Party-goers gather for live music, crawfish and shrimp at a previous Pilgrimage kickoff party. This year's community-wide party is 5-8 p.m. Thursday on the grounds of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, 300 Main St. Photo by: Courtesy photo
Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science student Dairian Bowles of Byhalia rehearses his Tales from the Crypt presentation of John H. Hand, an early-19th century physician buried at Friendship Cemetery in this 2018 file photo. This year's Tales from the Crypt will take place at Friendship Cemetery at 1400 Fourth St. S. Friday, March 29 and April 1, 3 and 5, from 7-10 p.m.
Photo by: Dispatch file photo
March 23, 2019 10:05:57 PM
Thursday marks the kickoff of the 79th annual Columbus Spring Pilgrimage -- 10 days of historic home and garden tours, Tales from the Crypt, Catfish in the Alley, Artisans Alley, a barn quilt trail, carriage rides, garden party, 5K run, food, music and fun.
"We have so many wonderful events coming up," said Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCVB) and Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation CEO Nancy Carpenter. "It's really going to be amazing."
From 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Catfish in the Alley and Artisans Alley will fill Fourth Street South (Catfish Alley) with catfish and other Southern delicacies, artisans making handcrafted period items and music. Musical acts are Big Joe Shelton and the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors, 10-11 a.m.; Terry "Harmonica" Bean, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; Grady Champion, 12:30-1:30 p.m.; and Keith Johnson and the Big Muddy Band, 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Tickets and tourism
Tickets for Pilgrimage events and a complete schedule are available at visitcolumbusms.org, at the CCVB office, or call 800-920-3533 or 662-329-1191. Pilgrimage brochures are available at the office and on the site.
The annual Pilgrimage plays a prominent tourism role in Columbus and Lowndes County. Several thousand people will tour homes, take part in Tales from the Crypt, the 5K run and other events, Carpenter said. The economic impact at hotels and motels, restaurants, gas stations and retail stores is significant.
"The cultural heritage tourist has more spendable income, and they tend to come and stay longer than they had originally planned," Carpenter explained. "Most are retired, and their schedules are more fluid."
The Mississippi Tourism Economic Contribution Report for Fiscal Year 2018 from the Mississippi Development Authority reveals that estimated "Travel and Tourism Expenditures by Visitors" in Lowndes County was $115,000,664. State/local taxes/fees attributed to tourism in Lowndes County were $10,557,307. More than 1,500 jobs in the county were related to tourism in FY2018.
"Tourism is big business in Mississippi," said Gov. Phil Bryant in the report. "During the last fiscal year, 24 million visitors spent $6.51 billion in Mississippi and generated $405.2 million for the state's General Fund."
Every region of Mississippi offers a wealth of unique sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, Bryant continued. Columbus -- especially at Pilgrimage time -- is certainly one of them.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.