April 14, 2009
Between 6,000 and 7,000 people from all over the world attended the 69th annual Columbus Pilgrimage.
"We''re thrilled in tough economic times to meet last year''s numbers," said Nancy Carpenter of the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation. "We had a couple days of stormy weather and cold weather, and even with that to be considered things were very positive."
This year marks the first year the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation has been responsible for the execution of the Pilgrimage. The organization previously responsible for the Pilgrimage, the Columbus Historic Foundation, merged into the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation, last year.
Owned by the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Cultural Heritage Foundation initially was established to take ownership of the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, located on Main Street.
The two-week Pilgrimage focusing on the history of Columbus brought people from 37 states and 12 different countries to the Friendly City.
"When people are coming in from Des Moines, Iowa, and Mesa, Calif., and from upstate New York, they don''t come for the day," said Carpenter. "We were thrilled they stayed overnight in our city in our hotels, state parks and bed and breakfasts and enjoyed eating in our restaurants and shopping in our wonderful unique shops."
According to Carpenter, last year, the economic impact of the Pilgrimage netted the city between $600,000 and $700,000. This year''s take is expected to meet last year''s figures.
"Our records of attendance will certainly be comparable to last year''s," she said.
Lessons were learned from this year''s Pilgrimage. Carpenter said the timing of the Easter holiday might have dampened attendance, so next year the event will begin the Monday after Easter.
Even so, Carpenter said Pilgrimage would not be possible without the support of homeowners and volunteers from the community.
The Columbus Pilgrimage consists of a two-week celebration, which highlights Columbus'' pre-Civil War past with home tours complete with hosts and actors in period costume, musical and dramatic performances, carriage rides and more.
During the Civil War, Columbus was used primarily as a hospital town which spared it from being destroyed by Union troops like other Southern towns. As a result, Columbus and the surrounding area boast several pieces of unique Old South architecture which have been lost in much of the rest of the region.
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