On Friday nights in April and October, many Hattiesburg residents can be found downtown setting up their chairs or blankets and settling in for a night of music and fun at Live @ Five.
Sarah Newton, former president of the Downtown Association, is the creator of the Hattiesburg concert series, which was named Best Local Music Festival in 2016 Best of the Pine Belt voting. (Finalists in the 2017 voting are named on Pages 32-35 and voting in the next round begins March 1).
Michael Simeon of Lumberton, who earned instant fame in 2014 when he danced with Jennifer Lopez during his audition for “American Idol,” is still staying involved with his music.
However, his attention is laser-focused on Saturday, May 13, when he graduates from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.
So, how does the same singer/songwriter/producer go from being a Top 12 male finisher on “American Idol” to a bookworm with electrical engineering on his mind? For Simeon, the answer is actually simple.
Tori Banks and her husband, Nathan, are planning to make a couple of additions to their business and their family. The Bankses own The Barn at Bridlewood, which was voted the Best Venue in 2016 Best of the Pine Belt voting (The nomination process is underway for the 2017 competition. It ends on Feb. 15. Visit festivalsouth.org).
With the success of the local event site at 32 Railroad Road in Hattiesburg, they are working to open a second venue in the Jackson area.
Bridget Berry, an Oak Grove native, is working to make sure every woman or man who enters her store leaves with exactly what they wanted and certain that it makes them look as good as possible.
Berry is the owner of Alterations and Formals by Bridget in Oak Grove, where she sells wedding gowns, alters clothing and creates her own custom pieces.
Watching her mother and grandmother, Berry learned to sew as a child. She made her first dress at age 7, which she said had cap sleeves and four buttons. Berry was one of four girls.
Ireland, the birthplace of writer Oscar Wilde and Guinness beer, is also home to a local chef who has made his home in Hattiesburg. Originally from Ireland, Eoin Redmond came to the United States years ago, but it was quite a while before he moved to the Hub City. Redmond is the director of Food and Beverage Operations for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
However, before he claimed that title, he was a chef living in New York working at a restaurant called Oceana.
Growing up, the two young girls looked up to their father, a local business owner. When they made it to college, the duo pursued the dream of owning a business of their own and graduated from William Carey University with degrees in business administration.
Hattiesburg residents Stephanie Messina and Heather Bickham are the owners of the Breadsmith Hattiesburg location on Hardy Street. Breadsmith was voted Best Bread in 2016 Best of the Pine Belt voting. Voting begins for the 2017 competition on Jan. 14 (See story on Page 33 of this issue.)
Randy Thomley figures he’s on the downhill side of Christmas for his business. And holiday shoppers who haven’t picked out a Christmas tree this year will probably see Thomley in the near future.
Thomley, who owns and operates the Thomley Christmas Tree Farm and Gift Shop in Oak Grove, believes more than half of his business is done by Dec. 1. When the temperatures drop, so do the trees.
“Some people, because of leaving town early or going offshore, will get their trees early, he said.
The saying goes, “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” For Elizabeth Porter, an attorney with a private practice in downtown Hattiesburg, her career has not only been a way for her to stay in the city she loves, but also a way to get closer to a lost loved one.
“I’ve always loved Hattiesburg,” Porter said.
Porter was named Best Attorney in 2016 Best of the Pine Belt voting. See January’s issue of Signature for an update on voting in the 2017 competition.
She served as Forrest County Junior Miss and Hattiesburg Miss Hospitality.
Everyone has a unique story about what brought him or her to the Hub City and what has kept them here. Keenon Walker, an advocate for downtown Hattiesburg and supporter of the Spectrum Center, credits the diversity of the city for keeping him here through the years.
Walker has lived in Hattiesburg for 11 years. He is an Orange Grove native, moving to the Hub City from the Gulf Coast in 2005, just before Katrina hit, to attend The University of Southern Mississippi.
“And I’ve just kind of been here ever since,” Walker said. “I love this town. It’s so much fun.”