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Tapestry loses its sparkle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2014

The finest showcase of “Old Vicksburg” lost its luster and the ability to reinvent itself leading the attractions to stagnate and opportunities to be wasted.
The event began as a re-branding of Pilgrimage, which for half a century offered traditional room-to-room tours of historic homes. To draw more visitors, association members said at the time the static tours would be supplemented by presentations unique to each tour stop, such as Civil War-era medical practices, perspectives on the slave trade and more. Those caught on sparingly, depending on the venue.
Tapestry: A Pilgrimage to Vicksburg would run through April. The goal wass to present a historical look at Vicksburg using the city’s stately manors and buildings as the storytellers. Organizers hoped to attract locals in addition to tourists.
“Some locals will say they have been in a certain house, but if it was 10 years ago, the decor could be completely changed,” Carolyn Stephenson said in 2011.
It’s that spirit that kept Tapestry a lively annual event in Vicksburg. It was also a history lesson. Vicksburg, since its founding nearly 200 years ago, has played an integral role in American history. The battle for Vicksburg became one of the most important campaigns in the entire Civil War. Many of the manors on the Tapestry tour stood at the time of the siege and still show battle scars.
Tapestry has come to an end. Betty Bullard, operator of the George Washington Ball House and Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau advisory board member, said organizers ran into the same fatigue that had prompted the ’09 rebrand in the first place, plus something of a lack of spirit on the part of tour homeowners.
“Frankly, everybody got tired of it,” Bullard said. “It is more than just polyester hoop skirts, but you can’t do it in shorts and flip-flops,” she said. “You’ve got to dress it up and make it breathe some.”
The historic homes were always the main draw for Tapestry, but organizers lost the ability to keep the program fresh.
Talk of tax abatements and lower crowds are cited for the reason to disband the Vicksburg Bed & Breakfast Association and to end the annual tours. However, lack of enthusiasm along with increased costs and other reasons alluded to paint a different picture.
Tourists and locals no longer will be able to explore the Tapestry program and experience a tour of Vicksburg from its founding to present day. Perhaps it’s time for another rebranding.