A Day at the Museums–in Biloxi

Beatriz- Day at the Museums

With a light wind blowing playing with our hair…

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU

…today was perfect for going out on a Day at the Museums.  And our first stop was the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, which was first planned in the early 2000s.  owever, when the actual construction started Hurricane Katrina hit Biloxi, washing away most of the construction. Undaunted, the city began construction again, employing the renowned Frank Gehry as architect.

The buildings have Gehry’s trademark curves and steel, making for an aesthetically stunning Museum (albeit difficult to photograph).

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry

There were  two guest artists being showcased at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum: Ruth Miller and Greg Moran.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry

First, we saw the pieces of Mr. Moran.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Greg Moran

He mainly deals with different types of metals, wood, and stone to create sculptures and he also designs paintings.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Greg Moran

Mrs. Miller also has an interesting method of creating her own type of art.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

She uses stitches to bring to life tapestries.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

She accomplishes these masterpieces by first taking a picture, then tracing it onto a series of lined paper, and finally towards becoming a stitched artwork.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

We had never seen her work, and we were blown away by her skill and technique.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

…and we enjoyed going through the entire exhibit.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

Next, we saw the George Ohr exhibit. There are three defining features of an Ohr piece: 1) having many twists and turns 2) thin walls 3) and lastly naturalistic images.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ohr Pottery

Ohr had many qualities and charms. He became and eccentric man in order to become more successful. He would stand on his hands in front of his gallery to draw the crowd in, gel his mustache to look like it was being blown in the wind, and he verbalized various quotes that added to his art, such as “This Pot is here, and I am the Potter who was”.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Christina Perez, Kentucky Senator Dorsey Ridley
Christina Discusses Ohr Pottery with Kentucky Senator Dorsey Ridley

After these exhibits we took a short break for lunch and then headed to a ceramic workshop.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Ceramics

After a brief tutorial, we each designed–with varying levels of skill–tiles…

As part of our conference participation, the tiles will be glazed and mailed to us.  It was fun to learn and, pending the outcome of the tiles, we might even have something to keep!

At the next stop, we visited the Maritime and Seafood Museum. Biloxi was once known as the Seafood Capitol of the world, but after Hurricane Camille hit, they lost that title–although they still have a thriving seafood industry. Throughout the entire museum, we learned about the history of the seafood industry in Biloxi.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Maritime and Seafood Museum

This included poignant stories of specific sea vessels to technological innovations, such as this shrimp-peeling device.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Maritime and Seafood Museum

We even found a boat called “Little Bee,” our nickname for Beatriz.

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Maritime and Seafood Museum

One of the most interesting stories was about the lens from the Ship-Island lighthouse.  During the Civil War, Ship-Island was the site of a brief battle, and although the confederates declared victory, they retreated from the island, taking the lens with them.  Although it was returned and used again, the lighthouse became obsolete during the 20th century, and the Museum gained control of the Fresnel Lens.  During Hurricane Katrine, however, the lens was washed away, breaking into many pieces.  Originally crafted in France in 1820, the lens was believed lost forever.

Amazingly, however, the pieces of the lens were found and restored!

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Maritime and Seafood Museum

The curator described that restoration as a metaphor for the Gulf Coast, a hardy and durable area that, through teamwork, has managed to come back together after Katrina.

It was an educational day, full of networking and learning.  Little did we know what the evening had in store!

Southern Legislative Conference, Biloxi MS, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ohr-O'Keefe, Frank Gehry, Ruth Miller

 

More Gulf Coast Fun, Night 2, Biloxi

Biking in Biloxi, by Beatriz Martinez

In order to work off the food, the Leap Ambassadors parted ways to see the seashore while exercising. Professor Yawn and Ryan went on a gator excursion, where they fed gators and got to “pet” them. The girls, however, went a much simpler route by doing a variety of safer alternatives.

The first of which was, of course, shopping.  Being at Beau Rivage, we decided to, briefly, get a glimpse at the casino. Being that not all of us were of age, we moved on to the shops and away from the casinos.

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Beau Rivage

Along the way we happened to chance upon a face painter and of course Christina and Beatriz got their face painted.

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Beau Rivage

Later, after touring the rest of Beau Rivage, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our next excursion.

Part of the city of Biloxi’s recreational/ tourism efforts were incorporated in a bicycling program that you could use in order to cycle across most of the city of Biloxi. The three of us: Makayla, Christina, and I, took advantage of this opportunity and used it to ride 4 miles along the beach.

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Beau Rivage

Part of Biloxi’s charm are the sea-themed sculptures along the shore.  Made from trees damaged in Hurricane Katrina, the community brought in artists to turn the dead trees into beautiful art.

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Tree Sculptures

It’s a classic case of making lemonade from lemons, and we enjoyed the sculptures (Galveston adopted this program after Ike).

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU,, tree sculptures

After more than 1 hour on the road, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for another night of fun.

Family Night, by Makayla Mason

With a beautiful sunset and perfect weather luring us into the Southern Legislative Conference’s Family Night, there was excitement in the air. To start the night with a hit, Jackson State University made a grand entrance.

Biloxi MS, Southern Legislative Conference, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU,, Jackson State University Sonic Boom Band

The crowd was cheered with approval as we all enjoyed their enthusiastic dances and electric music.

Southern Legislative Conference, Jackson State University Sonic Boom Band, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Ocean Springs MS

Their whole program was exciting and wonderful.

And the music and moves were great!

Speaking of moves, a certain couple–Christine and Aaron from the Lift School of Acrobatics–had some very flexible ones.

Southern Legislative Conference, Ocean Springs MS, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Arron and Christine, Lift School of Acrobatics

Their balance, elegance, and strength were amazing!

For the rest of the night, we enjoyed a picnic-on-the-beach style dinner with many items to choose from such as hamburgers, corndogs, nachos, cotton candy, and s’mores!

Southern Legislative Conference, Ocean Springs MS, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU

While enjoying our tasty dinner, we enjoyed live music by Steve Azar.

Southern Legislative Conference, Ocean Springs MS, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Steve Azar

Steve Azar, a Mississippi man, fully hit the country scene in 2002. His song “I Don’t Have To Be Me til’ Monday” was the first single to reach #2 on the national country radio charts.

Southern Legislative Conference, Ocean Springs MS, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Steve Azar

We were lucky enough to sing along with him as he played that very same song that is still popular on the radio today.

Southern Legislative Conference, Ocean Springs MS, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Steve Azar

As the night grew late, we played a few beach side games. We even played a tournament of bean-bag toss.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Playing Horseshoes in the dark was interesting. Half the fun was trying to find where the horseshoes had buried themselves after we had thrown them. Makayla was the only one to get a ringer but Ryan had a few close throws.

We were sad to leave the Fun Zone, but it was off to get sleep for the next day’s adventures.

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