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Thousands anticipate Delta Council’s annual meeting

Cleveland — Several thousand people from all over the Delta will gather on the campus of Delta State University May 12 for the 71st Delta Council Annual Meeting. Members and guests look forward to this traditional business and cultural event, the organization’s biggest event of the year.

“It’s great. A couple of thousand will attend to have a good time and renew friendships and make new ones,” said Frank Howell, director of the development department for the Delta Council. “We’re fortunate to have people we work with in other parts of the state and from Washington, D.C., attend.”

Through the years Deltans have celebrated the rite of spring at the annual meeting by breaking out seersucker suits and wearing new cotton fashions. The wearing of cotton pays tribute to cotton, the region’s number one crop in terms of market value. Rice and catfish follow as the number two and three crops.

A highlight of the morning’s activities will be an address by U.S. Sen. Trent Lott in the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Delta Council president Kent Wyatt of Cleveland said that Lott’s emphasis on infrastructure development in the state and the Delta has paid big dividends. He cited pivotal projects including the U.S. 82 Bridge, Interstate 69 and Tunica Airport.

“We are pleased that Sen. Lott will address the members and special friends of the Delta Council,” Wyatt said. “Trent Lott has been a consistent and powerful advocate for the economic advancement of Mississippi and the Delta during his four decades of public service, first as a congressman and now as a U.S. Senator.

“His ability to make things happen has been a hallmark of his career, and I believe most all will agree that this was underscored last year after he played a pivotal role in securing a timely and precise response to Hurricane Katrina — especially when you consider the storm destroyed his home on the Gulf Coast.”

Dan Branton of Leland, chairman of Delta Council’s farm policy committee, notes that all issues surrounding trade negotiations will have to come before Lott’s committee. “In the Delta these issues are far reaching in their implications for our economy, not only in agriculture but also in manufacturing and distribution of goods and services,” he said.

An outstanding group of young Deltans will be recognized for the fifth consecutive year as the Delta Council honors the top achievers from high schools throughout the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi. Sixty-six area high schools will send their top two honor graduates

“It has been a great event to help showcase top students from all over the area,” Howell said. “Young people are our future and this is a way for the business community to honor them.”

As has been done in previous years, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck will present special recognition to the graduates who have been selected for this tribute by the school administration in their respective school districts. A $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to the graduate selected as the top Delta Honor Graduate. John Allen Darnell III of Glen Allan was named the top graduate in 2005 and currently attends the University of Mississippi.

Another award, called the Good Middling Lady, will go to Mollie Stock of Hollandale for her significant contributions to the Delta region. The award has been given for a couple of decades and was named for the classification of the best grade of cotton; the cotton that has outstanding characteristics.

“The recipient of this award has the same outstanding characteristics,” Howell said. “The award honors the contributions of people in the trenches.”

Stock, the former Mollie Dent of Yazoo City, is the wife of Walker Stock and has been active in numerous civic, cultural and church activities across the region, including the Delta Council.

New board members and officers will be ratified at the annual meeting. The balloting process is currently underway. The meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. with Lott’s keynote address and is scheduled to conclude at noon when council members and guests will move to the university quadrangle for the traditional fried Delta-raised catfish lunch on the grounds.

Sponsors of this year’s annual meeting are BankPlus, Delta Regional Medical Center, KBH Corporation, Land Banks of Mississippi, Morgan Keegan and Jimmy Sanders.

Howell says the Delta Council maintains its focus on those issues that can have the biggest impact on the region. “Those issues are providing better transportation and other infrastructure, flood protection, workforce training and issues regarding agriculture, which continue to dominate our region,” he said. “These things allow the Delta to compete on national and international levels.”

The Delta Council was organized in 1935 by a group of farsighted citizens to provide a medium through which the agricultural, business and professional leadership of the area can work together to solve common problems and promote the development of the region’s economy. It is headquartered in Stoneville and supported by dues-paying members and by the counties it represents.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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