B&Bs, florists sprucing up for tours|[12/2/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 5, 2005

Six Vicksburg bed and breakfasts are stepping up to bring visitors to the city with a Christmas Tour of Homes.

&#8220We’re not just striving to get people into the bed and breakfasts,” said Carolyn Stephenson, owner of Annabelle Bed & Breakfast. &#8220We’re trying to get people to come to Vicksburg.”

Money raised by the event will, in turn, purchase air time for a 30-second commercial to be shown to potential tourists from Dallas and parts of Arkansas. The commercial, which features vignettes of the participating bed and breakfasts, is in production.

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&#8220The commercial is going to give us more presence,” said Betty Bullard, owner of the George Washington Ball home. &#8220We’re trying to get into the Dallas area where they don’t have what we have here. It’s an offering that they would enjoy.”

The idea is to attract visitors within a day’s drive who will stay overnight or for a weekend.

The tour, named Let There Be Light, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Six houses, decorated with Christmas accents and holiday lights, will be featured.

The theme of light focuses on illuminating the past, organizers said. That’s what the historic homes do. Six Vicksburg florists will also have arrangements they will place in the homes for the tour.

&#8220We hope to portray the graciousness of Vicksburg. We are opening our doors and inviting people to come visit,” Stephenson said.

Participants can visit three of the homes for $15. Being a part of the tour allows people a chance at a prize of a one-night stay in a bed and breakfast. Additionally, chances will be sold on an $800 diamond pendant donated by D.C. Parker Jewelers.

The Bed & Breakfast Association of Vicksburg formed about a year ago to increase cooperation among owners, Stephenson said. This is the first tour of homes local bed and breakfast owners have had and its something they believe the community should embrace.

&#8220Each house is different and offers something unique – we are not competitive,” Stephenson said.

Betty Jackson, owner of the Shlenker House, said Vicksburg is the only city in the state that has old homes that span from the 1800s and go into the next century.

&#8220Though there is no huge number of homes, they all have different architecture and are different date-wise from each other,” Bullard said.

Another fund-raising tool the association is implementing to raise money for the commercial is gold plaques that people with century-old properties can place in a prominent location. Bullard hopes the C-100 property marker will show the community how many old homes are in Vicksburg. The markers are $20.

&#8220I think it will surprise people how many 100-year-old structures there are,” she said. &#8220It will give people a neat feeling.”

The purpose of the tour is not only to make money for the commercial, but also to bring people to Vicksburg and show everyone the history that is illuminated by the old homes.

&#8220I’m surprised how many people from Vicksburg have not seen the homes. It’s time – come on down,” Stephenson said.