Pilgrimage highs and lows

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NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - Natchez tourism officials and antebellum homeowners are excited about the young, diverse crowd that visited during Spring Pilgrimage this year.

However, the excitement was tempered by the overall decrease in visitors from last year.

Final numbers for ticket sales and visitors are still being analyzed by Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, according to NPT Director Emily Edwards.

Some preliminary data, Edwards said, shows a decrease in visitors from last year, but an increase in other facets of tourism.

“It does look like there’s a slight decrease as far as how ticket sales look, but some things were up, like dining,” Edwards said. “We’re still analyzing all the numbers, but everyone seems to be in agreement that we had fewer visitors because of the weather.

“It was a hard winter (up north), and we were dealt a rough hand.”

Pilgrimage Garden Club president Bridget Green, who also owns and operates The Burn with her husband, said she received significant feedback from visitors about how weather impacted travel plans.

“I think a lot of tourists weren’t traveling like they usually do, and we lost a lot of big busses because of the weather,” Green said. “When those individuals can’t leave home to come here and visit, it just wreaks havoc on Spring Pilgrimage.

“With that being said, I think it was a very good pilgrimage because we had a lot different demographics of tourists this year.”

Green said she was excited to see an increase of young visitors, family groups and black tourists viewing the Natchez antebellum houses.

Green said she couldn’t put her finger on what led to the different demographics, but did say those groups also appeared to be interested in different things in the house than in years past.

“In the past, we’ve gotten a lot of tourists that come for the architecture and decorative art in the houses, but this year more people seemed to be interested in the history which was different,” Green said. “We’ve added some of that here, and I know some of the mansion houses are on track to start doing some more research to bring more history into these tours.”

Last year, Green added a new dimension of history to her house tour by telling a new story of a Union soldier who stayed at The Burn in 1864.

Continually adding new layers of history to the tours is what Green said is key for the houses on tour to attract and please the visitors who came to Natchez this season.

“The tourists we had this year were very engaged and had this energy that we hadn’t felt in years,” Green said.

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