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Released December 19, 2003


HATTIESBURG - With Eagle Fever catching and showing no signs of breaking, Santa might want to reserve some extra room in his sleigh this holiday season.

From Hattiesburg to the Gulf Coast, staffers in the gift shops and bookstores of The University of Southern Mississippi are keeping busier than a workshop full of elves as shoppers search for that perfect gift for the dyed-in-the-wool Golden Eagle fan. And there's plenty from which to choose.

From musical CDs by guitar professor John DeChiaro to Liberty Bowl sweatshirts emblazoned with Southern Miss and its opponent, Utah, there is something for almost everyone - even the littlest Golden Eagle.

"Our biggest problem isn't finding something, but deciding what to buy. There's so much to choose from," said Tom Hardy, who with his wife, Deborah, shopped the Hattiesburg campus for outfits for their 8-month-old grand nephew.

Shoppers of all ages continue to clamor for just about anything with the new Golden Eagle athletic logo. Hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts, shorts, clocks, banners, stickers - you name it and people are buying it.

"The knit skull cap we got in with the new logo sold out immediately," said Hattiesburg bookstore clerk Joni Dixon. "Also, the Brett Favre throwback jerseys are also big sellers."

On football related fronts, two new items of interest are available this year. Highlight videos from each season, dating back to the 1950s, are now compiled on DVD and videotape. Also, high-quality action photos from Southern Miss games this year are available for framing.

Some of the picture requests from Photo Services are off-the-wall. For instance, Dixon said one customer wanted a framed photo of Lake Byron, located in front of the Southern Miss campus. "He said that's where he proposed to his wife 25 years ago, and he wanted a picture to remind her of it," Dixon said.

Although the campus bookstores will be closed during the university holiday, which runs from Dec. 23-Jan.4, shoppers can take advantage of the 50-percent-off Christmas sale this weekend and Monday. Store hours are from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 7:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday. The bookstore is closed Sunday. Gift wrapping is also available upon request. Store hours at the Long Beach campus bookstore are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Monday.

Roy Lawler, operations manager at the Hattiesburg campus, said the bookstore has remained busy even after students went home for the holidays. "We're seeing a lot of off campus customers who are coming because they don't have to worry about parking now," he said.

The holiday rush began back in late September and picked up steam through mid-November, the last date for students to charge merchandise to their school account using their ID cards.

Other big sellers in the gift shop this season have been pots, jewelry, candleholders and scent burners, Lawler said. Of course, the bookstore isn't able to fill all requests.

"We've had some people call looking for pet apparel with the Eagle logo on it," he said. "We don't have that yet, but I would be surprised if we don't get it."

A multitude of gift ideas are also available at Southern Miss' Scott Aquarium in Biloxi. To add oceans of fun to Christmas, parents can put the summer Project Marine Discovery Sea Camp 2004 under the tree. Youngsters participating in the popular marine science day camp at Scott Aquarium will help celebrate its 20th birthday with a Birthday Blast celebration each Friday of Sea Camp. The Christmas gift pack includes a Birthday Blast T-shirt and a certificate entitling the recipient to one week of Sea Camp.

Parents and offspring can experience the wonders of marine and coastal environments together with a year-long Great Scott! family membership. Membership features free admission, the Great Scott! newsletter and special events at free or reduced rates. The membership calendar for 2004 includes a trip to swim with the manatees Jan. 30-Feb. 1, kayaking coastal streams in March, trawling to Horn Island in May, a seafood fest at the Scott Aquarium in July, snorkeling in Florida in September and birding on Dauphin Island, Ala., in November.

New in the Scott Aquarium gift shop this season is pewter. "Some of the items are contemporary design and others are a sea life design," said Sylvia Covacevich, gift shop manager. "Items range from bowls and platters to mugs and wine glasses. Prices run from $12.95 to $58.95."

She said art prints by local artists, toys, jewelry, apparel and home accessories with an ocean and environmental theme are also attracting buyers this year.

Scott Aquarium holiday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday Dec. 22 - 23 and 29-30. For more information on Sea Camp and Scott Aquarium memberships, call (228) 374-5550.

For more information, call the Hattiesburg campus bookstore at (601) 266-4386 or the Long Beach campus bookstore at (228) 865-4504.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM