Over the past four years, blogger Kerry Crawford became the face of civic pride in Memphis with her Convention and Visitors Bureau-backed "I Love Memphis" website. As Crawford moves on to other pursuits this week, another face is taking over and declaring that she loves the Bluff City too.
Unlike Crawford, a Memphis native, the new "I Love Memphis" blogger, Holly Whitfield, is a transplant from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She moved to Memphis for college eight years ago and never looked back.
Whitfield worked at The Commercial Appeal for three years as the editor director for its niche publications before taking over Crawford's position as social media specialist for the CVB.
You have some big shoes to fill.
I think this is an incredible opportunity to dig into the city. I love meeting people and finding out things about the city. When this opportunity came up, I had to jump on it.
What are your plans for the blog?
Our readers have a lot of favorite things about the blog, and some of those things we'll keep, like the event reviews and the Friday five things [to do in Memphis feature]. But I'd like to bring in some new graphics and maps and play with a redesign. I'm going to put my own spin on it.
Why did you choose Memphis?
Hattiesburg isn't small, but it's not the metropolitan area that Memphis is. I wanted to explore that after high school. I visited the University of Memphis in October, and the weather was beautiful, and the trees were beautiful. Even though it's only five hours north of Hattiesburg, there are seasons here. There's a fall and spring. That appeals to me on a very simple level. It was just a step up from where I had grown up. Oh, and there are independently owned restaurants here.
Memphis has changed for the better over the past few years. Have you noticed that since you first moved here?
About two years ago, I started commenting to friends that Memphis has really changed a lot since I moved here. When I came here, there were no bike lanes or farmers markets. The [Shelby Farms] Greenline didn't exist. The Levitt Shell didn't exist. Broad Avenue was empty except for Broadway Pizza. I definitely have more to show friends when they come visit.
What do you show those friends?
It depends on their interests. If I have a friend who is a foodie, we can hit different neighborhoods. We can hit Cooper-Young and go to a place there, and then we can hit downtown somewhere. And then we go out to the suburbs and eat at the Germantown Commissary. Some people want to do the classic stuff, like Graceland and barbecue. And others I'll take to the Pink Palace so we can look for the shrunken head. Whatever you're interested in, there's probably something for you here.
What do you say to Memphis haters?
Let your guard down a little, and stop saying what you've been saying for decades. Go find one thing you want to try that's new to you and give it a chance. I think the people who want to hate Memphis just haven't looked at it with fresh eyes.