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Day Trippin' Blog




Day Trippin’ for Black History Month 2013
February 14, 2013


(Memphis, TN) February is Black History Month – a great time to reflect on the culture, heritage and achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history. This month, we’ve been out visiting some of our favorite sites and attractions in West Tennessee that are associated with the history, important milestones and achievements of blacks in our region. Some of the sites listed below are a bit off the beaten path, but all are a testament to the struggle for Civil Rights and the role of black citizens in the Mid-South who have so richly contributed to the arts, music and culture of the region and our great nation. These three sites are less frequented by visitors to Memphis than say, the National Civil Rights Museum or the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which both document the unique history of black Americans, but locals will tell you: the attractions listed below are well worth visiting.


MAAG invites you to come West Tennessee Day Trippin’ with us during Black History Month 2013! 



Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum – 826 N. Second St., Memphis, TN 38107

Just north of downtown Memphis is the clapboard house built in 1849 for Mr. Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant to the United States who settled in the region in the 1840’s. The home, once sited on the Memphis Stockyards property that Jacob Burkle built, stayed in the family for generations. What generations of Memphians did not know about this unassuming house is that it served as a way station on the Underground Railroad, a secret series of hiding places for runaway slaves seeking freedom in the North and Canada.

On a recent visit to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, Elaine Lee Turner of Heritage Tours gave us a unique overview and shared fascinating stories about the estate, how the home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and details about the language developed by slaves in the United States to communicate through hymns, quilt designs and other signals to help the enslaved to find freedom. Touring the house allows you to visit the hidden tunnels, trap doors, and cellars where slaves waited for their chance to escape to the Mississippi River (just 2 blocks west) on their way to the next secret stop and , ultimately, to freedom in the North. The house is furnished with period pieces and slavery artifacts.

The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is listed on the Great River Road Trail, part of the Tennessee Trails and Scenic Byways program. T his month, the museum has a special exhibit identifying innovations and products invented by American blacks. Hours vary; call ahead for information at (901) 527-3427.


Withers Collection Museum and Gallery – 333 Beale St., Memphis, TN 38103

Freelance African American photographer and Memphis native Dr. Ernest C. Withers is famous for his black and white images of the segregated South, the Civil Rights Movement, Memphis music and Negro League baseball. This museum and gallery, located on historic Beale Street, displays a wide array of Withers’ beautiful and sometimes haunting photographs, highlighting his unique view of history through the camera lens. A video interview with Dr. Withers, filmed before his death in 2007, tells his story of life in the South as a Memphis Police Officer, photojournalist, baseball fan and music enthusiast. We think this is the best thing on Beale Street!

Donations are accepted in lieu of an admission fee through the end of February 2013 in celebration of Black History Month. The museum is open to the public afternoons and evenings, Wednesday – Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Individual and group tours are welcome. For more information, call (901) 523-2344.


 Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center – 200 S. Church St., Henning, TN 38041

In the sleepy Southern town of Henning, Tennessee, just off Highway 51 in Lauderdale County, is the childhood home of author Alex Haley. Haley spent much of his childhood on this site, the home of his grandparents, Will and Cynthia Palmer. It was here on this porch that Haley likely heard the stories that inspired the now world-famous Roots: The Saga of An American Family, which earned him the 1976 Pulitzer Prize. The home has been restored and furnished with some of the original 1919 furniture, memorabilia and family artifacts.   A state-of-the-art museum and genealogy center sits behind the home. ALex Haley Boyhood Home

The Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center in Henning, Tennessee is featured in our West Tennessee Day Trippin' video and is a stop on the Great River Road Trail. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Sundays by appointment. For more information, call (731) 738-2240.



Day Trippin' at the Lauderdale County Tomato Festival
July 6, 2012

(Ripley, TN) For months I waited like a child on Christmas for the Lauderdale County Tomato Festival.  I counted down the days on my calendar in anticipation.  I made calls regularly to the Lauderdale County Chamber asking, “Are we there yet?”  When I couldn’t wait any longer, I talked Susan Todd, executive director of the Chamber, into taking me to a tomato farm where the crop was ready to be harvested.  A couple of weeks ahead of the festival, she took us (my boss, my cameraman and me) to the Tims Family Farm. couple_Tims Robert and Karen Tims not only welcomed us to their farm; they gave us a tomato boot camp complete with lessons on the varieties, the shapes, differences and the history of the tomato. 

Our reward at the end of the lesson was a fresh heirloom tomato we handpicked right off the vine.  Pamela (Executive Director at MAAG) took a seat on the tractor to enjoy her jewel.  I tore into mine while sitting on the swing in their front yard.   As the juice from that one Pamela_tomatodelicious bite ran down the side of my arm, I knew my taste buds had been transformed and changed forever.  In that moment, I had a tomato-epiphany: Mrs. Tims had to know that this experience should be bigger than just us!  Everyone within a day trip of Ripley should add this experience to their bucket lists!   Watch soon for details on how you and your family can enjoy the same experience/boot camp at Tims Family Farms.  You’d think this trip would calm my excitement for the festival but to the contrary.  Friday, July 6, 2012, the sun couldn’t rise fast enough for me to get on the road to Ripley and take part in my first ever Lauderdale County Tomato Festival and the county’s 29th.

