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Travel Treasures departments

May/Jun 2013 Issue

Get back to nature at Mississippi arboretum

To experience a woodland landscape, a wetland habitat, and a south savanna ecosystem, you only need to visit one beautiful place: the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Miss.

Nestled in southeast Mississippi, the arboretum is a premier native plant conservatory that protects and displays plants native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin of Mississippi and Louisiana. The 104-acre property provides an outdoor classroom where visitors can study and learn about plants and ecosystems.

A series of walking trails takes visitors on a journey across the varied landscape of the Gulf Coast, from bogs to savannas, and from piney forests to meadows. Along each of the trails, interpretive signs describe the flora, fauna, and cultural history of the Piney Woods region of Mississippi.
Among the many highlights is the breathtaking Pinecote Pavilion, a Mississippi Landmark constructed of pine beams and designed by the legendary E. Fay Jones. The rustic and striking structure is a starting place for nature walks and the perfect spot to appreciate the beauty of the 2.5-acre freshwater pond.

Owned and operated by Mississippi State University, the arboretum conducts activities year-round, including a native plant sale each quarter. Activities this May include the Spring Wildflower Field Walk, a guided walk discussing native wildflowers; The Native Orchids of South Mississippi, a discussion identifying many of the 30 species of orchids native to the Gulf Coast; and Painted Pots, an activity for children to decorate clay pots for Mother’s Day.

The arboretum, located at 370 Ridge Road, houses a visitor’s center with a gift shop and library. The site’s hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with the last entry at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2 for children under 12.

For more details, call (601) 799-2311 or visit

Above: Among the site’s highlights is the Pinecote Pavilion. Mississippi State University photo

Below The arboretum’s diverse flora includes Pitcher plants. Richelle Stafne photo


Peas will simmer, tillers will roar at PurpleHull Pea Festival

Everywhere else, garden tillers are used to churn up soil for planting, but in Emerson, Ark., on the last Saturday in June, they are used for acceleration, not agriculture.

Supercharged tillers will be a highlight of the annual PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race on June 29. In its 24th year, this south-central Arkansas festival pays homage to purple hull peas, a delicacy found in most south Arkansas backyard gardens and a close cousin to the black-eyed pea.

Among the pea-themed events will be a shelling contest and the Great PurpleHull Peas and Cornbread Cook-off. Meals featuring the honored vegetable will be sold, and there will be a Senior Walk for World Peas.

In addition to peas, souped-up racing tillers are the festival’s other source of pride. Preceding the races is the Million Tiller Parade, which features fire trucks, tractors, convertibles, and marchers, as well as tillers. Organizers acknowledge they are often 999,990 tillers shy of a million, but they say they are getting closer.

The race course is 200 feet of plowed ground near Emerson High School (212 Grayson St.), where most of the festival’s events take place. The world record for covering the course is 5.72 seconds, an average speed of almost 24 mph.

Other activities will include an arts and crafts fair, greased pig contest, tractor exhibition, fireworks show, and a street dance. Near the Louisiana border, Emerson is 12 miles south of Magnolia off U.S. Route 79.

Call (870) 547-3500 for more details, or click on

tiller race
The tillers in the exciting races can top 20 mph. PurpleHull Pea Festival photo


Big balloons to rise over Little Rock

Parades are colorful, festive, and entertaining to behold, but not all of them take place on the ground.

The skies over Little Rock, Ark., will welcome a parade of colors as hot air balloons soar in the Great War Memorial Balloon Race from June 21–23. The three-day festival at War Memorial Park and Golf Course will feature dozens of balloons that will be flying, glowing, and giving tethered rides.

The event launches on Friday at 4 p.m. with jazz, food, vendors, fun in the splash fountain, and children’s games. As the sun sets, up to 25 balloons will be illuminated (weather permitting) during the War Memorial Golf Course Balloon Glow. Tethered balloon rides will be held from 6:30–9:30 p.m., and jazz will fill the air until 11 p.m.

Events begin on Saturday at 7 a.m. with a competition flight, once again, weather permitting. The launch site will be announced that morning at the park after wind direction has been determined and flight plans are made. 

Saturday’s activities also will include a 5K run, a dance and exercise session, children’s activities, carnival games, food, vendors, and live music. More balloon activities will start at 5 p.m., including tethered rides at 6:30 p.m. and another balloon glow. The tethered rides are $20 per person each night.

Another balloon competition will take place on Sunday at sunrise, followed by a continuation of Saturday’s events. The closing celebration will feature a massive helium balloon release at 3 p.m. War Memorial Park is located at 5101 West Markham St.

Call (501) 350-5333 for more details or visit



Pry open the Oyster Festival for pearls of food and fun

New Orleans will be shucking and jiving this June as the city plays host to the fourth Annual New Orleans Oyster Festival, featuring live music, contests, and culinary creations from leading chefs.

Slated for June 1–2 at the Woldenberg Riverfront Park, the festival celebrates the Louisiana Gulf oyster–a delicacy that is an integral part of the culinary culture of Louisiana. The event also celebrates the restaurateurs and oyster farmers who have solidified the French Quarter’s position as the Oyster Capital of America.

Nearly 20 restaurants will be showing off the versatility of the region’s favorite bivalve, while also educating festival-goers about the benefits of the oyster. The festival will feature oyster competitions including oyster-shucking and oyster-eating contests, as well as the largest oyster contest.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. Admission to the festival is free.

Call (504) 888-7608 for more details or visit

The festival will feature oyster-shucking contests. New Orleans Oyster Festival photo

Discover a pirate’s plunder of events at Lake Charles fest

Avast ye mateys and sail over to Lake Charles, La., for the 56th Annual Contraband Days, a 12-day pirate-themed festival with a treasure trove of close to 100 events.

Setting sail April 30–May 12, the Contraband Days festival is based on the Lake Charles Civic Center grounds with some events occurring throughout the city. More than 100,000 people typically attend the event each year.

The award-winning festival celebrates the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, who according to legend buried treasure somewhere along the banks of Lake Charles. While they likely won’t find hidden doubloons at the festival, swashbuckling buccaneers of all ages will enjoy carnival rides, concerts, food booths, a car show, fireworks, barbecue cook-off, and more. The musical line-up is as diverse as the people of southwest Louisiana, including rock, gospel, country, Cajun, and zydeco.

Admission is $5 per day; children 5 and under are admitted for free. Presale gate passes valid for the entire festival are $10 and available for a limited time. Parking is $2 per day. Visit the festival Web site for details on carnival ride ticket prices, which were not available at press time.

For a schedule of events and ticket discount information, visit or call (337) 436-5508.

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