March 30, 2013 4:14:54 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Today marks the start of the 73rd Columbus Spring Pilgrimage, an award-winning event that has earned a reputation as one of the best and most authentic of its kind in the South. A city-wide block party and crawfish boil Monday, April 1, will officially launch two weeks of memorable home, garden and church tours and festivities.
Repeat Blues Music Award winner Eden Brent -- the "boogie woogie woman" -- will be on hand to entertain at Monday's Pilgrimage kick-off party from 5-8 p.m. on the grounds of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center at 300 Main St.
"We can't wait. We're cooking up 800 pounds of crawfish for the party. And we're thrilled to have Eden Brent and her band from the Delta," said Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau and Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation, which present Pilgrimage. "We hope everyone will come out for this wonderful celebration."
Plates, available for $10, include 2 1/2 pounds of crawfish, plus potatoes, corn and beverage. A limited amount of shrimp will be prepared; to reserve a shrimp plate, contact the CVB in advance at 800-920-3533. A tent and bistro tables will be set up, but blankets and lawn chairs are welcome.
While Columbus' grand historic homes are the stars of Pilgrimage, there is plenty for locals and visitors to do between tours.
Josh Meador Trail
Monday also marks the grand opening of the Josh Meador Trail, noting points of interest in the life of the Academy Award-winning Disney animator who grew up in Columbus. His creative genius is seen in classics including "Cinderella," "Fantasia," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
The public is invited to morning coffee at 10 a.m. at the CVB office at 117 Third St. S. From there, a double decker bus will transport attendees to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library and then to the unveiling of an historic marker for Meador.
Tales from the Crypt
Once a year, on certain spring evenings, they appear, arising from their resting places at Friendship Cemetery. They come to share their stories. A 19th century immigrant tells of settling in Columbus. A doctor whose office operated for 50 years shares his memories. A quartet of ladies relate the story of the founding of Memorial Day in Columbus in 1866.
Real-life personalities like these will be conjured by costumed students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science during Tales from the Crypt candlelight walking tours April 3, 5, 8, 10 and 12, from 7-10 p.m. at the storied cemetery. Cost is $5 per person on site, $3 for students K-12.
This popular Pilgrimage feature has garnered numerous awards, including the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and a finalist designation in the History Channel's 2006 "Save Our History" classroom competition.
Visit the Welcome Center grounds Saturday, April 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a taste of yesteryear -- handcrafted period articles and homemade food items. Artisans will include Mississippi Craftsmen's Guild wood carver Mike Bailey and his wife, Debbie, with her unique aprons, Chris McDill's candles and soaps, Sharon Foster's paintings, and Mike and Becky Childs' wood-turned pieces, stained glass and broken china jewelry.
The Possum Town quilters will have quilts for sale and will be working on a quilt to donate to the Tennessee Williams Home.
"The whole idea is to have handmade artists' crafts and art pieces that are indicative of crafts in the 1800s," said Carpenter.
Music, picnic and more
Other highlights local and visiting pilgrims can take part in include:
The Mayor's Unity Picnic at the Riverwalk at 5 p.m. includes free food and music, hosted by Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.
At 1 p.m. April 13 Texas historian and storyteller Dr. Jerry Lincecum presents a program at the Plymouth Bluff Center based on the writings of his ancester Gideon Lincecum, who settled in Columbus in 1818.
Double decker bus tours of historic Columbus will also be available during Pilgrimage. Cost is $5 with purchase of a tour ticket, or $8 without a tour ticket.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau office serves as Pilgrimage headquarters and will be open for ticket sales from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. On candlelight home tour dates, the headquarters will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
For information, visit columbus-ms.org or contact the CVB at 800-920-3533. Or visit the Tennessee Williams Home Welcome Center at 300 Main St.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.