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Local tourist numbers increase with Spanish exhibit in Jackson

[07/10/01] For the third time in five years, an international art exhibit in Jackson has brought more tourists to Vicksburg.

“Each time there is an exhibition, it boosts visitation a bit,” said Lenore Barkley, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Barkley, two bed and breakfast operators and a representative of the Mississippi Welcome Center all cited tourist increases they associate with the exhibit that opened in March and stays open through September.

“The Majesty of Spain: Royal Collections from the Museo del Prado & Patrimonio National,” an exhibition depicting art and artifacts from several royal residences and the Prado Museum in Spain, had drawn nearly 230,000 visitors by the weekend, said Jack Kyle, executive director for the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange.

Kyle said two other international art exhibits also brought an increase of tourists to Vicksburg.

The “Splendors of Versailles,” which ran for five months in 1998, attracted nearly 271,000 visitors and had a $61 million impact on the state.

The “Palaces of St. Petersburg” exhibit, at the same Jackson Arts Pavilion for six months in 1996, attracted more than 550,000 out-of-state visitors, also offering a $61 million economic impact on the state.

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau figures show that the number of visitors counted at information centers and the Mississippi State Welcome Center from March to May jumped by 8,100 over the same period last year.

The Old Court House Museum saw an increase of about 450 visitors, according to VCVB figures.

Bill Longfellow of the Martha Vick House, said the exhibit has increased his business about 30 percent.

“We do lunches and dinners for travel groups. They stay in Jackson but they come to Vicksburg to eat,” Longfellow said.

Shirley Adcock, front desk manager of the Cedar Grove Mansion Inn, said her bed and breakfast also had guests from the Spanish exhibit.

“We have had a couple of tour buses of senior citizens who have stayed with us and left the next day to see The Majesty of Spain’ exhibit,” Adcock said.

The VCVB has also seen an increase in tour buses scheduled through the bureau, nearly 10 more buses compared to March through May of last year.

Although most tourist attractions in Vicksburg have seen an increase in visitors from March to May, the Vicksburg National Military Park experienced a decline of about 3,000 visitors.

Barkley said the late spring and summer months have historically been slow for some tourist spots, but visitation always picks up around September and October.

Despite the declining numbers, several out-of-state visitors decided to come to Vicksburg to see the military park.

George Jeschke, a visitor from McHenry, Ill., said he drove to Vicksburg on his Harley Davidson to visit the military park.

“I have always kind of been a Civil War buff, been to Gettysburg several times, but never this neck of the woods,” Jeschke said.

The history and the charm of the city is what attracts many of the visitors here, Barkley said.

Dennis and Kathleen Rushford, of Shreveport, La., said they came to Vicksburg Tuesday to check out the place, because they will be returning here in October for the Mississippi State Harley Owners Group Rally.

They also wanted to see the military park.

“I am really interested in history and so is my wife,” Rushford said.