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Ocean Springs community celebrates MLK Day with Wild Game Fest

Cooks of many talents filled the Martin Luther King Park in Ocean Springs Monday, putting the community’s new grill to use for its annual Wild Game Fest.
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 6:57 PM CST
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Cooks of many talents filled the Martin Luther King Park in Ocean Springs Monday, putting the community’s new grill to use for its annual Wild Game Fest.

The event was canceled last year due to COVID-19, but it was back in full swing this year.

King’s spirit filled the air along with the aromas of exotic culinary fare.

“I can tell you one thing that we have the best cooks in Ocean Springs,” co-organizer Greg Gipson said.

The festival was open to the public, and all the food was free.

“Dr. King’s legacy was all about social justice and bringing people together as one,” Gipson said. “And so, that’s what it’s all about, bringing everybody together as one.”

The close-knit group served up its traditional dishes like chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and corn.

Others provided more unique items like squirrel soup, rabbit stew, turtle and alligator.

“Our family has a hand in so many different varieties of food,” cook Alicia Benson said.

With help from family members and friends like Shawn Payton, Benson prepares food from wild game to classic favorites.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Benson said. “We don’t ask for nothing. All we want is everybody to come out and have fun and enjoy each other.”

Ocean Springs Ward 2 Alderman Rickey Authement told WLOX he has not missed one of the group’s gatherings since he has been in office.

“Anybody that wants to come is welcome to come. They got good food,” he said. “They do such a great job with friends and fellowship that I look forward to it.”

Keith Thurmon, an Ocean Springs native, traveled back from Mobile for the event he said his relatives started more than three decades ago.

“I got a lot of them deceased, but they want it to still continue to grow, and that’s what I want to do, help it grow,” he said.

For cooks like Anna and Shilinda Battle, MLK Day was not a day off but a day of service.

“It’s important just so we can fellowship with one another, you know, and just celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, his legacy that he left for us,” Shilinda said. “Instead of fussing and fighting, let’s celebrate.”

The commemorated what would have been Dr. King’s 93rd birthday.

Upgrades to the MLK Park are also underway.

City crews recently enlarged the basketball court, resurfaced it and added new goals, built a brand new pavilion, new bathrooms, a bicycle rack and grill, and are currently working on lighting improvements.

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