March 28, 2011 10:18:00 AM
Garthia Elena Burnett -
Organizers are expecting up to 20,000 people to participate in Columbus'' Spring Pilgrimage this year. Events kick off today, with home tours and Blues Around the Block, featuring music and catfish and shrimp po boys, at the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center on Main Street. And the show will go on, rain or shine.
Eleven historic homes, four gardens and three churches are on tour this week and next, paying homage to Columbus'' rich history.
This year, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith''s Unity Picnic and the Grilling on the River barbecue contest join the Pilgrimage events.
"We''ve included so many wonderful events that Columbians enjoy as well as visitors, and that was our intent was to make sure there was something for everyone," said Nancy Carpenter, interim director of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We''re delighted that we have so many partners in Pilgrimage."
Harvey Myrick, organizer of Grilling on the River, sees hosting the event in conjunction with Pilgrimage as a "win-win." Cooking teams, judges and guests visiting for Grilling on the River also participate in many Pilgrimage events, he said.
"Grilling on the River has been very fortunate to fall during Pilgrimage the past two years," said Myrick, who said the Pilgrimage event gives an added reason for out-of-town teams to participate in the Columbus event.
Other Pilgrimage events include a 10K run, Noon Tunes, Artisans Alley, carriage rides, book signings, an antique jewelry show and Girlchoir Tour of Kitchens.
"It''s a grand time for us all to collaborate ... and I think that puts forth such a positive message that we are united," Carpenter said. "That''s what I really think is so impressive, it''s everyone working together to make something beautiful for the community,"
This year''s Pilgrimage also features a number of homes (and homeowners) new to the event.
"I think it''s significant that people are willing to join on Pilgrimage, and put (our community''s) best foot forward," said Carpenter, who is excited about the new additions.
Columbus'' historic districts and homes transform during Pilgrimage, featuring hosts and hostesses in period apparel, live musicians, quilters and longtime Columbus residents risen from the grave, so to speak, to tell their stories.
Tales from the Crypt , a presentation of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, offers a look at the lives of late Columbus citizens. MSMS students culminate months of research with dramatic performances as their research subjects.
The event has become a draw, not only for local residents, but also for tourists.
"Right now, I know that we''ve got 60 (people) coming to do Tales from the Crypt on one bus tour," Carpenter noted.
For more info, visit columbus-ms.org, or contact the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St., 662-328-0222, or the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at 662-920-3533.