April 6, 2013 7:59:02 PM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
It is nothing rare to hear residents complain there is nothing to do in Columbus.
Anyone who was guilty of making that comment this weekend clearly didn't walk around downtown Saturday.
I took to the streets bright and early Saturday morning. My first stop was at the Hitching Lot Farmer's Market , where I spoke with several shoppers who were obviously thrilled about the market's opening day.
"We've just been waiting for them to open," Ann Ross excitedly proclaimed as she grabbed my arm.
When I walked up to Ann, she and Shirley Andrews were deep in conversation about herbs. Andrews grows them and other plants and brings them to the market to sell each Saturday.
Andrews, a former teacher, said selling plants provides her an opportunity to teach novice gardeners the best way to grow herbs.
"I'm enjoying meeting new people," she said. "I used to teach and I'm still teaching here."
Tennessee Williams play
Ross said she and her husband were exploring downtown Columbus this weekend and looking forward to see what Pilgrimage has to offer. They live in an apartment above the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitor's Bureau and have a prime spot for the festivities. Ann said she went to the Tennessee Williams play on Friday evening and was surprised.
"I had no idea Tennessee Williams was progressive enough to have a play with all that in it," she said.
The play is quickly becoming known not only for the fine actors but for the mature subject mature as well.
"It was salty," Ross said.
On the opposite side of the parking lot, art teachers and young students were getting to work painting a mural on the side of the Boy Scout hut that will depict a field, fresh flowers and vegetebles with the Farmer's Market logo in the center.
Teacher and photographer Katie McDill said students from different area schools have become an "art family" and she is amazed at the students' artistic ability.
"This is a good way to get them involved in the community," McDill said as she picked up a paint brush.
McDill's husband, Chris, was setting up shop at Artisan Alley across from the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center to sell his Item 13 candles. McDill said she planned on joining her husband after the day's work for the mural was complete.
The parking lot behind the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center was packed with shoppers browsing the homemade items from local artisans. DeWayne and Katie Mast of the Corner Bakery arrived before 8 a.m. to set up their freshly made cream cheese bars, poppyseed and banana nut bread, cinnamon buns and their best-selling item: cheese straws.
A quick run
As the Masts and the McDills were setting up shop, dozens of runners began to congregate for the 10K run.
Runner Timmy Farish of Louisville was painted from head to toe for the event and said he arrived in Columbus around 5 a.m. After the 10K, Farish said he planned to ride on the CVB's big red bus, tour several of the homes and then head down to the Riverwalk.
"I'm just going to do some looking around," he said. "It's a lot of neat stuff down here with these antebellum homes. They're a sight to see."
Evans Dawson said she has been a part of the race since it first began.
"I've supported this race for many years and being a resident of Columbus I like to support the Pilgrimage. It makes me proud to be from Columbus," Dawson said. "It's a pretty, pretty run, too."
Brad Noble was among a group from Columbus Air Force Base who was also participating in the 10K. An avid runner, Noble said he was running in the race to support his friend Ashley Corpron who was competing in her first 10K. Noble was one of five people running from the base's security forces squadron and said they were planning to ride the red bus later in the afternoon.
The Allford family traveled to Columbus from Hattiesburg to attend both pilgrimage events and a 20-year reunion for 1993 graduates from the Mississippi School for Math and Science.
Mac Allford brought his young family to Columbus and spent the afternoon touring homes. When I met them, the couple was loading up their three children into a carriage to ride around downtown.
"We're here for a fun weekend," Mac Allford said. "We're making it a double duty visit."
Downtown merchants were busy, too.
Sisters Marianne Sanders and Charlotte Batman were in the Purple Elephant and had nothing but positive things to say about Columbus.
Sanders and her husband moved to Columbus from Ohio several years ago for a job transfer.
"The South, it just called my name," Sanders said.
Batman came to Columbus for the week to visit her sister and the two were comparing the city of Columbus to their way of life in Ohio.
"We love it, love it, love it down here," Sanders said.
"I just think it's the most welcoming city," Batman said. "Everyone is so friendly. They say hello. They smile. They tell you, 'Have a blessed day'. We don't hear that in Ohio."
At Baskerville Manor, Pilgrimage tourists from Missouri seemed to agree.
Brenda Blackman from Campbell, Mo., said she first visited to Columbus 30 years ago. Since that long-ago trip, Blackman said she longed to come back.
"I've always wanted to come back," she said. "We had the bus tour and I heard they were coming to Columbus and I said 'Yes! That's where I want to go!' There's so much southern hospitality here."
Sitting on a bench with young girls dressed in period style dresses offering Blackman cookies, a breeze began to blow and petals from a pear tree swirled all around. Blackman looked at me and gave me a knowing smile as if to say "See?"
The owner of the home, Rachael Baskerville George, said she tries to make guests feel welcome in her home and teach them the history of the 1860s home as well as entertain them.
"If you don't want to laugh, don't come here," she said. George speaks with obvious pride about her home, which she bought three years ago. This is the second year the home has been a part of the Pilgrimage.
She tells the roomful of women from Missouri the story of how a previous owner of the Italian-style home once lost the house in a poker game. As you meander through the rest of the home, George's lively voice carries throughout.
On the front lawn of the home, several little girls gathered on a blanket to have an afternoon snack. By this time, young Sarah Fry has grown tired of her hoop skirt and dress shoes. Fry has shed the hoop skirt and traded her dress shoes for a pair of black Nikes that stood in stark contrast to her blue dress fringed with lace, cameo earrings and white bow in her pale blonde hair.
As I turn to leave, I take one last glance at a home I have driven by countless times since I was the same age of the little girls playing in the front yard.
The big red bus comes chugging up the street and more visitors file onto the sidewalk. My tour has ended, but the activities will continue far into the night -- the Mayor's Unity Picnic, the 63rd annual Junior Auxiliary Charity Ball, another showing of Williams' play "Kingdom of Earth."
Nothing to do in Columbus?
Nothing could have been further from the truth Saturday.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.