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Conference on the Front Porch hosting third annual event next week

Once again, Taylor will take center stage as the Conference on the Front Porch begins Oct. 25 and 26.

For the third year, the conference will gather individuals together from as far away as California and Canada to celebrate the significance of the front porch in the American South.

“We have a saying ‘the front porch is not just lumber, it’s a way of life,” conference director Campbell McCool said. “That really does sum up my own personal philosophy. I grew up in New Orleans in a shotgun house with a front porch and we spent a lot of time out there. … I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a house that didn’t have a front porch, and the idea of not having a house with a front porch is kind of foreign to me.”

Though the two-day event initially began as a way to discuss the impact of front porches and how they began to disappear from architecture and culture, the conference has since expanded to sessions that include the place of literature, theatre, music and food in relation to front porches and the families who use them.

This year, John Barry, author of “Rising Tide” will serve as the keynote speaker. The book, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is considered by many as the seminal book about the Mississippi River and the South.

“If somebody said to me ‘I want to read one book that tells me about the South,’ I’d say ‘start with “Rising Tide,”’ McCool said.

Erin and Ben Napier of HGTV’s “Home Town” will present a session discussing the revitalization movement in small-town America. That concept is built into the premise of their home renovation show as they restore and redesign homes for individuals residing in Laurel.

One of the most anticipated sessions for the conference, McCool said, will come from Wyatt Waters and Robert St. John, the hosts of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Palate to Palette.” The chef (St. John) and the artist (Waters) will perform a version of the show during their trip to Taylor.

“To me, they are two of the greatest ambassadors for Mississippi,” McCool said. “They are just rock stars.”

Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly, Wildrose Kennel owner Mike Stewart and Garden & Gun Magazine research editor CJ Lotz will also present sessions during the conference.

On Oct. 25, conference attendees will be treated to a one-man porch play from Johnny McPhail who will perform as “Big Daddy” from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and on Oct. 26, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will perform from the porch as the night’s entertainment.

“When people talk about the front porch, people reminisce, they talk about a bygone area and a simpler time,” McCool said. “In this era of super high-tech, social media and everything that comes along with that, the idea of sitting on a front porch, reading a book, talking and enjoying a beverage and just kind of enjoying the fresh air – there is something unique (about it).”

Tickets to attend the conference are $395 per person, with six meals included in the cost of attendance. A few tickets remain and can be purchased by visiting http://www.theconferenceonthefrontporch.com/.