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Conference delves into role of front porch in South

Curtis Wilkie

Andrew Lack

Audra Burch

By JACK WEATHERLY

The fourth annual Conference on the Front Porch promises to go far afield while still revolving about the role of the classic Southern gathering place.

The conference will include national politics, race, art and ecology, according to Campbell McCool, organizer of the event that will be held Sept. 26-27 at Taylor, Miss.

But it will all revolve around the front porch, the place where Southerners historically gathered for visiting or just trying to keep cool during the long, hot summer before air-conditioning.

The conference will “explore the significance of the front porch in the American South, both from an architectural, as well as a sociological, perspective [including] the origins of the front porch, its role in building and sustaining community, the porch and food, the porch and music, and the porch and its impact on the story-telling tradition in the South.”

Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC, and Curtis Wilkie, author, historian and journalist on the staff of the University of Mississippi, will discuss “covering politics in the age of Trump.”

Lack’s great-grandfather was mayor of Greenville. Andrew Lack “spent a lot of time in Mississippi growing up. And he’s got deep Mississippi roots and he comes here frequently,” McCool said.

Lack is the founder of Jackson-based Mississippi Today, a nonprofit online newspaper founded in 2014.

Keynote speaker will be Dr. Mark Plotkin, is president of the Amazon Conservation Team.

McCool said that he was glad that Audra Burch, a New York Times national correspondent who has written extensively about how the front porch has played a pivotal role in the African-American culture will speak.

Ace Atkins, an Oxford resident and successful author of crime novels, will be a speaker.

Other speakers will be noted portrait painter Jason Bouldin and Amanda Heckert, an editor for Garden & Gun magazine, a regional magazine about the South.

The event will be held at the Mill, a 12,000-square-foot venue.

Tickets are $395 and will include six meals, concerts, wine tastings, concerts and tours of historical homes. The conference is limited to 200 attendees. Further information is available at 662-234-3151.

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About Jack Weatherly