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Emma Hunt

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Why banana pudding became a Southern specialty—and where you can get some of the best

It’s no secret that Southerners love banana pudding, but bananas hail from the tropics, and the first mention of the layered dessert came not from the South but from the New York Times in 1878, according to food historian Robert Moss for Serious Eats. So why did the dish become a Southern staple? Moss’s theory is simple: Like many other potluck and picnic favorites (pastimes perfected in the South), banana pudding easily feeds a crowd.

  • The first known banana pudding recipe, from an 1888 issue of Good Housekeeping, called for custard layered with sponge cake and sliced bananas, served in a “pretty dish.” In the 1940s, Nabisco began printing a variation of the recipe on its vanilla wafer boxes, establishing the cookie as a key ingredient.
  • Major port cities such as New Orleans and Mobile received some of the country’s first banana shipments in the late nineteenth century, helping to establish the dish’s association with the South.
  • Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern swears by the banana pudding from Miss Myra’s restaurant in Birmingham, declaring it “the best banana pudding in the world.”
  • Every October in Centerville, Tennessee, the National Banana Pudding Festival hosts a cook-off to choose the best banana pudding in America. Visitors also enjoy a Puddin’ Path of locally made platters and a utensil-free banana pudding–eating contest.
  • The dessert made its way to the moon (in freeze-dried form) on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
  • Banana pudding was the most-Googled dessert in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Mississippi last summer. (Georgians, however, disproportionately inquired about banana pudding cake.)
  • Jackson Morgan Southern Cream in Fayetteville, Tennessee, makes a buzz-worthy banana pudding cream liqueur. Like the dessert, it’s sweet enough to enjoy neat.

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.

Women Making a Mark: Angelica Hairston

From Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” to Beyoncé’s “Black Parade,” music has long served as an outlet for those advocating for social justice. After the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, Angelica Hairston, a harpist, felt moved to find that connection between social justice and classical music—a predominantly white corner of the music industry. In 2015,
 she launched Challenge the Stats, a nonprofit aimed at empowering and amplifying BIPOC musicians by using music as a tool for equity and inclusion.

“Everything we do is right at the intersection of classical music and justice,” the 28-year-old says. Challenge the Stats hosts concert series featuring BIPOC musicians, coordinates workshops with schools and younger audiences, and facilitates discussions with activists connected to the music world.

Hairston also is the artistic director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble, which provides free harp instruction to more than 80 students in Atlanta. “Urban Youth Harp Ensemble serves over 85 percent students of color, so it’s another way that my personal mission of empowering BIPOC artists lives every day through my work.”

Over the last year, her efforts have been particularly relevant. “Facing a pandemic—but especially as a Black woman facing this racial reckoning and all the violence that’s been happening toward Black communities—has been really challenging, but I feel grateful that the work I do has a direct impact on what’s happening in the world around us,” she says.

Recently, she’s been able to make a difference with the help of a Vital Sounds Initiative Grant from Project: Music Heals Us. The grant went toward developing a digital, bedside concert series in which performers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic were given opportunities to perform for healthcare workers and patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Hairston sees the healing and uniting impact of music every day. She’s optimistic about the future of Challenge the Stats and the future of the city. “Atlanta has such a rich history of civil rights leaders, of justice leaders, of activists— there’s so many powerful roots,” she says. “I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to continue to be a voice here.”

Women Making a Mark: Holly Ranney

It all started as an ordinary Sunday in church for Holly Ranney and her husband, Peter. At the time, they didn’t know the church service would change their lives. The sermon on that pivotal day in 2012 was about how people should use their networks and resources as a calling to help others. She worked in the furniture and design industry and Peter was in construction—together, they knew they could combine their skills to make an impact, and Sunshine on a Ranney Day (SOARD) was born.

The charity renovates homes for children with special needs. Ranney’s team guts and transforms bathrooms to make them wheelchair accessible; creates dream bedroom makeovers for children with long-term illnesses; and designs in-home therapy rooms suited for each child’s particular needs, whether those are physical, sensory, or educational. “Sometimes we’ll have to knock out walls, sometimes we just work with what we have,” she says. “But we do all of this at no cost
 to the family.” Currently, they’ve completed around 140 renovations since the organization’s inception. Each one is a deeply moving and emotional experience.

