The Petal Board of Aldermen recently approved zoning changes to allow a daycare facility on Hwy. 42 in Petal, near Petal High School, Petal Elementary, and Petal Primary School. The issue was contentious because of the potential traffic increase in the nearby neighborhood. However, no one opposed a “childcare facility”: they were concerned about a business that may create more traffic. Yet, the lack of affordable childcare has plagued our community for years.

As a member of the Excel By 5 Coalition, I can attest that when the group addresses critical needs in Petal for families with young children every three years, the need for childcare tops the list. So, with empathy for the concerns of the closest residents, I am thrilled to know that we will have at least one new daycare center in Petal.

I see good quality childcare as a crucial part of a vibrant community, especially if you want to attract young families to your community. However, childcare is often considered a social issue, a “women’s issue” or something not considered. The reality is childcare is an economic issue. Our excellent school district feeds our economic and community development, particularly in Petal. Put another way, childcare is economic care.

The most important thing to young couples is their children. They’ve read the literature that says the ages from birth to 18 months are the most critical in a child’s development. That makes quality daycare essential, and parents will pay a lot, move to new communities, and drive long distances for it.

Now that the school bond issue has passed and the Petal school district will build new facilities, we should also consider investing in plans for a school district childcare center. More importantly, the state of Mississippi should be including quality child care in its economic strategy.

The COVID pandemic laid bare the importance of child care. There were often times when all childcare providers had to be shut down, and half of the workforce couldn’t attend their jobs. Suddenly, those who insisted child care was a social issue realized it was an economic issue. Or, more appropriately, it made us aware that child care is an economic issue, not just an issue for women or individual parents and families.

The lesson here is that it is not enough to talk about the importance of good quality child care or even plan to introduce it. We have to make sure our talk and plans lead to the implementation of good quality child care for as many families who choose to take advantage of it.

They Give Me Hope!

On April 3 & 4, the Petal Chamber and the Petal Education Foundation hosted interviews for the Petal High School Ambassadors. The organization is open to PHS juniors and seniors wishing to learn more about leadership, community service, and job etiquette. The criteria to become an ambassador are rigorous and involve much student effort. The final step in the process is a personal interview. And that, my friends, is where the magic happens yearly for those adults involved.

Without fail, I leave the school marveling at the intelligence and maturity of these students. They are full of hope and enthusiasm for their future, and the contributions each will make to our world.
They plan on becoming NICU nurses, lawyers, engineers, astrophysicists, veterinarians, military officers, and more. They will succeed.

Here are a few thoughts I came away with, not in any particular order.

1. These students LOVE their school, teachers, and administrators. They recognize the valuable education they receive and willingly adhere to the tradition of excellence in Petal schools. They accept the burden of high achievement to continue the tradition. They spoke about how much they feel their teachers care about them as individuals.
2. Social media has had a profound effect on the daily lives of teenagers. Being constantly plugged in introduces unrelenting pressure on students to maintain their online presence around the clock. The students recognize the problem but have no solutions. They are tech-tethered free spirits who have never known the world without the internet and have endured schooling in the age of COVID. They’re also robust, resilient, and ready to take on the planet.
3. They love Petal, Mississippi, and the United States. Nine out of ten said they plan to remain close to home after graduation.
4. Though most were intimidated by the interviews, their sense of humor and wit came through loud and clear.
5. They care about others and desire to help. These students are willing to get their hands dirty and do their share of the work.

Throughout the year, I will have the opportunity to get to know these high schoolers. I will teach, mentor, and direct them. But I am the one that will learn the most. I am the one that will feel confident that they can clean up the mess the adults have left for them.

Who’s That Singing?

