Zuckerbergs dine and tour Vicksburg

Published 10:41 am Friday, February 24, 2017

Sandi McCraine walked out of her office Wednesday, shortly after 2 p.m. when The Big Muddy opened its doors in downtown Vicksburg, and looked straight into the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“I kind of had my head down and when I looked up, I looked him straight in the face, and I grinned. And he grinned,” she said.

McCraine shook his hand and told him her name, greeting him as she does all of her customers at The Big Muddy.

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“He said, ‘Hi, I’m Mark,’ and I told him ‘I know who you are,’ ” she said.

The Facebook founder and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are in the midst of a tour of the South, Zuckerberg said in posts on his Facebook page, part of his quest to visit all 50 states.

The Zuckerbergs were in Clarksdale on Tuesday, Vicksburg on Wednesday and apparently spent Wednesday night in Natchez.

Zuckerberg told McCraine after Natchez, he and his wife were headed to New Orleans.

“He was great,” McCraine said. “He was just a regular guy. He told me he tried to find us on Four Square, but couldn’t, and asked if we had a Facebook page and said, ‘because it is the best, even if I say so myself.’ ”

McCraine said she told Zuckerberg she went to a marketing seminar prior to opening her business and was advised to get her Facebook page up and running.

McCraine, and her daughter, Claire Minnie, opened The Big Muddy in downtown Vicksburg on Jan. 24.

“He then looked up our Facebook page and said he liked it and said he could tell we’ve been working it,” McCraine said. “He was very pleasant. They both were. And we did our best to leave them alone and treat them like regular people.”

The Zuckerbergs dined on corn nuggets and Philly cheese steak appetizers, she said.

“And he ordered a cup of jambalaya and she had a regular salad but added chicken to it.” The couple drank water with their meal.

“They told me they enjoyed the food and I teased him, telling him he could go on our Facebook page and star us,” she said.

McCraine said she told the Zuckerbergs she has been cooking her recipes for 30 years, that what she serves is honest, home cooking.

Kenny Boone, a Vicksburg native, said he went into The Big Muddy Wednesday and had a seat at the bar.

“This was my first visit there. I turned and noticed a couple sitting at the table about eight feet away. I immediately recognized Mark. I mean, he’s all over every news outlet in the world,” Boone said.

“Our eyes made contact and he smiled. I walked over and asked him, ‘Do you mind if I shake your hand?’ He said, ‘Not at all,’ and he stood up and we shook hands.

“We chit chatted a little bit, but I didn’t want to invade his space. I didn’t ask for a photo or anything. I knew they were doing a tour of the states from Facebook. I asked his wife how much of the south they had seen, and she said just Alabama and Mississippi so far. They said they were really enjoying their visit,” Boone said. “I made a comment that ‘We’re not all Republican rednecks,’ and he chuckled and said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Boone, a carpenter, said the Zuckerbergs were soft-spoken and respectful.

“Because of what I do for a living, I always look like a homeless person. I had tears in my clothes and paint on the front. They are the age of my children — my oldest daughter — and my nieces and nephews and it was like talking to one of my family members. This guy is so in our lives,” he said.

Boone said the main thing that stood out about the Zuckerbergs was they are “very real people.”

“I immediately recognized the green t-shirt and blue jeans. And I noticed they both had on real shoes. Usually when you see celebrities in tennis shoes, they look brand new. But theirs were worn. They weren’t straight out of a box. He had on tennis shoes and she had on flats and they were very dressed down, just like normal people.”

Boone said they interacted like you would expect millennials to interact.

“They would talk to one another, then look at their phones for a bit, then talk to one another again,” he said. “They ate real food. They didn’t come in and ask for any vegan food or anything like that.

“It was a proud moment for me to meet this 32-year-old guy. They are really sweet people and were very kind to me.”

The Zuckerbergs posted a photo on Facebook Wednesday of themselves in the Vicksburg National Military Park. Park Superintendent Bill Justice said the couple was very discreet, and that he didn’t know the Zuckerbergs had been in the park until he saw the photo.