The crowd at the fourth-annual Hobnob Mississippi might be slightly slimmer this year as business leaders deal with post-Katrina recovery efforts, but more than 500 people have already registered for Mississippi Economic Council’s (MEC) signature fall networking event.
vRegistration for “hobnobbing under the big top” begins at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 25 at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson. Beginning at 10 a.m., the weather-protected event will feature speakers Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Billy McCoy. Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO and chair of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, was recently added to the program as the keynote speaker.
“We made some changes to Hobnob because of hurricane recovery efforts,” said MEC president Blake Wilson. “We’re not going to have as many speakers, for example. The members of the Capitol Steps troupe were gracious enough to postpone their appearance because it just doesn’t seem like an appropriate year for satire. They’re a great group, so we’ll look forward to having them another time. We’re going to be focusing on the future, and it’s a good opportunity for everybody to come together for that purpose. Otherwise, it’s still a fun event under a big top tent, with music and the silliness we usually have.”
Barbour is expected to present “a positive, upbeat message that reflects the importance of the private sector in Mississippi’s enormous rebuilding effort after the devastating consequences of Hurricane Katrina,” said gubernatorial spokesperson Buddy Bynum. Among the statistics Barbour will possibly mention: the state tax commission estimates that nearly 27,000 of the more than 72,000 businesses in Mississippi were affected in some way by the hurricane.
Once again, the Fabulous Hobnob Highlighters, also known as Jazz at Sunset with Bob Davidson, will provide entertainment.
Lunch will begin at 12:30 p.m., with Dennery’s Restaurant catering the event, providing barbecue chicken supplied by Marshall Durbin and cooked by the Mississippi State University Poultry Science Cooking Team, barbecue pork prepared by the Memphis in May prize-winning team of Ubon’s in Yazoo City and catfish supplied by Simmons Farm Raised Catfish Inc.
Last year’s successful pumpkin-carving contest, with $500 given to the winning company’s favorite charity, will be repeated this year. Around 1 p.m., the winner of the Carving for Charity Pumpkin Design Contest will be announced. Betsy Bradley, executive director of the Mississippi Museum of Art, will judge the artistic pumpkin designs. Hobnob Mississippi will convene around 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $50 for MEC members and member of the co-convening organizations. Tickets for nonmembers are $75. MEC members along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are invited to attend Hobnob Mississippi at no charge, but are required to pre-register before the meeting.
Corporate sponsors include Alltel Wireless, Atmos Energy, BancorpSouth, BellSouth, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Cellular South, Entergy, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Health Management Associations Inc.’s Mississippi division, Mississippi Power Company, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Time Warner Cable, Trustmark National Bank and Yates Construction.
At press time, 25 leadership sponsors were on board, with an October 19 sponsorship deadline. With packages varying from $200 entrepreneur to $3,000 corporate sponsorships, companies are able to take advantage of MEC’s Bonus Discount Package to sponsor both Hobnob Mississippi and A Capital Day January 5, 2006.
Hobnob Mississippi, an informal social get-together, has swelled in size every year since 2002, when 600 business leaders listened to keynote speaker Marshall Ramsey, Pulitzer Prize nominee and editorial cartoonist for The Clarion-Ledger.
Approximately 800 people attended last year’s event, keynoted by former Portugal ambassador John Palmer. The year before, Mississippi native Curtis Wilke, former national political reporter for The Boston Globe, and author of “Dixie,” a book about Southern politics, drew some 750 people.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.