It is pleasant to know that someone looks forward to going to work. With a smile on his face, Robert “Red” Proctor does just that. If you have ever attended a function at the Petal Civic Center, you have probably met Red. I guess you might say the center and the park are his domain, and he is proud of it. Red knows his job of twelve years is a good one. Daily, he is able to interact with the public, he considers his audience to perform for. Setting up, keeping things going, and cleaning up for another day takes a special talent and spirit of dedication. This time of year makes working a bit easier for Red by not being exhaustingly hot as in the mid-summer.
Petal Mayor Tony Ducker is certain Red knows his job well and in a sense is the front line to the welcoming experience at the Civic Center and parks. The Mayor has also observed Red’s ability to work with all the other departments of the City of Petal. Red is a team player. If you were to think when you are in the Civic Center there is a performance with a beautiful solo singer, you might be right. That is Red carrying a tune and sharing his love of music, from country to gospel. Besides a good job, friendships at work, and his daily song, there is a spiritual side. Red so devotedly attends service at Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. Keeping his Faith is keeping his guiding light in life.
Valerie Wilson of the Petal Chamber of Commerce said, “ Red is my working partner with every meeting and event the chamber holds at the Civic Center. However, he’s more than a work partner; he’s a friend and model for how to live a joyful life.”
In today’s world, it is a pleasant experience to meet an individual who appreciates people and their job. Red is an example that many of us should follow. Thanks for doing an excellent job with a happy attitude.

jimmy delery

It’s Back & Better Than Ever!

Shop Petal First had humble beginnings. Twenty years ago, the Petal Chamber of Commerce searched for ways to keep holiday shoppers in Petal and to compete with the large national retail chains in neighboring Hattiesburg. Black Friday, in particular, drew Petal residents to Hattiesburg in search of great deals and price reductions.

The idea of persuading shoppers to shop in Petal the weekend before Thanksgiving and Black Friday led to the Shop Petal First promotion. Businesses in Petal were encouraged to offer specials and enhance the holiday spirit by providing light refreshments and decorating for Christmas earlier. Additionally, each participating store offered a drawing for a door prize. The goal was to make Shop Petal First a city-wide shopping experience.

There have been changes and additions to Shop Petal First. One of the most popular changes to Shop Petal First is the addition of the Shop Petal First $500 Grand Prize cash reward. A city map is divided into four shopping areas with a list of participating merchants in each zone. To qualify for a chance to win the Grand Prize, shoppers have to visit at least one merchant or restaurant in each location and verify by collecting a color-coded sticker or QR code entry. After all entry forms are collected, one lucky shopper’s entry is drawn. Not only does this add to the fun atmosphere, but it also encourages shoppers to expand their visits across the entire city which benefits the merchants.

The primary marketing tool for SPF is the Shop Petal First Shopping Guide which is available in over 50 participating merchants in Petal. The guide includes ads for each merchant, a list of door prizes, holiday events, gift suggestions, and much more. The Shop Petal First website provides extensive information on the occasion, and there is a Shop Petal First Facebook page and website.

The Shop Petal First Gala and Silent Auction will kick off the 20th Anniversary of Shop Petal First on Thursday, November 17, at the Petal Civic Center at 6:30 pm. The Petal Arts Council is sponsoring the gala, featuring the work of various local artists and a taste of Petal from Sullivan & Sons. And this year, a new feature of SPF is the Shop Petal First Holiday Market at Petal Harvey Baptist Church. Arts and craft vendors without a brick-and-mortar store location will offer handmade gift items to our shoppers.

After 20 years, Shop Petal First has evolved into a city tradition. Families look forward to a weekend of visiting and supporting our local businesses while enjoying all they offer to our community. It is a satisfying alternative to anonymous online buying and an excellent way to keep the spirit of Christmas close to home.

Adams Nursery is a Place to Grow!

As a new writer in the Pine Belt, I am going to present profiles of different people who make up the Petal community. My goal is to tell you a little bit more about an individual and how they enjoy their career and life. The first person I am profiling is someone well known when it comes to plants and gardening, Ricky Adams.

Adams Nursery & Garden Center was started in 1989 by Ricky’s grandfather. At the age of eight Ricky began with simple chores helping at the family business. A passion slowly developed for the plant business, while in high school a decision was made to continue an education in horticulture. A two-year program at Jones College was the icing on the cake to the future. It became a full-time career by the time Ricky was twenty-one.

So, what sets a young man starting in a lifetime career apart from the salesperson at a big box? Knowledge of the product that one sells is the difference. Shrubs are favorite plants and successful growing is a passion for young Adams. Are there, challenges that keep Ricky on his toes on a seasonal basis? Plant disease and pests are those problems that require daily and best practices knowledge. Not only is this important to the home garden but imagine how important this is to a farmer earning a living with thousands of plants in a field. Ricky admits he feels a little pain during bad weather that results in crop loss for local farmers. Something else that stands out at this family run business, they pride themselves on timing of plant selection not selling the wrong plant at the wrong time. It can be said often big box stores sell according to national weather not local microclimates. Plant variety selection is critical because soil conditions are unique as well in the Pine Belt.

