Weather, economy blamed as pilgrimage appears to fall

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 1, 2002

[10/25/02]Vicksburg’s Fall Pilgrimage got off to a slow start with two tropical storms blowing through the area in the weekends just before it began.

But improved weather apparently brought attendance up to the point where at least one attraction was able to report improvements in both income and the number of people.

Pilgrimage began Oct. 5 and will wrap up Saturday with four tours with three houses or attractions on each.

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“Anchuca called with a tally and they were up seven times in revenues over Fall Pilgrimage last year,” said Susan Johnston, spokesman for Vicksburg Heritage Inc.

Vicksburg Heritage is the organization of home and attraction owners who participate in Pilgrimage and plan the event each spring and fall.

Anchuca is an antebellum mansion on First East Street.

Johnston said no hard numbers have been crunched overall yet, but Heritage members expect the numbers to rise over last year’s.

Tom Pharr, who owns Anchuca with Chris Brinkley, attributes some of the improvement in their numbers to bus tour groups, Johnston said.

Johnston said another factor in the improvement has been the sales of Pilgrimage tickets at the Mississippi Welcome Center on South Washington Street.

“We have really done well there,” she said.

Johnston said evening tours were added to attract local people, especially young people with their parents, to tour the homes.

Carolyn Mayer, one of the owners of Annabelle Bed and Breakfast Inn and tour home, feared the Fall Pilgrimage brochures may have been distributed too late to do what they could. She also hoped a change made this year in announcing the dates for both the spring and fall events for each year through 2006 will help in the future.

Kilby Whitney, one of the owners of The Corners Bed and Breakfast Inn and tour home, said she’s seen increases in her bed and breakfast business from people who have come through on Pilgrimage.

“Pilgrimage just brings us business for the future,” she said.

In addition to the weather, Johnston blamed the overall national economy with its jitters about the stock market and various business scandals coupled with nervousness following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for a slower response.

Reports from Natchez indicate that city’s fall pilgrimage may be off by as much as 25 percent, Lenore Barkley, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, reported to a meeting of the bureau’s board of directors Thursday.