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The Mane Event: Family and friends are off to the races for a darling Derby-themed birthday celebration.

the "Run for the Roses" took a girly turn when Caroline Hall turned six. The kindergartener and avid " horseback rider was set on an equestrian emphasis for her birthday party, so a glammed-up Kentucky Derby theme was the perfect way to make her celebration one to remember.

"We decided on a Derby theme together," says Caroline's mother Melanie Keene Hall. "I wanted to soften the traditional colors a bit and have more pinks and greens."

Melanie and her husband Jerry partnered with party planners Connie Keene and Carla Smith of Olde South Events in Hattiesburg to execute their equine vision. After setting the tone with an invitation by Joanna Keith of Red Bird Paper, the theme was apparent from the moment guests arrived at the al fresco party venue at a lake house owned by Melanie's parents, Marilyn and John Keene, at Big Bay Lake in Lumberton. Two long tables were lined with moss runners to mimic the turf at the Kentucky Derby, and antiqued gold trophy vases of all sizes held arrangements of white hydrangeas, pink spray roses, garden roses, pink stock, and eucalyptus. Horses wearing floral wreaths stood grazing and waiting for the children to ride, and small horse statues were placed on tables.

Even the edible details were planned with the theme in mind. Tack boxes were used to hold the children's food, which included kid-friendly favorites like chicken nuggets, chips, and fresh fruit. On a separate food table, dishes from an all-grown-up Derby brunch menu included shrimp and grits and a biscuit bar prepared by Seasoned with Love in Hattiesburg, along with fresh fruit, a horseshoe-shaped pimiento cheeseball with crackers, and Belvoir Elderflower and Rose Lemonade.

"For each birthday party I have, I want the food to cater to the children as well as the adults," Melanie says. "I always want each age group to have something they like."

The birthday girl's cake was created by Melanie's "personal favorite baker and friend" Shaun Davis of Cotton Blues, best known for his cheesecakes that are sold around the state--"but his cakes are amazing, too!" Melanie says. For Caroline's first "big-girl cake," Melanie selected a simple but elegant almond-vanilla cake with Italian buttercream frosting in a naked finish with a "messy pink chocolate drip." It was displayed on a rustic wood cake stand in the center of a table festooned with show ribbons with sweet floral details.

As the children waited for their turns to ride through an open field on Little Creek and Crush, two horses from Pink Cactus Horseback Riding and Barrel Racing in Purvis, they had a chance to express their artistic sides by painting horseshoes. lhe colorful creations would later serve as take-home mementos of the party, along with flower-filled trophies and horse-themed frosted sugar cookies by Vicki Taylor of Sweet Tweets. "We had several styles of cookies," says Melanie, "including roses, trophies, horse profiles with rose wreaths, horseshoes and winners' ribbons complete with real ribbons flowing from the bottom."

Melanie says the most memorable moment for her was seeing Caroline's face as they arrived at the party and she saw all of the decorations for the first time. "She was in awe," Melanie says. "As her mom, seeing her light up over each aspect of the party made it all worth it. Nothing in this world is more important to me than Caroline and her health and happiness. Each year, I want to celebrate her growing older and becoming the person God intended her to be."

4 cups chicken broth
1 cup grits
2 cups shredded Monterey
Jack/cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cut into bits
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch green onion, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring chicken broth to a boil, add
grits, stirring regularly until cooked (about 15 to 20 minutes).
Stir in cheese, and remove from heat. In a large saute pan, fry
bacon until almost crispy, then add shrimp and butter and continue
to cook and stir until shrimp turns pink (about 2 to 3 minutes).
Combine shrimp and bacon with cheesy grits. Add green onions, lemon
juice, and half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper;
stir thoroughly, and serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings
Seasoned with Love

Caption: CLOCKWISE TOP: Shades sweet Pink added a feeling to the Derby-style decor. Children and adults enjoyed Southern favorite treats Melanie v cookie favors, every element trotted out the horse theme. OPPOSITE: Birthday girl Caroline Hall with her parents Jerry and

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Traditional equestrian show ribbons were reimagined in tiny floral fabrics to adorn the birthday cake table Antiqued gold trophies were filled with flowers and set atop wood crates. The festivities took place in a lakeside setting with plenty of open space beyond for riding. OPPOSITE: Shaun Davis of Cotton Blues in Hattiesburg created the birthday cake. Floral print ribbons echo the horse theme
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Title Annotation:FOOD & ENTERTAINING: Southern Soirees
Author:Bozeman, Kelli
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2018
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