March 9, 2013 5:33:59 PM
How to make one of the Southeast's most magical visitor events more magical? For Columbus' 73rd annual Spring Pilgrimage, the answer was simple: Add a touch of a true magician to the festivities. This year, the two-week tour and celebration of historic homes and Southern culture will be highlighted by the grand opening of the Josh Meador Trail, marking points of interest in the life of the preeminent Disney animator who grew up in Columbus.
Meador lent his magic brush to a veritable roll call of Walt Disney Studio classics, from helping to create the wondrous workings of the fantastical "Fantasia" to engineering the marvels of Captain Nemo's voyage "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," for which he won Disney Studios an Academy Award.
Though Meador did not draw the Disney characters, it was his animating genius that brought them to life and created such dazzling effects as the rising waters of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." That kind of unique talent makes Meador a natural addition for an event known for its own dazzling stagecraft in bringing history vividly to life, from the War of 1812 at Plymouth Bluff to the grand gilded ladies of the Victorian age.
Rather than an artist's brush, Pilgrimage works its enchantment through historic homes and churches, where hosts dressed in period costume and immersed in period lore will step out of the pages of the past to welcome visitors March 31 through April 13.
Candlelight tours also help cast a spell, as do horse-drawn carriage rides through the Downtown Columbus Historic District, while the dramatic graveyard presentations of the award-winning Tales from the Crypt do their part to enrich the experience, recreating the lives of noted Mississippians and others interred in the city's historic Friendship Cemetery. Other events during Pilgrmage include a 10K run and 1-mile fun run, the Mayor's Unity Picnic, Artisans Alley, Noon Tunes, Grilling on the River, a book signing and more.
The unveiling of the Josh Meador marker will take place Monday, April 1. The community is invited to meet at 10 a.m. for coffee and Danishes at the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau located at 117 Third St. S. From there, travel by double decker bus to view Meador items at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library and then to the marker site, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street North, near Temple Heights.
A Pilgrimage Kickoff Party later that day, at 5 p.m., features a crawfish boil and live music by Eden Brent on the lawn of the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St. The former parsonage-turned-welcome center is the childhood home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who penned such classics as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."
CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter noted that Spring Pilgrimage combines the qualities associated with both of Columbus' famous storytellers. "Pilgrimage is resonant in the romance and glamour that was so vital to Tennessee Williams, yet it also offers the family-friendly quality typical of Josh Meador's outstanding work for Walt Disney. Spring Pilgrimage truly has something fort everyone."
A complete schedule of events, tickets and more information are available from the CVB. Stop by or call 800-920-3533 or 662-398-1191. Or visit columbus-ms.org.