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17 Nashville Couples Called “Blackberry Group” Choose Oxford for Annual Trip

Members of the Blackberry Group enjoy their time in Oxford. Pictured left to right: Charles Overby, Richard Roselle, Walker Batts and Marty Dickens.
Members of the Blackberry Group enjoy their time in Oxford. Pictured left to right: Charles Overby, Richard Roselle, Walker Batts and Marty Dickens.

To visitors ranging from literary enthusiasts and sports fanatics to art lovers and other tourists, the allure of Oxford draws visitors and new residents from every walk of life for many different reasons.

Such was the case when a large group of friends and outstanding citizens from Nashville invited by Charles Overby and his wife (Overby is chairman of the The Overby Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media) – 17 couples in all – chose Oxford as the destination for their annual group trip.

Known as the Blackberry Group, the couples get together once a year to plan a vacation. The first trip they took together was to see Blackberry Farms in Tennessee, a place the group has revisited several times in the years past and from which the group’s nickname originated.

Their trip this year was enriched by the fact that it came on the same weekend that Overby was moderating an event titled “Oxford’s Literary Tradition” in which prize-winning poet and well-known professor at Ole Miss, Beth Ann Fennelly along with Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books, and Neil White, an Oxford author and establisher of Nautilus Publishing Co., were guest speakers.

Blackberry Group member Marty Dickens of Nashville said, “We’ve been all over the place. From the coast of Georgia to down near Sea Island.”

Dickens explained that each year there is a “host couple” that decides where they will go next. Overby and his wife Andrea were up to host and chose the place closest to their hearts.

“Everybody loves coming to Oxford. So, when they said Oxford, we said, ‘sign us up.’ And, here we are,” Dickens said. “Oxford is a great little university town, it’s not this giant metropolis. It is in many ways, a quaint, little town, and yet, you’ve got this major University of Mississippi here. It’s nice to come here and be a part of it.”

Dickens’ wife, Betty, said she enjoys the shopping on the Square and the ambience of the town.

“It’s just very warm and inviting,” Betty said. “You just kind of feel… very comfortable and at home.”

At the “Oxford’s Literary Tradition” event, the group’s authentic Oxford experience and their appreciation of Oxford were further enhanced by the speakers and their perspectives.

Panelist members at recent Oxford's Literary Tradition event, Charles Overby, Richard Howorth, Beth Ann Fennelly and Neil White.
Panelist members at recent Oxford’s Literary Tradition event. Charles Overby, Richard Howorth, Beth Ann Fennelly and Neil White.

Ole Miss professor Beth Ann Fennelly, said, “We (Fennelly and her husband) moved here in 2001. It was supposed to be a one-year appointment, and we fell in love. And, I knew I never wanted to live any place else. Recently, we just bought five plots in the cemetery. It’s a major commitment.”

Oxford Publisher Neil White said he loved that Oxford was a place that nurtured him as an author.

“Here’s what is wonderful about this town,” White said. “Of all the writers we have, there’s very little jealousy. Everybody wants everybody else to succeed.”

It was clear that Blackberry Group members thoroughly enjoyed their trip and will likely return. Member Richard Roselle of Nashville said he has visited Oxford four times, and each time, he finds something unique about the town.

“I came to meet my son here one time when he was in college, and that was the first time I experienced the Grove,” Roselle said. “I just love the charm and how it’s a family-oriented atmosphere. Even though I didn’t go to school here, I told Charles that I would recommend my grandchildren coming here.”

There really is something amazing about this little town. It just seems to be getting better and better at creating that perfect mix of all the elements — beauty, charm, the arts, the university, sports, tradition, food and of course the literary influence – all working together to create that special allure that keeps visitors, and groups like the Blackberry Group, coming back for more.


Randall Haley is the social media editor and a staff writer for Hottytoddy.com. She can be reached at randall.haley@hottytoddy.com.

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