Biloxi News: Southern Legislative Conference, Day 1

Our first day in Biloxi, Mississippi began in a typical LEAP fashion: getting to discover what the variety of local attractions the Magnolia State had to offer. Having gotten to Biloxi late last night, we were unable to even glimpse what this new state was all about, but today we took full advantage of what it had to offer.

Half Shell Oyster House, by Christina Perez

Our first stop was in a quaint, local restaurant called Half Shell Oyster House. Nestled in Mississippi’s downtown area, this refurbished bank turned restaurant, was a hidden pearl. Surprisingly enough, about half of the ambassadors had never tried oysters, so the main course of our cuisine consisted of just that, including both raw oysters and grilled oysters.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Half-Shell Oyster House

To make it even more of a MS treat, we had fried tomatoes and crab cakes, The first timers prepared their oysters, and together took their first bite. All were glad to try it, but some proved more adventurous than others.

Next, we decided to partner up and share a plate so that we could save some room for dessert. Beatriz and Christina ordered a Seafood Sampler which included oysters, crab cakes, shrimp, and two sides: Sweet Potato Crème Brulee and Fried Okra. I couldn’t wait to taste the scrumptious Sweet Potato Creme Brulee. Ryan and Makayla decided to also be adventurous by ordering a Big Easy Surf and Turf which included a 6 oz filet over a crab cake. Strong reviews were given on the variety of seafood plates and then it was time for dessert.

We all decided on the Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding and the Bananas Foster Cheesecake. The Bread pudding was made with cinnamon rolls and topped with Homemade Spiced Rum Sauce. Professor Yawn, being the bread pudding connoisseur that he is, began to compare it to other bread puddings. It was delicious. So delicious in fact, that many of the Leapsters ended up burning their mouths due to their impatience for another bite. Everyone left happy and with full bellies towards the next adventure which would be a good compliment to the food.

Chandaleur Island Brewery, By Makayla Mason

As part of the Southern Legislative’s Conference first event, we went to tour the Chandeleur Island Brewery. We were greeted at the entrance by some sweet artisan ice pops, handcrafted by Pop Brothers.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

After a day in the hot sun, we thought the popsicles were heavenly!  There were even some pleasant surprises such as an entire Oreo on the inside of the “Cookies and Cream” popsicle!

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

After enjoying our ice pops, Chris Vignes, the City of Gulfport’s Public Information Officer, gave us some of the brewery’s backstory, and he explained the City’s economic development philosophy and vision for the future.

Once behind the the bar, one of the owners supplemented the tour, and we learned about the interesting history behind the building, the background of the company, and process of composing the beer.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

Chandeleur Brewery was never meant to be just a bar.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

Instead it was meant to revive the interest in hand-crafted beer and be a place where families could relax. Bringing the community together was crucial to the existence of the Brewery. Their beer cans were designed by a local tattoo artist, which we all thought was an interesting fact! Over the years it has grown to be quite popular and in the 14 years of the Chandeleur Brewery bartender’s experience there has never been a fight.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

Wanting to partake in the famous reputation of this Brewery, we sampled some of their beers (by “we,” we mean those of age). Out of the 5 samples that we could try, the popular vote went to the sweeter blueberry-flavored beer. After that, we played a couple of games ranging from Jenga…

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

…and Bean Bag Toss, or “Corn Hole,” as Christina and Ryan call it.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Popbrothers, Chandaleur Island Brewery

As part of the advertising the many treasures hidden downtown, we learned about Fishbone Alley.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Fishbone Alley, Gulfport MS

Just a block away from the Brewery, this alley had a charm all of its own.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Fishbone Alley, Gulfport MS

Once an plain-looking alley, it had gotten a touch up by many local artists from the area, decking it out in a variety pieces of art.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Fishbone Alley, Gulfport MS

This also enhanced the community bonding that the Brewery was trying to promote.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Fishbone Alley, Gulfport MS

This alley created a space where people from the community could get together for music, peace and quiet, expressing themselves through the medium of art, or some of the rather odd games the city sometimes hosted. The alley is a continuous project in which locals are excited to see grow.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Fishbone Alley, Gulfport MS

Jet Ski Adventure, by Ryan Brim

After getting back to Beau Rivage from the Chandeleur Island Brewery, we still had some time before attending the welcoming reception. Quickly, everyone decided to take the extra time to change at the hotel into some more beach-appropriate attire and drive the short distance to a jet ski rental stand right off the beach. None of us had ever ridden a jet ski before, and we were very excited for the opportunity.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Jet Skiing, Biloxi Beach

First, we paired up, with Christina being Makayla and Ryan partnering with Beatriz. We donned our life vests and waited a few minutes for the jet skis to get set up. After a 2-minute training, we were off. Time seemed to rush past us as we zipped every which way, skimming along the waves.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Jet Skiing, Biloxi Beach

Both teams switched drivers, taking turns and experimenting with the jet ski until they felt comfortable on maneuvering the machine around.

It was easy to get the hang of, and a whole lot of fun!

Finally, our time was up. Sadly, we trekked across the sand back to the shore…

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Jet Skiing, Biloxi Beach

…and even found a small crab which Beatriz had accidentally taken for a ride throughout the entire jet skiing experience. After a couple more pictures…

…it was soon time to head back to the hotel to prepare for the day’s next event.

Opening Reception at Jones Park, by Beatriz Martinez

Thirty minutes later, the LEAP Ambassadors were headed on their way to Jones Park where the Opening Reception for the Southern Legislative Conference of 2017 was being held. Music reached our ears as we walked across the “Front Yard of Mississippi”. We were greeted by a very Southern “Welcome Y’all” sign at the main entrance of the Barksdale Pavilion.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Jones Marina and Municipal Park, Gulfport MS

Of course, we could not help but take a picture with it. As famished as we were, we decided to explore the tantalizing food options available. With a very Southern theme mixed with some of the more coastal delicacies, we were served Bayou rice, a variety of local seafood (no oysters this time), and of course some good old-fashioned barbecue. In the meantime, we were enjoying the night music by Bobby Rush.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Bobby Rush. Blues Music

With over 17 blues awards in his lifetime, 364 records, and 66 years in the musical career, Bobby Rush was a sight to behold. At his early age of 84, he had the crowd grooving to his music pulling in people of all ages.

Not only did he present himself like the “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit” that he is…

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Bobby Rush

…but also did other king impersonations such as the “King of Pop” (Michael Jackson)…

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Bobby Rush. Blues Music

and the “King of Rock and Roll” (Elvis Presley).

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors, Bobby Rush. Blues Music

To end the evening with a bang, we were dazzled by a firework display that lighted the dark, night sky.

After celebrating the beginning of the Southern Legislative Conference, the Leapsters headed home to rest for the upcoming days filled with adventure.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Ambassadors

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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