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‘Capitals of the world’ across Mississippi

World Capital
Photo courtesy of the Vardaman Sweet Potato Festival/Facebook

If you travel across any state, you’re sure to find a handful of towns that call themselves the world capital of something, and Mississippi is no exception to that trend. Here are five Mississippi towns (I’m sure there are others that I just don’t know about) that claim to be a ‘world capital.’

Artesia – Johnson Grass Capital of the World

If you haven’t heard of Artesia, which has a population of around 400, you definitely haven’t heard that the small town in Lowndes County considers itself “The Johnson Grass Capital of the World.” I don’t know how glorious of a nickname this is, considering Johnson grass is highly invasive and can reduce crop yields, however, the grass can be used to stop erosion.

Belzoni – Catfish Capital of the World

If you’re eating fresh catfish, there’s a pretty good chance it’s from Belzoni, or at least within the general vicinity of the Delta town. In 1976, Governor Cliff Finch named Belzoni “The Catfish Capital of the World” as Humphreys County produces more farm-raised catfish than any other county in the United States. About 60 percent of U.S. farm-raised catfish grows within a 65-mile radius of Belzoni. The town is also home to the World Catfish Festival, which takes place every April.

Gulfport – Root Beer Capital of the World

In 1993, a New York Times columnist questioned why Gulfport claims the title of “The Root Beer Capital of the World.” He wrote, “Even though I have been to Gulfport, I still have not found out why it has that title. Do they make root beer there or do they just drink it?” Well, the answer goes back to when Edward Charles Barq, Sr. founded his Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works, which later became Barq’s Beverages, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 1902, he established a branch in Gulfport, and soon after, Barq’s root beer gained national popularity.

Long Beach – Radish Capital of the World

In the early 20th century, Long Beach was a big player in truck crop farming and shipping vegetables with the primary crop being a radish known as the Long Beach Red. For a period of time, over 300 boxcars full of Long Beach Reds were being shipped up north during the winter, thus garnering the coastal town its nickname of “The Radish Capital of the World.” Each November, Long Beach hosts the Radish Festival.

Vardaman – Sweet Potato Capital of the World

Sweet potatoes could be considered the foundation of Vardaman. Part of one of the state’s top five sweet potato-producing counties, there is a total of 104 sweet potato farming operations and 25 packing sheds in the 1,400-person town, earning it the title of “The Sweet Potato Capital of the World.” Like Belzoni and Long Beach, Vardaman also has a yearly festival honoring its specialty.

Report

Written by J.T. Mitchell

J.T. Mitchell is a multimedia journalist out of Jackson, Mississippi, who worked extensively for both News Mississippi and SuperTalk Mississippi before coming aboard as managing editor for Our Mississippi Home. He is also the author of Pocket Grammar: 24 Mistakes You'll Never Make Again. J.T. received his education from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he studied both English and philosophy. Contact J.T. at [email protected]

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