JUST when we thought the impending days of August would be...

Salmagundi

July 15, 1994

JUST when we thought the impending days of August would be filled with heat, boredom and empty lemonade pitchers, a brochure arrived from the Southern Governors Association (SGA).

The group is shining up its boots and throwing a party, "A Southern Summit," commencing Aug. 28 at Nashville's posh Opryland Hotel -- right next to the Opryland Themepark -- and lasting till noon Sunday. For a cut-rate fee of $290, we're invited to "Barn dance" to the "best of Nashville country music" right after downing a plate of ribs at "Hog Heaven." More on that later.

The SGA was formed in 1934 under the auspices of President Franklin Roosevelt. That summer, FDR urged the governors to "unite and form a new South." The organization soon committed itself to "closing the economic gap" between the South and the rest of the nation. This summer, the SGA, along with the Southern Growth Policies Board and the Southern States Energy Board, convenes for the 60th time, to celebrate its past and plan its future.

As at any powerful gathering, the tone is both business-like and self-congratulatory. The brochure's off-handed mentions of a "formal agenda" and "plenary sessions" are dwarfed by splashy charts and graphs proclaiming the organization's success. The 60-year "dividends" the SGA credits itself with include 10 percent and 18 percent growth, respectively, in the percentage of U.S. manufacturing and agriculture operations located in southern states. Whether such a trend is due to the SGA or the myriad of other factors changing the course of America's economy is not discussed.

A major portion of the brochure focuses on ways and means for governors to relax. Is the weekend in Music City, USA, a time to kibitz about budgets and lieutenant governors? Hardly. "A Southern Summit" serves up a full social plate.

bTC Friday begins with golf on a Senior PGA Classic course, with a black-tie reception that night. The weekend ends with the hoe-down barbecue, called "Hog Heaven."

Pardon our imagination, but why do we suddenly visualize a group of flying porkers playing the harp? Don't parents tell their children that the newly deceased family cat is now in "cat heaven?" Do parents, then, serve it with a side of corn bread?

Incidently, the governors will be barn dancing in their "casual western attire" after the "heavenly" feast. Hope they've checked their cholesterol levels recently -- and their stamina, too.

Did we also mention that the summit's two hosts, Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter and Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia, are both in their early 60s? We applaud their fitness and faith in the miracles of cardiovascular surgery.

Maryland will be represented by Gov. William Donald Schaefer for the eighth and last time. In the twilight of his term, the governor wouldn't miss a Nashville hoe-down. He's a big country and western music fan, after all.

Opryland, get ready!

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