Thousands flocking to Natchez to tour historic Southern homes
The 2011 Natchez Spring Pilgrimage is in full tilt, and organizers are expecting this year to be the event’s best in a half-decade or so.
With the exception some of the war years, the Natchez Spring Pilgrimage, which features tours of the city’s many historic homes, has been held annually since 1932. Established as a grassroots effort by the local garden club, the Pilgrimage now draws thousands of tourists from all over the nation and world.
Longwood, just one of the museum-homes offered on the Pilgrimage, has recorded visitors from all over the U.S. and from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, China, Argentina, Chile, Sweden, Switzerland and The Philippines, to name a few.
Like so many events, the Pilgrimage has taken hits from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the economy. Back in the 1990s, the event was drawing approximately 250 tour buses. Challenges in the last decade saw bus tours drop to approximately 80.
“Hurricane Katrina taught us just how connected we are to New Orleans,” said Marsha Colston, who heads up Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. “For many, we are a side-stop to New Orleans.”
However, Colston said the city is expecting this to be a bounce-back year. The 2011 Natchez Spring Pilgrimage runs through April 16, so she did not have definitive numbers yet. But Colston estimated that the city should see approximately 120 bus tours this spring, and she expects perhaps 50,000-plus visitors this year.
Officials have never distilled the Pilgrimage’s economic impact numbers from the general impact of tourism (meetings, conventions, etc.) during the festival’s weeks. Colston could only say they “would be significant.”
One effort to boost attendance has been upgrading the Pilgrimage’s brochure, including other non-tour offerings. However, the real push has been through online and social media promotion.
“I never could understand why Europeans would want to come to Natchez to see our homes when they have such grand places in Europe, so I asked one time,” Colston said. “The man said if he wanted to see historic homes in Europe, he would have to drive hundreds of miles. What he liked about the Pilgrimage is that he could see all the homes in one place.”
Organizers are already looking ahead to the 2011 Natchez Fall Pilgrimage, which will be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 14.
The Pilgrimages offer numerous tour packages offering dozens of homes at different prices, dates and times. For more information on the spring and fall events, visit www.natchezpilgrimage.com, or call (601) 446-6631 or toll-free 1-800-647-6742.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info