One way the nonprofit raises funds is through its new home furnishings and decor store, Sunny & Ranney, which opened in November 2020. Retailers, wholesalers, and designers donate high-end furniture, decor, and other merchandise to the store; SOARD then uses the money from those purchases to finance the renovation side of the nonprofit.

“We have so many amazing Atlanta-based companies that help us,” she says. “And with our events and fundraisers, we’ve been able to gain a lot of local support. It’s been amazing to see the amount of people who want to help.” This support means a lot to her, but ultimately, the kids she’s able to help inspire her the most.

“It’s so much more of a need than I think people realize,” Ranney says. “Once you see a child able to roll up to a vanity and brush their teeth on their own, or roll into their shower without having help—that’s stuff a lot of people take for granted, but when you see the impact, there’s just no stopping that work.”

Why the sprawling city of Jacksonville, Florida, is a great spot for a weekend getaway

Although it’s the largest city by area in the continental United States (840 square miles), Jacksonville manages to feel small. Venture beyond the urban core, and you’ll discover a patchwork of historic neighborhoods. Three stand out: Riverside Avondale, Atlantic Beach, and San Marco. Each came into its own around the early twentieth century, the results of Florida’s land and tourism booms. (In those days, Jacksonville was called the “Winter City in the Summer Land” because of the attention it drew from Northerners seeking warmer climes.) Together, these storied neighborhoods continue to welcome visitors with award-winning dining, jaw-dropping architectural variety, and, of course, the sunny beaches that appealed to travelers more than a century ago.

Leon Cheek residence

Photo from Alamy

Riverside Avondale

After the Civil War, Jacksonville emerged as a winter hub for Northerners living along the Eastern Seaboard. Wealthy families built elaborate mansions along Riverside Avenue, so named for its proximity to the St. Johns River. The Riverside neighborhood soon welcomed another wave of newcomers as a result of the Great Fire of 1901, which destroyed almost all downtown residences and businesses and remains the largest urban fire recorded in the South. Many affluent city dwellers moved a mile from downtown to the prestigious neighborhood. By 1910, Riverside Avenue was known as one of America’s most beautiful streets, and today, the neighborhood that grew up around it is home to the state’s most diverse assortment of architectural styles, including Prairie and a slew of Revivals—Gothic, Greek, Tudor, and Mediterranean, to name a few.

During the land boom of the 1920s, just south of Riverside, the Avondale neighborhood was born. It soon became another fashionable enclave for the well-to-do. Over time, the sister neighborhoods grew together and are now often considered as one.

The best way to get a feel for Riverside Avondale’s history is on a self-guided walking or driving tour of its stately mansions. (Check out Visit Jacksonville’s website for maps and descriptions of each notable spot.) Look out for the castle-like, Jacobethan Revival–style former home of Leon Cheek, who founded what later became the Maxwell House Coffee Company. And don’t miss Riverside Avenue’s collection of Prairie-style homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Henry John Klutho; the street has more Prairie-style residences than any other outside the Midwest.

Cummer Museum of Art

Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville

The neighborhood is also home to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, which features more than 5,000 works, including a highly regarded collection of eighteenth-century porcelain. Three themed gardens—English, Italian, and Olmsted—can be found behind the museum, each a work of art in its own right. Impeccably trimmed hedges and rows of bright blossoms line walkways that lead to fountains, reflecting pools, and sculptures—all with riverfront views.

Riverside Avondale is also home to the artsy and eclectic subdistrict of Five Points. One can easily spend hours wandering its massive vintage shops, such as Fans & Stoves and Five Points Vintage, hunting for deals on everything from vinyl records to antique medical equipment. Getting hangry? Mixed Fillings, a pie “speakeasy” that operates out of a hidden Dutch door behind an unassuming shop, will fix that. Just pick your pie—or opt for a pie flight—and dig in at one of the patio tables alongside the building. For a sit-down meal, head to trendy seafood restaurant River and Post. Ask for a rooftop table; although the upstairs menu is limited to appetizers and a handful of sushi rolls, you can sip the light and fruity Manifest Destiny (made with Champagne, peach, lavender, lemon, and vodka from local distillery Manifest) and take in stellar views of the river and city skyline.

