Wendy Fairley and Jessica Adams stood near the back of Triplett-Day Drugs in downtown Gulfport, talking to a group of people sitting at tables in the pharmacy’s cafe. It was breakfast time, and the regulars were enjoying their orders at the counter. Fairley and Adams were telling their group some of the history of the pharmacy/lunch counter/gift shop.
The group was representing OLLI, or Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus. Fairley and Adams are partners in Tasty Tours of South Mississippi, a walking tour of downtown Gulfport that combines food, history and trivia about the city.
At Triplett-Day, those on the tour started their day with beignets. “We consider them the doughnut of the South,” Fairley said as the hot puffs generously dusted with powdered sugar arrived on plates.
Fairley and Adams are also sisters who have gone through an unusual journey to find each other again. Separated by their parents for about 17 years with no contact, they reconnected about five years ago. “We had an opportunity to go on vacation together,” Fairley said. They went to Memphis and did a food tour there. That got their creative wheels turning, and Tasty Tours was born.
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“We said, ‘Let’s do something like that here.’ The food scene in Gulfport is blowing up, and people need to know about it,” Fairley said. “Our passion and one thing we loved from our childhood is food. Our mom never kept us out of the kitchen. So we wanted to share our love of food, each other and South Mississippi.”
Diane Kiser and Susan Pollard of OLLI had had a similar idea a few years ago, then at Cruisin’ The Coast they met Fairley and Adams. This tour was an opportunity for OLLI participants to see what the sisters, who began the tours in 2016, had put together.
After Triplett-Day, the group crossed 25th Avenue to the sidewalk outside PJ’s to hear about the regional chain’s origins, then a quick duck into the Hewes Building next door to see the original steel-cage elevator. From there, the walk headed to Fishbone Alley, where participants admired the artwork and learned about the brick pavers from downtown Gulfport circa 1906 that now line the canyon alley.
Their walk led them to Lighthouse Park across the street, where Fairley and Adams served portions of tamales from Tamale Shack and discussed the tamale tradition in Mississippi, then the sisters explained the symbolism behind the features and design of the small park. Their repast over, the group moved to the Great Southern Club at the top of Hancock Bank, where they got an expansive view of downtown and the Port of Gulfport.
From there, they visit Tony’s Brick Oven Pizza, Half Shell Oyster House and Pops Brothers. All within three hours.
“Oh, yes, you’ll be stuffed by the end,” Fairley said.
Tasty Tours does group tours for up to 12 people, with a four-person minimum. The walk itself is no more than 2 miles, rain or shine, with some stairs, and while the specific stops are fluid, the tours include four to five locations and samples. Advance ticket purchases are required; they are sold by Zerve, or call Tasty Tours at 228-265-1138 for booking and more information. Tours are $54 per person. Currently tours are available only in Gulfport, but Fairley and Adams are looking into expanding them to other Coast cities.