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  • Bob Arnold

Michigan tourist in the neighborhood

By Bob Arnold

IRS opens the Jackson Taxpayer Assistance Center on March 11

Every year, some 23 million persons visit Mississippi, where they spend some $6.3 billion to help drive the state’s economy, and pump almost $400 million into the state’s General Fund to help pay for government services.

Tanya Strickland from Michigan is among them.

A single mom, Strickland started coming to Mississippi when her son Brandon Jason, now 21 and an Amazon employee, was old enough to leave behind when she wanted to take a break from the cold weather in the Great Lakes State.

This year for the third time, she joined the some 16,000 visitors annually who visit Lake Lincoln State Park, its nearby environs in Lincoln County and the Wesson area.

Born in Allendale near Grand Rapids, Strickland went to Palmer Elementary School and graduated from Creston High School in 2002, where she played soccer and was a cheerleader. While attending high school, she also studied cosmetology at a trade school, before going on to earn a degree at Chic University of Cosmetology (CUC) at Standale, Michigan. After graduating from CUC in 2005, she started a working career that has encompassed cosmetology, assisting a dentist and bartending.

In 2005, Strickland also joined her mother to operate Kate & Curls, a Grand Rapids salon and spa that offered tanning, manicure, pedicure and massage services. She later started Unique Elegance Salon and Spa with six workers who also helped her provide services at area expos. While still at work in 2009, she entered Grand Rapids Community College to study business, received an Applied Arts & Science degree in 2015, and joined the staff of Cherry Health as a dental assistant until 2022 and took on extra work as a bartender beginning in 2020.

Today, she continues to operate a salon in the third generation home in which she grew up in Grand Rapids and serves drinks at the well-known Point Bar there when she isn’t travelling in the South to escape the cold Michigan winters.

The Lake Lincoln area became one of Strickland’s vacation stops after she met Charles Fortson, Jr., who operates Uncle Rays eatery, bait shop, convenience store and RV rentals across from Lake Lincoln State Park, and visits friends in Michigan every year.

“Shortly after the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, I took my first trip with a friend to Lake Lincoln,” she recalls. “We stayed in the park, and came back the next year on a stop that included Louisiana, Texas and Florida. This year, Uncle Ray hosted me, and showed me Natchez and part of Louisiana.”

On the eve of her return, to Michigan “to get back to my hair styling work,” Strickland talked about travelling to Arizona in the near future to see if she liked it, eventually leaving Michigan altogether and possibly taking on seasonal work in Mississippi at Uncle Rays.

What are your hobbies? Obviously, I like to travel. But that’s not all. Dancing. Boating. Canoeing. Swimming. Beaches. Bowling.

Are you a reader? Not a big one. If I am forced to read, I will. But I am a Tik Toker. I have become pretty good at making and posting videos on the internet. While visiting Uncle Rays this year, I made some cooking videos to publicize Charles’ meals.

Do you have favorite movies or plays? I enjoy action and sci-fi movies particularly. I like to watch actors Channing Tatum and Jim Carrey and actress Angelina Jolie. I stream movies on the internet at home, but go to the theater every once and a while.

Do you enjoy music? I like country, hip hop, R&B and the music of Vintage Culture to which I can dance. I used to sing karaoke.

What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky? I would do work on my house, buy an RV and travel a lot. My various family members as well would be at the top of help list – my two sisters, mom, three nieces, two nephews, two great nieces and son.

How would you change the world? I don’t really know how, but I would try to address all the hate in the word by helping those in need, being kind to my neighbors and trying to promote happiness.



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