Beaches Town Center in Atlantic Beach

Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville

Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach, a half-hour drive from downtown, was a tiny coastal community before railroad titan Henry Morrison Flagler showed up. After purchasing and connecting several existing area railroads to his Florida East Coast Railway in 1899, Flagler constructed the massive Continental Hotel there in 1901. Twelve years later, he sold the land on which the hotel sat, as well as the surrounding area, to the Atlantic Beach Corporation, which began laying the groundwork for a planned town. Despite several setbacks, including years of bankruptcy during World War I, the town was incorporated in 1926 and has remained a vibrant beachside community ever since.

Though the Continental Hotel is long gone, many visitors now stay at the 193-room One Ocean Resort, located mere steps from the Atlantic. It’s a quick stroll from the resort to Beaches Town Center, a hip collection of restaurants and shops lining either side of Atlantic Boulevard (which also delineates Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach). Start the day at Atlantic Beach’s Homespun Kitchen, where you can grab a breakfast wrap made with organic eggs and turkey bacon (or go vegan with tempeh) along with a coffee brewed with beans from local coffee roaster Bold Bean. (Try adding a shot of Homespun’s house-made cinnamon syrup.) In the evening, cross the street into Neptune Beach for happy-hour oysters and sangria at The Local. Be sure to stop in for a pint of beer and a game of pool at Pete’s Bar, an eighty-seven-year-old institution and the diviest of dives.

Atlantic Beach

Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville

If you’re in Atlantic Beach, you’re probably there for its beaches. Rent all manner of water-sports equipment at Jax Surf & Paddle. The company also offers private surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and fitness classes for all ages and experience levels. More outdoor fun awaits at Tide Views Preserve, a peaceful park on the Intracoastal Waterway with 2,500 feet of walking paths, fishing areas, and picturesque views. Be on the lookout for the resident wildlife, including great blue herons and hundreds of tiny crabs.

San Marco Square

Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville

San Marco

Trains may have ushered in the beginning of Atlantic Beach, but for San Marco, it was a bridge—the St. John’s River Bridge, which was completed in 1921 during Florida’s land boom. The bridge linked the burgeoning peninsula neighborhood with downtown Jacksonville, allowing cars to drive easily back and forth over the river. Four years later, real estate tycoon Telfair Stockton began work on a Mediterranean-inspired development he named after Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, which he had visited on a trip to Europe. The Italian influence is evident in much of the residential architecture, which is primarily Mediterranean Revival (though, like Riverside Avondale, San Marco also claims an array of construction styles).

San Marco Square, the main business district, is the neighborhood’s crown jewel. A fountain in the middle of the square is adorned with bronze lions—the symbol of St. Mark, the neighborhood’s namesake. Within walking distance, find a host of restaurants, shops, and attractions. Don’t miss San Marco Books and More, a mainstay since 1972, which carries novels of all genres along with colorful, leather-bound copies of literary classics. Watch a movie at the art deco San Marco Theatre, built in 1938, or catch a live performance at Theatre Jacksonville, the oldest continuously operating community theater in Florida (opened in 1919).

San Marco Theatre

Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville

Half a mile from the square, Wick: A Candle Bar is also worth a stop. After browsing and smelling upwards of ninety fragrances—ranging from the typical vanilla bean and gardenia to “old books” and basmati rice—visitors are instructed to mix and match their favorite scented oils to craft a customized candle. While you’re waiting for your creation to solidify, take a short stroll to V Pizza for a slice of authentic Neapolitan pie.

Before bidding farewell to Jacksonville, toast the town with a craft cocktail at Grape & Grain Exchange, a trendy neighborhood-bar-meets-package-store, or at Rue St. Marc, a small, stylish French-American spot with an extensive cocktail program. Popular options among the fifty-plus handcrafted beverages include the fruity Dahlia Blossom (brandy, citrus, and sparkling rosé) and the Uncle Buck (a take on the Moscow Mule with whiskey and bourbon).

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.

5 celebrated charter captains share the local seafood spots that lure them back to land

Hatteras Sol

Photo courtesy of Hatteras Sol

Captain Jessie Anderson
Carolina Girl Sportfishing
, Hatteras, North Carolina

“I would say Hatteras Sol because they have a great atmosphere and awesome food. It’s not formal by any means. It’s casual, yet the food is upscale—but not priced upscale. It’s just really high-quality seafood. You’re right on Pamlico Sound, so you can see the sunset while you’re enjoying your fresh seafood. My favorite thing to get there is the shrimp and grits.”

