautiful, snowfall;

• A recipe for a Jack and Coke sheet cake. Yes, please!

Parting Shots

This week, the team at The Shot is: Streaming Season 6 of Nashville on cmt.com. It’s never been the same since Rayna Jaymes met her fate, but somehow we just can’t quit this show. … Wondering after the stunning performance by backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Alabama’s national-title victory over Georgia, how many babies in the Yellowhammer State will be named Tua in the next few months. … Thankful it’s not still raining frozen iguanas in Florida (the cold temperatures stunned the creatures) and alarmed that now they’re all waking up. … Loving Dolly Parton even more today than yesterday. When the Knoxville News Sentinel named her Person of the Year for all of her efforts to support her hometown, including donating more than $1 million to Gatlinburg residents after the massive fires there, Parton said she felt awkward being singled out and accepted “on behalf of everyone who tries to make the world a little better each and every day.” Those are our kind of people, too.

Until next week …