So where is the people part in this horticulture career? Ricky works with his father Philip daily along with other employees. He has a home not too far away with a wife and three precious children. At work, the daily interaction with the customers brings satisfaction with the variety of individuals. In time getting to know them personally, insures a good relationship and successful growing of their gardens or farms. A hope, we can all share is the continued success of 3rd generation family business. You can do your part by shopping and being a loyal customer to businesses like Adams Nursery & Garden center. Their location is 224 Caterville Rd., Petal and phone number 601 582 1138. At Adams, you can be sure they are knowledgeable and always have something good to grow along with supplies that you made need.

By:  Jimmy Delery




Downtown FAM Jam Set for October 1

Over the past few years, the success of the Petal Downtown FAM Jam has seen that initiative grow from a once-a-year event to twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall.

The 2022 fall edition of FAM Jam – short for Food, Art and Music – will be held from 4-7 p.m. October 1 on South Main Street, near Regions Bank and Grand Central Outfitters. The family-friendly event, which is put on by the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, is free and open to the public.

“The chamber just wants to reinforce the connections in our community,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want to bring people downtown, to help support local businesses and to give our families a better quality of life.”

Downtown FAM Jam will feature local artists, craftsmen and food vendors, as well as musical entertainment by 18 Miles.

“(18 Miles is) well-received, and they bring a pretty large fan base with them when they come,” Wilson said.

In addition to the food and music, the free event also will feature children’s activities, such as fun play areas and games.

“We’ll have arts and crafts, information booths,” Wilson said. “The special activities for the children will be presented by Cavalry Baptist Church of Petal.”

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and stay throughout the duration of the FAM Jam.

To ensure safety, Main Street will be closed between Regions Bank and Panther Credit during the event. Shoppers will still be able to visit any businesses that are regularly open along that thoroughfare.

“It will definitely be a street event, where people can cross the street safely and enjoy the vendors and participate in lots of fun,” Wilson said. “It’s family friendly, whether you’re in your 80s and enjoy the crafts and walking around, or your little on is enjoying the (games),”

“There’s something for everybody.”

Given the success of FAM Jam, it’s a possibility the event may soon be hosted even more than twice a year.

“Dependent on crowd attendance, we may do it more often,” Wilson said. “But right now, we feel that gives our vendors a great opportunity to sell their products, and we will respond to demand if it happens.

“If people really demand it, we can definitely make more events like it happen.”

Photos: Cayla Burns

By: Haskel Burns

Add a Little Savvy to your life

About 20 years ago, Kimberly and Heather Millsteads’ mother had a dream of opening a business in the shopping center on Mississippi 42 in Petal.
That idea was put off for a little while because of the high price of real estate at the time, but the two sisters have now made that idea a reality with Savvy Sisters, a gift shop located at 1229 Mississippi 42, behind Leatha’s Barbeque. Kimberly and Heather started on the process back in 2017, when they began making their own crafts to sell at locations such as Grand Central Outfitters in Petal and Live at Five at Town Square Park in Hattiesburg.
Before long, that concept began to grow, at which point the sisters opened their storefront.
Kimberly recently took some time over the phone to discuss the benefits of opening a business in Petal, as well as being a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce.

Q: Tell us a little about how you guys got started when you opened the storefront.
A: We had gotten a boost at Painted Treasures (in Petal), and then that became Treasure Cove. And then we branched out a little bit. We started getting some handbags and things, and we thought we might could open a storefront, and it’s kind of grown from there. So it’s taken us almost 20 years (since our mom had the idea) to get here, but we’ve (realized) our goal. We have our own little shop in the shopping center that she had wanted all those years ago.

Q: What kind of offerings do you have at the store?
A: We’re primarily a gift shop. We’ve got candles and handbags, and we have a baby section with diaper bags and bibs and things there. We’ve got a section that has some artist prints, and we have some olivewood from Germany, and some of the candles are from Mississippi Candle Company that’s made locally on the coast. We offer some pillows that are from a company in Mississippi that make those.