Captain Fuzzy Davis
Silva Dolla Fishing Charters
, Hilton Head, South Carolina

“There are so many good options, but one really great spot is Skull Creek Boathouse. The menu is diverse and priced well, and the food is very good—I recommend the Angry Tuna Rice Bowl. They’ll also cook your catch. It has a patio area that overlooks this really pretty Intracoastal Waterway setting with lots of boats coming by. There’s a lot to see just sitting there and watching the water.”

Captain Debbie Hanson
She Fishes 2
, Estero, Florida

“My favorite is Dixie Fish Company. They have a phenomenal smoked fish dip. Most places that make smoked fish dip here in Southwest Florida use mullet or parts of the fish that essentially no one wants. The dip at Dixie Fish is made with wahoo, which is one of the best-tasting fish. The restaurant is all open-air, and it has an old-school, historic fish-market vibe.”

Captain Troy Frady
Distraction Charters
, Orange Beach, Alabama

“My favorite restaurant of all time is Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, where we keep our boat. They have the best food in town. The upstairs dining menu is usually very small, but the chef up there, Chef Bill, is very particular about the quality of food he puts out. The fresh fish of the day is always good, and the Murder Point oysters are delicious.”

Captain Mike Frenette
Redfish Lodge of Louisiana, Venice, Louisiana

“I would pick New Orleans Food & Spirits. The food is excellent, and it’s where the locals go. They’re known for their fried seafood dishes. They give you way too much to eat, so you get more bang for your buck. Everything is good, so it’s tough to pick a favorite, but I like to get their seafood gumbo or blackened catfish pasta.”

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.

Five-Paw Stays: Pup-approved hotels that are off the chain

The Old No. 77 Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery

The Old No. 77 Hotel
New Orleans
Located in a historic 1854 building a few blocks from the French Quarter, this property encourages visitors to embrace the city’s mystical side. Guests traveling with pets are referred to voodoo priest Belfazaar Michael Bousum Ashantison, who will perform a psychic reading for your sidekick. Borrow a book from the hotel’s “pet spiritual menu,” which features titles on topics such as pet psychology and yoga for dogs. In the lobby, be sure to snag a complimentary treat made by local dog bakery Cafe du Bone, known for its fresh-baked “beg-nets.”

Mr. Pickles from the Park on Main

Photo courtesy of the Park on Main

The Park on Main
Highlands, North Carolina
From the moment they enter the lobby, dogs and the people who love them will feel at home at this twenty-four-room boutique inn. Dozens of paintings of man’s best friends, from Pomeranians to poodles, line the walls, and hotel mascot Mr. Pickles, a dapper Scottish terrier, greets every guest. Pups snooze in style on Orvis therapeutic dog beds and dine out of hand-painted, ceramic dog bowls. They’re welcome all over the property, but they’ll likely want to spend the most time at Mr. Pickles’ Dog Park, a fully fenced puppy playground just a block from the hotel.

The Hermitage Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Hermitage Hotel

The Hermitage Hotel
Nashville
A stay at this iconic Forbes Five Star hotel promises luxurious amenities, and with the Pampered Paws Program, your dog—or cat—can indulge, too. Skip the kibble and opt for selections from the “Paw”ticular in-room dining menu, which includes lighter fare such as steel-cut oats as well as gourmet entrees such as roasted chicken or salmon tartare. A pet massage therapist remains on call, walking services may be scheduled at your leisure, and a pet chauffeur is available to take your pup all over town—from local dog parks to grooming appointments.

Maya, the canine director of pet relations at Baker’s Cay Resort

Photo courtesy of Baker's Cay Resort

Baker’s Cay Resort
Key Largo, Florida
Sure, many resorts have a public relations manager. Less likely? A canine director of pet relations. Enter Maya, a friendly Husky, who has “worked” at the resort for two years. Meet her each evening at the oceanfront Yappy Hour, where humans sip Spicy Chihuahuas and Salty Dogs while pups enjoy yappetizers and nonalcoholic Dog Pawrignon and Bark Brews. Take advantage of the resort’s complimentary doggie camera harnesses, which capture every moment from the pet’s perspective, allowing guests to relive their stays through the eyes of their furry friends.

