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Family wants to giddy-up downtown

Tom Hough drives Lacey Sheffield and Sally Raybon down Washington Street Monday as they test a horse and buggy.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[4/27/04]A local family wants to bring the days of old back to the streets of downtown Vicksburg with horse-drawn carriage rides along Washington Street.

The horses made their first appearance Monday while Billy Sheffield, owner of Sheffield Rentals, and his three daughters Tammy Kelly, Sally Raybon and Suzanne Higgins, began testing the idea.

“We talked about how nice it would be to have buggy rides in Vicksburg,” said Sheffield’s wife, Pauline.

The venture started when the family bought an old doctor’s buggy just for fun. They soon realized the purchase could be the beginning of a business.

“It seemed like the perfect thing to do,” Sally Raybon said.

A recent trip to Natchez, which has similar rigs on its downtown streets, gave the Sheffields an opportunity to recruit a driver, Tom Hough.

To prepare the horses and decide what inclines they could handle, Hough spent most of Monday afternoon driving the Sheffield family around downtown Vicksburg, mapping out a possible route for the business.

Particulars, including the name of the business, have not been decided, but they hope to have the carriages rolling by next month. Currently, they have eight horses and four carriages.

Billy Sheffield said he believes the buggy tours would be more successful than previous attempts over the past 20 years because of the revamping of the downtown area. The City of Vicksburg has spent about $8.6 million on downtown revitalization including repaving five blocks of downtown Washington Street with bricks.

Support from the city and business owners will be the key, he said.

“It lends a lovely ambiance to downtown,” said Christi Bounds, owner of Twigs, 1409 Washington St.

Bounds said she hopes the summer heat will not wear the horses out. Sheffield said the horses will have plenty of water and will work for about 40 minutes at a time.

“I love it,” said Alice Hebler, owner of Paper Plus, 1318 Washington St. “It is going to be a great asset to downtown.”

Before beginning operations, Sheffield will have to get a route including pickup and dropoff points approved by the mayor and aldermen and get permitted from the City Clerk’s Office. Animal-drawn vehicles are governed under the same city ordinance as cabs which also requires proof of liability insurance.

Sheffield said he expects the rides to cost $10 per person.