Q: What has the reception been like from the Petal community since you opened your storefront?
A: I’d say it’s been pretty good. We had a little bit of a slow summer, but Mother’s Day weekend was a really big sell-out for us; we sold a bunch of inventory. We’ve had a lot of repeat customers, so that’s really been a great thing. Our goal is to maybe keep people from having to go to Hattiesburg to get gifts for somebody, or if they just want to do a little bit of shopping for themselves. We do offer free gift wrapping, and during the holidays we do want to offer gift wrapping for anybody that may want to bring their gifts, to drop them off to be wrapped, as a service to the community.

Q: Savvy Sisters joined the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce back in July. What kind of benefits have you seen from that, and would you recommend that measure to other businesses as well?
A: It took us a little while to join, because starting out, everything just goes a little slow. Absolutely (I would recommend it). Just doing our ribbon cutting and getting our name in their newsletter that goes out to all the area businesses, I think that’s been beneficial. We’ve had some people that saw the sticker posted on the door and said “Oh, y’all are members of the chamber.” So I do think it’s beneficial. We plan to utilize their opportunities for advertising as much as possible. We want to do Shop Petal First; I’ve already spoke with (chamber director Valerie Wilson) about signing up for that. And we also just signed up to do the Petal First gift card, so we accept that at our location. I think that any business in the community here … they should join.

Q: You mentioned that the store will be undergoing a name change?
A: Yes. We’ve had a lot of people that say, ‘Oh, Savvy Sisters is a gift shop.’ So what we’ve come up with is “Beyond Blessed Gifts: A Savvy Sister Company.” So Savvy Sisters is still here, here to stay, but we are changing the name. (That will take place) September 1.

Hello, I would like to introduce myself I am Jimmy Delery a seasoned community columnist from the New Orleans area. I have been doing the community column for the St Bernard Voice for 11plus years along with several feature articles. I began my journey to Mississippi during the 2020 Covid shutdown. It started with a trip to visit my friend’s evacuation house in Lumberton and to see his property in Hattiesburg. As you may know an evacuation house is a place to retreat to before a hurricane strikes the lower coast. I stayed in New Orleans for Katrina in my home near the Mississippi River levee in Carrollton and it did not flood. I saw the destruction and did the boat recues in uptown New Orleans. After the storm I worked for several months for CNN. We even covered the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for several stories with the team I was on. Too many memories to ever experience again.
My one-day tour of Lumberton and Hattiesburg made me realize fresh air, high and dry land, a well-developed region with a flair of southern charm was a magnet. I began looking for a house to fix up to have for my evacuation house. I found a fixer upper in the eastern side of Hattiesburg in an older neighborhood in January 2021. It needed a good wash and wax as I call it. As I worked painting and cleaning up anticipating a potential rent house. I could feel a sense of a new home and wholesome community. Finally, after an evening at the downtown open house in Laurel I knew the Pine Belt was my new home. I enjoy knowing the people in the region are good honest hardworking individuals with old world southern manners. I tell my friends in Louisiana, my new home is like New Orleans years ago before politics destroyed it charm and safety. I am here to stay and want to be part of this community.
A few weeks ago, I met Valerie Wilson at the farmer’s market. We had a delightful conversation about Petal and her job with the Chamber of Commerce. I offered to write some features on local events, the businesses, and the people who make the community a great place to live.
In time, I hope to meet some of you and learn more about the history of Petal.
Jimmy Delery

jimmy delery
Connecting the dots
504 606 7436
new orleans,la

New Dogs in Downtown

Ryan and Carla Tate recently brought a unique concept to Petal on May 9, when they opened South Miss Hot Dogs and Hand Pies at 107 Morris Street.
The eatery offers several varieties of gourmet hot dogs, including the Cuban Dog, Western BBQ, N.Y. Street Dog and the Plain Dog. On the hand pies side, the Tates switch up between sweet and savory pies, such as Granny Smith Apple, Pot Roast, Sausage Jalapeno Popper and Blueberry Cream Cheese.
The shop is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Tates are currently working out of a food trailer in front of the store, with plans to have the store completely remodeled and ready to go in the very near future.
Ryan Tate recently took some time over the phone to talk about setting up shop in Petal.

