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Bon Appetit September 2015

Alabama Getaway

"One minute Maggie Anthony-Chanin is demonstrating how to make a balloon giraffe. The next she’s describing the king snake she caught. Later, she’s showing everyone the fossils she found in a nearby creek. She is the life of the party and just happens to be one of the most interesting nine-year-olds you’ll ever meet.

None of this is surprising when you consider her parents, Natalie Chaninand Butch Anthony. Chanin runs Alabama Chanin, which she founded in 2006 in her hometown of Florence, Alabama. What started as a hand-sewn T-shirt and clothing brand has grown into a lifestyle company in which community and sustainability are paramount. Her businesses include an in-studio store and restaurant and a D.I.Y. educational center called the School of Making. In her spare time she collaborates with Heath Ceramics and Patagonia. She makes Martha Stewart seem lazy.

Anthony is an artist who describes his work as “speech without having to talk.” Other things you should know about him: He pretty much only wears overalls, basically got a full ride to Auburn University after finding a dinosaur-era mosasaur bone, and built his house out of timbers from an old cotton mill. Think Thoreau meets MacGyver.

On an unseasonably chilly October afternoon, the couple gathered family and friends at Anthony’s compound in Seale, Alabama (about two hours southwest of Atlanta), for another thing they’re really good at: partying. In 1996, Anthony started the Doo-Nanny, a three-day art show on his property. It quickly became a kind of mini Burning Man. The last one, in 2013, attracted a crowd of 4,000, many of whom slept on the property. So hosting 20 doesn’t faze them.

It’s cold, but nothing a little whiskey, a campfire, and a Southern menu can’t combat. The guest list is a who’s who of the region’s food and cultural scene, including Brooks Reitz of Leon’s Oyster Shop and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. in Charleston, South Carolina; Will Harris, a fourth-generation cattleman at White Oak Pastures; the gang from Back Forty Beer in Gadsden, Alabama; Nick Pihakis, co-owner of the Birmingham barbecue chain Jim ’N Nick’s; and artist and photographer Rinne Allen and husband Lee Smith. Chanin even convinced Heath co-owner Catherine Bailey to fly in from San Francisco with new tableware designs that she and Chanin designed.

After dinner, folk artist John Henry Toney sings traditional spirituals. Soon Maggie is asking her dad to light the bonfire. He obliges, doing the honors with a fiery arrow. Roman candles are passed around, and the sky is bursting with fireworks of every color.

Maggie is happy, as are her parents and their guests. Who needs a Doo-Nanny when you can have an intimate party like this?"