Good friends are special. And no one is a dearer friend to Pam and me than Judi Holifield in Laurel.
On a recent trip to Hattiesburg, she was out of town and we missed her. But a few weeks ago, on our way home to Holly Springs from the Mississippi Press Association Summer Convention at Biloxi, we called her and set up a visit.
We met her at Lee’s Coffee and Tea in downtown Laurel.
The Burlesons (prior to Erin’s birth) lived in the south Mississippi city for a couple of years before our move to Holly Springs.
Laurel was a happening place then. It’s much more of a happening place now – particularly the downtown area. It is exploding with activity.
And Judi has been leading those efforts the past several years through her job as executive director of Laurel Main Street.
Pam and I were looking forward to getting a big hug and spending some time with a good friend, but we were also very interested in seeing downtown Laurel.
Wow! That was a word we used more than once.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and we had a hard time finding a parking place.
Pam, Erin and I enjoyed a great lunch at the sandwich shop.
And at the same time, Pam and I reminisced and laughed a lot with Judi about the fun times we had in Laurel with her and her late husband Neil.
We also talked a lot about the turnaround of downtown Laurel. Its revitalization started through lots of key involvement from a lot of folks, and of course, Judi’s leadership.
Then it received a huge boost with the beginning of a TV show called “Home Town.”
Pam and I watch very few TV shows on a regular basis. But one we try not to miss, or if we do we record it, is “Home Town” on HGTV. Ben and Erin Napier host the show from their hometown, Laurel. They use artistry, carpentry, community history and storytelling to help new residents find a house, and turn it into a home filled with personal collections, comfort and warmth.
“Home Town” was the highest-rated pilot in HGTV history drawing 2.2 million viewers for its first episode. The show just completed its third season with a total of 34 homes restored.
Episode 13 this past season featured a downtown Laurel house renovated for Judi herself. She was looking to move from the country into town to be closer to her job and friends. The Napiers took it and ran with it.
Pam and I, and the rest of the family (Emma and Andy included from their homes in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ridgeland) watched the episode. And it was great watching Judi and her son Allen pick out a house and see the “Home Town” crew turn it into a home, which Judi and Allen viewed in total amazement at the end of the show.
A couple of weeks ago, Pam, Erin and I got to tour Judi’s new home in person.
It’s perfect for her – a small one with a maintenance-free yard. And it has character, a lot of character.
We had to stop at Laurel Mercantile Co. before leaving town, and of course, had to buy a few memorabilia items for our house.
Laurel left us with great memories and great friends. We cherish those.