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Sept/Oct 2012 Issue

Renovated Mather Lodge retains its rustic charms

Mather Lodge on Petit Jean Mountain is the centerpiece of Arkansas’ first state park, Petit Jean, and it’s now even more central to the park’s stunning charms.

After more than a year of renovation, the lodge reopened this summer with a new entrance, dining room, and other enhancements. Yet it has the same rustic spirit and style that were instilled by the original Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) builders who raised the lodge out of the central Arkansas wilderness three-quarters of a century ago. The $4.3 million renovation has put a shine back on this gem of the state park system.

The project did not affect any of the lodge’s original CCC and later Works Progress Administration (WPA) work dating from the 1930s. Instead, the renovation replaced the lodge’s 1960s-era dining room with a more rustic-style design and an expanded kitchen.

The modern restaurant now mirrors the original lodge’s rough-hewn, Adirondack-style park architecture, highlighted by exposed logs, stones, and other natural materials. Large glass window walls provide a full view of the spectacular beauty surrounding the lodge, especially Cedar Creek Canyon.

In addition to a relocated guest registration desk, the renovation included improvements to the 24 guest rooms, a new meeting room, and a new swimming pool, which has a mini-waterfall feature. Also, public restrooms were added near the pool because of its proximity to the popular Cedar Falls Trail.

The trail is among more than 20 miles of trails at the park, which also has picnic areas, playgrounds, campsites, a lake, a boathouse with rentals, and 95-foot Cedar Falls, one of the state’s tallest waterfalls. Also, 33 cabins are scattered in the woods and along the bluff.

For more details about the park, call (501) 727-5441 or visit For information about the lodge and to make a lodge or cabin reservation, call (800) 264-2462.

The $4.3 million renovation mirrors the rustic warmth of the historical lodge. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo


Savor flavorful fun during fall Gulf Coast Culinary Weekend

Great food, fun, and music are all on the menu at this year’s Chefs of the Coast: Mississippi Gulf Coast Culinary Weekend, with an added child-friendly culinary experience this year for the entire family.

In its 30th year, Chefs of the Coast is a celebration of food, wine, and the South that will take place over the last weekend in September. Kicking off the party on Sept. 29 is a new event, Chefs of the Coast Family Style, the latest incarnation of what started out simply as a family stockpot cook-off.

This year, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport (246 Dolan Ave.) has teamed up with Chefs of the Coast to provide fun culinary activities on the grounds of the children’s museum. Held from 10 a.m.–2 p.m., the event will inspire even the youngest “chef” to get creative, eat healthy, and exercise.

The event includes hands-on cooking demonstrations, dancing, and more. Another highlight is the Stockpot Cook-Off, a contest from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. in which amateur and professional chefs create recipes from fresh Mississippi-grown ingredients.

Tickets to the family event are $20 for adults and $12 for children 1–15. Family packages are available.

Then the Chefs of the Coast Gala on Sept. 30 will celebrate culinary excellence with the region’s best restaurants serving food with wine and beer pairings amid live music and entertainment. The gala will be held in the Biloxi Civic Center (950 W. Howard Ave.) from 5–9 p.m. Tickets are $75 in advance and $80 at the door. Guests must be at least 21.

For more information, call (228) 324-0032, or click on

Festival highlights include delicious food, family activities, and demonstrations, like ice carving. Chefs of the Coast photos
ice carving


Giddyup to the lively Cowboy Weekend

Surrounded by spurs, wide-brimmed hats, guitars, and steaming pots of beans, visitors to the Cowboy Weekend in Mountain View, Ark., this fall will get a look at the past as seen from the saddle.

Taking place at two locations in Mountain View, the three-day celebration will keep alive the legacy of the American cowboy.

From Sept. 21–22, the Ozark Folk Center State Park will present the art and culture of cowboys. Crafts such as leatherwork and gunsmithing will be showcased in the craft village, and on Saturday, there will be a fun Cowboy Poetry Contest.

The park also will host a concert each night, including the legendary Charlie Daniels Band on Friday and Grammy-nominated cowboy singer and guitarist Don Edwards on Saturday. Tickets to the shows are $45 and $20 respectively.

While the music and poetry will sate your cultural cravings, the Chuckwagon Cook-Off from Sept. 21–23 will satisfy your appetite for delicious food. Held at the Stone County Fairgrounds near the state park, the event will feature cooks competing using authentic chuckwagons, menus, and utensils. There also will be pony rides, wagon rides, and cowboy church on Sunday.

Ozark Folk Center State Park is located at 1032 Park Ave., and Stone County Fairgrounds is located at 954 Oak Ave.

For more information, call (870) 269-3851, or click on or

Chuckwagon Cook-Off competitors are judged on authenticity as well as their food. Chuckwagon Cook-Off photo


Natchitoches, La., throws an appetizing party for a pie

They say Louisianians are always looking for a reason to party, so why not a festival celebrating a pie recipe?

That’s exactly what the Meat Pie Festival is all about, celebrating a fried pie filled with ground beef, pork, and vegetables–a recipe that was born in Natchitoches, La., back in the 1700s. Fans of the savory pie will descend on the historical city this Sept. 14–15 for two days of live music, shopping for arts and crafts, rides, and a variety of food, chiefly the star attraction–the Natchitoches Meat Pie.

The other star attraction is the festival’s setting, the lovely downtown riverbank along the fabled Cane River Lake. Listed as a National Landmark Historic District, the downtown area and surrounding neighborhood feature majestic homes, historical cemeteries, museums, art galleries, and horse carriage tours.

Established in 1714 as a French colony, the city also is well-known as the film site of “Steel Magnolias.” In addition, Natchitoches is recognized as the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana and is home to the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, which consists of Oakland Plantation and the outbuildings of Magnolia Plantation.

For more details about the free festival, call (800) 259-1714 or visit

meat pie

New Orleans neighborhood celebrating 200th birthday

Tremé is probably best known as the title of an acclaimed television series, but the social, cultural, and historical significance of this colorful New Orleans neighborhood is as compelling as any TV show.

Celebrating its 200th birthday this year, Tremé gave rise to jazz, brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, and several pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. Called America’s first black neighborhood, it will mark its milestone anniversary from Oct. 17–21 with seminars, lectures, cooking classes, Mardi Gras Indian costume beading classes, and historical home tours.

Closing out the event will be a jazz mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church, the country’s oldest predominantly black Catholic parish.

Located between North Rampart, North Broad, Canal Street, and St. Bernard Avenue, the neighborhood was named after Claude Tremé, a Frenchman who donated his holdings just north of the French Quarter to New Orleans in 1810. The property was subdivided in 1812, and primarily free people of color bought the lots, including craftsmen, musicians, and Haitian Creoles.

Tremé is still home to a dynamic community that remains an integral part of the fabric of New Orleans.

For more information, call (504) 523-5652 or click on

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