Two dogs at Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of Costa d'Este Beach Resort & Spa

Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa
Vero Beach, Florida
Technically, you can stay at this beachside resort for free. The catch? You’ll need to pay for your pup. With the resort’s Humans Stay Free package, your dog is the honored guest. Pooches can relax with a ten-minute doggie massage at the on-site spa, chow down on “muttballs” from the Wave Kitchen and Bar’s pet menu, and spend all afternoon catching Frisbees and swimming in the waves on the dog-friendly beach. After a day of pampering and play, your dog can look forward to a bone-shaped treat at turndown.

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.

5 elite golf pros reveal their favorite public golf courses around the South

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Pinehurst No. 2, Hole 14

Photo courtesy of Pinehurst

Chesson Hadley
Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, North Carolina

“Mine would probably be Pinehurst No. 2. There’s so much history at that course. They’ve hosted U.S. Opens, a PGA Championship, a Ryder Cup, and Tour Championships, but undoubtedly what everyone remembers is Payne Stewart’s winning moment at the ’99 U.S. Open. You can’t leave without getting a picture beside his statue on the eighteenth green. I also grew up playing junior events there, so there’s some sentimental value.”

Brandt Snedeker
Harpeth Hills Golf Club
, Nashville

“My favorite is Harpeth Hills Golf Club in Nashville. It’s where I learned how to play golf. My dad would take my brother, Haymes, and me out to the course every weekend. My brother is four years older and an established golfer as well. I couldn’t hit it as far as him and had to rely on my short game to compete with him and his friends.”

Justin Bolli
Harbour Town Golf Links
, Hilton Head, South Carolina

“My favorite in South Carolina is Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. I enjoy the challenge it provides—it’s very narrow. The surrounding trees and harbor make it a really scenic and fun course to play, too. The lighthouse on the eighteenth hole is cool and makes the hole a memorable one.”

Charles Howell III
Great Waters at Reynolds Lake Oconee
, Greensboro, Georgia

“My favorite is the Great Waters course at Reynolds Lake Oconee. You get lake views on ten of the eighteen holes. There’s really no other golf course quite like it. They just completed a massive renovation, and its condition is just phenomenal. Of all the public courses I’ve played, that’s my favorite by far.”

Stewart Cink
Bobby Jones Golf Course
, Atlanta

“If I had to pick one to play in the Atlanta area, I would pick Bobby Jones because of the namesake. It’s been redesigned and redeveloped in the last couple years. You get a nice slice of the intown golfing population, and it’s a neat, intriguing facility. I love how you can play the course from tee to green with different routing based on the day. It’s like multiple courses all wrapped up in one.”

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Southbound.

Are you a “monogramaniac”? A closer look at the timeless Southern fashion statement

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Proudly stitched, stamped, or stuck on tea towels and baby clothes, luggage and stationery, even the rear windows of cars, monograms are ubiquitous in the South. They date back to early Greece and Rome, when rulers used their initials to authenticate currency. So why are monograms regarded as a Southern staple? Many point to a regional emphasis on family tradition and a love of family names.

  • There is a right way to monogram. Beyond the traditional three-letter style, in which the initial for one’s surname is largest and centered, a host of etiquette rules govern the handling of hyphenated names, couples’ monograms, and other variations. (Who made these rules? Unclear. But like our names, we’re stuck with them.)
  • In the Middle Ages, embroidered monograms helped identify a family’s laundry, which was washed communally.
  • Monograms took off during the Victorian era as a symbol of wealth. An 1871 article in Appletons’ Journal referred to enthusiasts of the trend as “monogramaniacs.”
  • Elvis Presley adopted the monogram TCB for “Taking Care of Business.” (The wives and girlfriends in his entourage received pendants inscribed with TLC—“Tender Loving Care.”) Graceland still sells merch emblazoned with the King’s famous logo.
  • Proof that Southerners will monogram anything? Jon Grigsby, owner of 5 Flags Embroidery in Gulf Breeze, Florida, reports that he’s been asked to personalize bikinis, baseballs, yoga mats—even toilet paper.
  • In the words of Southern celebrity Reese Witherspoon: “My rule is, if it’s not moving—monogram it.”

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Southbound.