Q: What made you want to open this kind of business in Petal?
A: I’m actually from California and my wife’s from Mississipppi … and I left my job to come here. I’m a veteran, so I have a working disability from the Army. We bought a food truck and started traveling around, and as we were driving by I saw the building for sale. I said, ‘well, why don’t we just buy the building and sell the food truck?’ So we did, and in the meantime we bought us a little food trailer. We used the money from the food truck for the trailer and the building, and for the last eight or nine months, I’ve remodeled (the building). So we’re making money with the food trailer while we’re (getting the building ready).

Q: What has the customer feedback/response been like so far?
A: It’s been really good. We open at 11 o’clock, and people start showing up at 10 o’clock in the morning, and we’re not turning them down. We just sell them the pies and the hot dogs, and we’ve been selling out like 15 minutes before we open. On the one hand it’s good, because we’re selling out, but I don’t want to turn people away (after we sell out) because I feel bad about that. But once we’re in the shop, we’ll be able to cook all day, so hopefully that problem will be solved.

Q: How do you feel about the community in Petal?
A: Everyone has been awesome and so positive. They’re posting on Facebook and Instagram about us and saying good things. I’m meeting a lot of friends who are business acquaintances, and they’re helping me and I’m helping them. So it’s been really good. I haven’t had any negativity whatsoever, so it’s been really cool.

Q: You recently became a member of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. What made you want to do that, and what benefits have you seen from it?
A: The Greenhills at Babe’s BBQ have been real helpful in giving me advice, and they kind of told me it’s a good idea to join. I went online and joined, and immediately Mrs. Valerie (Wilson, executive director of the chamber) sent some info on a festival, so I got in on that, and that’s helping. We’re mentioned on the website and everything, so it’s been giving us good promotion so far.

By: Haskell Burns
Photo:Cayla Camp Burns

Let’s Celebrate!

The Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hattiesburg Association are partnering together to host the fourth annual Coca-Cola Star-Spangled Celebration on the River.
This year’s event will be held from 6-10 p.m. July 1 on both sides of the Leaf River – Petal River Park and Chain Park – with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.

“First off, it’s just a lot of fun,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “That’s our primary goal, of course, is to bring a lot of families, friends and neighbors together to have a great time.
“Secondly, I think in terms of economics, it’s just good for Forrest County, and for the cities of Petal and Hattiesburg, to have people driving in and spending money, and hopefully taking in other activities while they’re here. We have seen license plates from, I think, 32 different counties (in the parking lot) last time we checked.
Both sides of the river will feature will feature live music, activities, a kids zone with inflatables, and a variety of food vendors. and a hot air balloon will make an appearance later in the evening on the Petal side.

“There will be a good deal of vendors – everything from snow cones to watermelon to seafood and barbeque,” Wilson said.
The music will begin at 6 p.m. on both sides of the river. The Petal River Park side will feature Jacob Arnold & the Bird Dogs and the Hub city sound Machine. Chain Park side will host Fun K, Grits & Greens and Taste of 59 South.
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to enjoy the festivities. Pets, glass, tents, ice chests and personal fireworks – including sparklers – are not permitted.
For the first time, alcohol will be sold on the Petal side. In the past, that endeavor was limited just to the Hattiesburg side.
“We will be selling beer on the Petal side – we’ll have both Stokes Distributing and Southern Beverage there,” Wilson said. “We will be checking IDs, and people will get a wristband once their ID has been checked.

“That will allow them to purchase beer, once we know they’re of age. I’m working on an ATM, but (visitors) should be prepared to pay cash for the beverages and such.
Parking onsite is limited, but offsite parking with shuttle service will be available.
“We will be running shuttles from various parking lots around downtown, and we’ll be listing those soon,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “They can park at the train station and follow the bike path that goes to Chain Park, and that will be open before and after (the event).
“Parking is limited, so we encourage people to park in the designated parking lots and ride in the shuttle. We’ll have handicapped-accessible parking on the Hattiesburg side, but that too is limited. Also, Ebenezer Baptist (Church) will have paid parking.”

The Star-Spangled Celebration on the River began in 2019 after Wilson and Saffle collaborated to provide an opportunity that could be enjoyed by both the Petal and Hattiesburg communities. The event has grown steadily since its inception, with the 2019 celebration drawing approximately 11,000 guests.
“We’re very excited to be having the Star-Spangled Celebration again this year; it’s an event that we always look forward to,” Saffle said. “What a better way to celebrate America’s birthday here in Hattiesburg?”