The festival had its beginnings in 1984.  Quiz: I know you are saying if you subtract 1984 from 2012 you come up with 28 – right?  However, when I took that bit of addition to the powers that be I was quickly reminded that if the celebration first occurred in 1984, you have to count that year making 2012 the 29th year.  Go figure!

That was my first lesson.  Throughout the celebration however there was plenty more education for this newbie. 

There were events prior to the official opening ceremony including a blues concert featuring Blind Mississippi Morris, a chamber coffee, a golf tournament and a sidewalk sale.  The opening ceremonies were held on Friday morning at the Ripley Park.  Temperature at 10:00AM was right around “burning” degrees making the free tomato fans a valuable commodity.   tomato_bushel

Following welcomes by both Lauderdale County Mayor Rod Schuh and Ripley City Mayor Jon Pavletic, many officials on the local, regional and state levels blessed the event.  I even had my turn at the mic representing MAAG. 

Next was the presentation of the Tomato Festival Royalty and the Tomato Farmer of the year, Mike Barham, Jr.  Then it was off to the tasting!

Now, let me clarify, I am a born and raised city girl!  Up until my visit to Ripley, all of my tomatoes came from the local grocery stores or on a menu item in a restaurant.   This tasting was truly a different kind of experience for me and for my newly formed “Amigo Trio” that included the West Tennessee Economic and Community Development team of Ted Townsend and Melissa Cox-Rayner.  


Joyce_friedGrnThere was a line out of the door when we arrived at the 1st Baptist Church Family Life Center, where the tasting took place.  Making our way through the crowd, everyone was so friendly.  One of the vendors in the entryway offered us a taste of her fried green tomatoes which set off a rising cheer in our stomachs for more!  The “Encore” included such delights as Tennessee Cornbread Salad, Macaroni & Tomatoes, Rotel Chicken Casserole and even a slice of Tomato Soup cake! Yes! I said CAKE!  However, my personal favorite was the soon-to-be-famous Garlic Tomato Creamies. 



I got my first taste of these little gems the day I came up to scout for the festival.  Susan took us by the First United Methodist Church where the ladies of the FCE (Family and Community Education Club) were busy preparing dishes for the upcoming festival.  That day, they made salsa, a pickled corn dish and these addictive little creamies.  My family would say, this recipe “will bless your life”.  I was able to secure it for you my Day Trippers.  You can thank me later!

Garlic Tomato Creamies

3 small ripe tomatoes


¾ cup mayonnaise

1 minced garlic clove


Chopped chives

Toast round crackers


5 -6 slices crisp bacon crumbled

Peel and slice tomatoes.  Cut as many tomato rounds as you have toast rounds. 
Put a slice of tomato on each piece of toast.  Mix mayonnaise with garlic. 
Spread on tomatoes.  Broil for 3 minutes or until brown. 
Sprinkle top with chives and bacon.  Serves 6.

These and plenty other tomato-inspired goodies (including tomato ice cream) can be found in the cookbook.  Call 731.635.9951 to purchase you own copy which is well worth the $15 price.



After the tasting of about 20 different tomato dishes, we needed a little exercise so we headed out to our next task which included a lot of walking around outside. We were the “secret” judges of a decorating contest.  Businesses and institutions around town took their walls and entryways with red paint and a world of creativity in the “Paint the Town Red” competition.  Most of the competing businesses were located in the beautifully renovated Ripley Court Square.  We, the Amigo Trio, had the honor of awarding the prizes and as easy as it may sound, competition was tough! 



Congratulations to the winners:

Best in Show:  Bank of Ripley


Special Awards:

1st Place:  District Attorney’s Office


Most Original:  Bank of Ripley

2nd Place:  Simply Beautiful Salon


Most Beautiful:  County Assessor’s Office

3rd Place:  County Assessor’s Office


Best Theme:   SN Anthony Insurance


The highlight of the day came with the attempt to make the longest tomato sandwich.  By the way the temperature had moved from the morning burn to a good sweltering fire but we were determined to break this record.  We got in position behind our loaves; gloves on and ready.  The whistle blew and we quickly placed tomatoes, mayo, salt and pepper on the bun in that order! Under the watchful eye of our official timekeeper, Henning Mayor Michael Bursey, we worked feverishly to finish that sandwich and beat the record.  When the time was called we had a sandwich that measured 27.5 feet and that will go in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Tomato Sandwich ever built (until someone comes along and challenges our great feat).



What do you do with the world’s longest tomato sandwich after you build it? You eat it of course!  tomato_sammich

Our excursion was coming to a close.  We had used all of our energy and our reserves light was flashing so after a quick trip to the park again to buy some extra tomatoes for the road and peruse some of the vendors set up in the park, my first Day Trippin’ tour ended.

Thanks to the town of Ripley and the entire county of Lauderdale for your hospitality and good times on my Day Trippin’ excursion to the 2012 Lauderdale County Tomato Festival. Special thanks again to the mayors of Lauderdale County and Ripley, the Tims Family Farm, the gracious ladies of the F.C.E., my two Day Trippin’ partners for the day, Ted Townsend and Melissa Cox-Rayner from the TN ECD, the Ripley Downtown Development Corporation and the Lauderdale County Chamber / ECD.

My next Day Trippin’ excursion could be anywhere in our district (Fayette, Lauderdale, Shelby or Tipton counties).  If you have an idea of where I should go, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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