Five fun farms around the Southeast

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Scarecrows at Legare Farms

Photo courtesy of Legare Farms

Legare Farms
Johns Island, South Carolina
Family-owned since its founding in 1725, Legare Farms is among the oldest working farms in the country. Located by the Stono River and just a short drive from Charleston, the 300-acre farm offers plenty of year-round fun, but fall is the ideal time for a visit. On weekends in October, head to the farm for after-dark pumpkin picking, gem mining, hayrides, and a build-your-own scarecrow factory. While you’re there, pick up one-of-a-kind homemade products, such as bacon salsa, pumpkin butter, and sweet tea jelly.

Lucky Ladd Farms’ petting zoo

Photo by Crystal Freemon Photography

Lucky Ladd Farms
Eagleville, Tennessee
The largest petting farm in Tennessee, Lucky Ladd Farms is home to hundreds of animals and offers a host of interactive attractions on its sixty acres. Saddle up for a pony ride, and stop by the petting zoo to meet and feed cows, sheep, and llamas, as well as the farm’s rare livestock, including Tennessee fainting goats and miniature donkeys. Visit during fall to explore the corn maze, try your hand at archery, and pick the perfect pumpkin—or even launch one from a giant slingshot.

A giant pumpkin at Burt’s Farm

Photo courtesy of Burt's Farm

Burt’s Farm
Dawsonville, Georgia
The surrounding Appalachian Mountains lend this farm a spectacular setting, and its two-mile hayrides offer glimpses of Amicalola Falls, the highest waterfall in the state. But the farm’s main claim to fame is its pumpkin patch, with pumpkins ranging from several ounces to 150 pounds. In addition to offering nearly seventy acres of pumpkins ripe for the picking, Burt’s sells pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls, and pumpkin bread. Check out the homemade cosmetics line, which includes a selection of skin- and hair-care products created from pumpkins and squash grown on the farm.

Pig races at 4D Farm

Photo courtesy of 4D Farm

4D Farm
Cullman, Alabama
With 4D Farm’s wide assortment of family-friendly activities, from a mechanical bull to an obstacle course, visitors can easily spend a whole day (or two) at the North Alabama attraction. Enjoy 4D’s classic offerings, such as the corn maze and giant jumping pillow, and be sure to check out some of the more exhilarating options, including a vintage roller coaster, 250-foot zip line, and tubing slides. The farm is kid-friendly in every respect, but the little ones will especially love the chicken show, candy cannon, and pig races.

Mississippi Peanut Festival at Mitchell Farms

Photo courtesy of Mitchell Farms

Mitchell Farms
Collins, Mississippi
Located in the piney woods of southeast Mississippi, Mitchell Farms specializes in peanuts, so it’s no surprise that its 1,500 acres are home to the Mississippi Peanut Festival each October. Celebrating ten years this fall, the festival features more than seventy-five craft and food vendors, antique tractors and historic log cabin tours, and all the boiled peanuts and peanut brittle you can eat. In addition to the peanut fest, Mitchell Farms offers other fall attractions, including a six-acre corn maze, sunflower field, and pumpkin patch.

This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Southbound.

Women Making a Mark: Tara Murphy

Tara Murphy’s public relations career started with a D in one of her PR classes at Elon University. “It was never something that I wanted to focus on, which is very funny since I’ve now owned a PR company for 24 years,” the 49-year-old Kirkwood resident says.

360 Media, Murphy’s boutique public relations agency specializing in lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality clients, has been the driving force behind many well-known Atlanta festivals, events, and establishments. Chances are you’ve been to an event Murphy has helped plan: Think Music Midtown, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Sweetwater 420 Festival, and Atlanta Dogwood Festival—to name a few. Even Krog Street Market is a product of Murphy’s public relations prowess; her work helped land it on Travel + Leisure’s list of best food halls around the globe prior to its opening. Her business has also gone national. She’s done PR 
for festivals including Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores and Telluride Blues and Brews in Colorado, but she credits much of her success to the city she loves most.

“Atlanta gave me the opportunity to be an entrepreneur, and to not only survive, but to thrive and create a business that impacts the city,” she says. “It’s also enabled me to empower other female entrepreneurs.” With 360 Media’s ever-growing network of local, regional, and national connections, the company has served as a launching pad for many young women in public relations. Some have gone on to create their own Atlanta agencies, while others have ended up across the country in Los Angeles, working in music and entertainment.

But Atlanta will always have a special place in Murphy’s heart. “I think Atlanta was before its time on
 a lot of things, and I think people are just now catching on to how savvy the city really is,” she says. “It makes it really cool to work here, and there’s never a dull moment.”

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