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General Session/Luncheon Speakers


Elizabeth Heiskell – Debutante Farmer

Elizabeth Heiskell was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, an agricultural area bordered by the Mississippi River where food and fun go hand in hand. With her passion for food, fun, and adventure, Elizabeth started her culinary journey with courses at the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York. Click here to read more.


Craig Ray – Visit Mississippi

Craig Ray is the Director of Visit Mississippi, the Tourism office of the Mississippi Development Authority. Click here to read more.


Pamela Weaver – Chief Marketing Officer – Mississippi Development Authority

Pamela Weaver serves as the chief marketing officer of Mississippi Development Authority. In this role, she manages three bureaus responsible for promoting investment and job creation throughout the state by providing public relations, marketing, event planning, graphic design, website management and advertising in support of MDA’s divisions. Click here to read more.

Breakout Session Speakers


Steve Azar

Music & Culture Ambassador of Mississippi, Steve Azar is a modern-day Renaissance man, hit songwriter, recording artist, music producer, golfer and philanthropist. Steve likes to call his own breed of music “Delta Soul,” a mixture of country, rock and blues. His debut album Waitin’ On Joe went to #1 on CMT…

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Tasia Duske

Tasia Duske is CEO of Museum Hack, a renegade tour company that is spreading the good word: Museums Are F***ing Awesome! Tasia’s expertise is in scaling scrappy startups to become stable, profitable companies. At Museum Hack, a 100% bootstrapped and fully remote organization, this work includes overseeing revenue growth from $1.2 million in 2015 to $2.7 million in 2017, and a team that has expanded from 30 people to 65.

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Ward Emling

Ward Emling was born in New Orleans and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Millsaps College in Jackson, and spent two years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. He was the Director of the Mississippi Film Office from 1981-83, before moving to Los Angeles where he worked as a location manager on television and feature projects, and as an actor in television, features, and national and regional commercials.

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Jennifer Foster

Jennifer Foster is a Business Development Executive, Destinations for STR (STR, Inc.). STR provides clients from multiple market sectors with premium, global data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights. Founded in 1985, STR maintains a presence in 10 countries around the world with a corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and an international headquarters in London, England.

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Mike Fullerton

Mike Fullerton is senior director of public affairs at Brand USA, the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts.

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Larry Gregory

Bet on It, Mississippi Sports Betting

Larry Gregory is the executive director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association (MGHA). Gregory is a long-time veteran in the gaming industry management profession. Prior to joining the MGHA in 2011, his experience included all facets in government, including:

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Alysson Mills 

Alysson Mills is a partner in the law firm Fishman Haygood, LLP in New Orleans. She has a diverse litigation practice in which she frequently represents clients in copyright cases and cases implicating the First Amendment.

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Literary Panel


John T. Edge

John T. Edge writes about the American South. The Penguin Press published his latest book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, named a best book of 2017 by NPRPublisher‘s Weekly, and a host of others. Now in paperback, Nashville selected the book as a citywide read for 2018. Edge is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a columnist for the Oxford American.

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Ralph Eubanks

W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey Into Mississippi’s Dark Past and The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South. Click here to read more.


Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants and awards from the N.E.A., the United States Artists, a Pushcart, and a Fulbright to Brazil. Click here to read more.