Conference on the Front Porch begins 3rd annual meeting today

Published 9:46 am Thursday, October 25, 2018

BY JENNA MASON

jenna.mason@oxfordmag.com

The Conference of the Front Porch, which takes place at The Mill at Plein Air beginning today, celebrates the significance and symbolism of the front porch in the American South. “Garden and Gun,” the wildly popular Southern lifestyle magazine, is the title sponsor for the event.

The conference will run through Friday, Oct. 26.

The Plein Air development in Taylor, Miss., a bedroom community just seven miles from Oxford, has drawn artists, musicians, young professionals, university professors and active retirees since its establishment in 2006. Developer Campbell McCool has helped to carefully design the community, which promotes neighborhood values by providing quiet, walkable streets, ample greenspace and spacious front porches where residents can relax and get to know one another.

“Less technology, more front porch is my motto,” McCool said.

The front porch starting fading from architecture around 1945, he said, largely as a result of the rising popularity of the automobile, air conditioning and television.

“Four or five decades afterwards, people started noticing that communities without front porches took on a whole different personality,” McCool said.

The Conference on the Front Porch, now in its third year, hopes to attract any individual who embraces community values symbolized by the front porch. The programming includes a number of speakers familiar to Mississippi residents, as well as live music both evenings.

American historian and author John Barry will kick off talks at 9 a.m. today, followed by Chef Robert St. John and artist Wyatt Waters, the personalities behind MPB Radio’s “Palate to Palette” series. Wildrose Kennels’ Mike Stewart will wrap up the morning block.

Friday morning speakers Ben and Erin Napier have found a loyal fan base in the Magnolia State since the debut of their HGTV show, “Home Town,” in which the couple renovates historic homes in their hometown of Laurel, Miss. Off Square Books in Oxford will also host the Napiers on Friday at 5 p.m for a reading and signing of their new book, “Make Something Good Today.” The uplifting memoir, published in early October by Gallery Books, depicts the up and downs of the charming Southern couple as they began to realize their vision for their dream home and for their small town.

Following the Napiers, Mississippi Poet Laureate and Oxford resident Beth Ann Fennelly will read from her recent work, and “Garden and Gun” writer and research editor CJ Lotz will weave a story about low-country South Carolina through a specific Charleston, S.C. character. Guests will hear next from Suzanne Stern, President of Our Town Plans, an architectural firm that aims to make classic, beautiful architecture accessible to all. Greg Johnson will end the days’ talks with a discussion of the Faulkner Collection at Nutt Auditorium on the University of Mississippi campus.

Friday night, Shardé Thomas and the Rising Stars Fife & Drum band will provide entertainment during dinner, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will perform afterward.

Throughout the two-day event, attendees will enjoy meals provided by A & N Catering, which is owned and operated by Angie Sicurezza and Nick Reppond. The couple also owns GRIT, a cozy upscale restaurant located in the Plein Air community.

For more information, visit www.theconferenceonthefrontporch.com