Welcome Center busy during holiday season

Published 8:03 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Vicksburg is known as the key to the south, and being a key stop on I-20, the local state of Mississippi Welcome Center is looking to see elevated numbers this Thanksgiving week.

“Each day it varies, and the days that we get closer to Thanksgiving the more visitors we do receive,” travel counselor Alex Brown said.

By mid-day Tuesday the center had already seen a surge in the amount of guests. At a minimum, Brown said, they expect to have over 300 visitors a day. As the week progresses the amount of people on the road increases. Brown said the weekend after Thanksgiving is when the crowds will hit their peak.

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“Of course Black Friday and the weekend of, we are going to be very busy those days,” Brown said.

Fred and Cindy Detrixhe from Kansas stopped at the Welcome Center Tuesday on their way to New Orleans for vacation. They stopped to look at the river and the scenery.

“This seemed like a really good spot to come across the river and stop,” Cindy said. “I think we’ll go down through Mississippi till we get back into Louisiana on 61.”

Whether it’s people just passing through or if Vicksburg is the destination, the Welcome Center offers maps, directions and information on attractions, dining and shopping for locations across the state. Brown said they make sure guests are educated and know how to get from point A to point B.

“We try to figure out where they’re going and then we present the city to them such as we like to tell them about all restaurants in the area they’re interested in as well as hotels, attractions, shopping, events,” Brown said. “We try to give our guests a good diversity to choose from and with that diversity it allows them to see what their options are.”

Thirteen state welcome centers cover the border of Mississippi, and their hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Jim Brown of Knoxville, Tenn., stopped at the Welcome Center Tuesday on his way back home from a weekend in the Shreveport, La. area for his nephew’s wedding.

“It’s always a beautiful place to stop,” Jim Brown said.

The view of the river makes him nostalgic for his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., and he stops here often when he travels down to visit his family.

The Southern states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama are the most frequent guests at the Welcome Center located at 4210 Washington St., but Alex Brown said visitors come from all over the country and beyond with guests from Canada, Germany, Spain and France to name a few.

“We’ve received quite a bit of foreign visitors, which is normal because Vicksburg is a major drawing point to the state,” Alex Brown said.

Some of the visitors outside of the South come from the New England, East Coast area, but he has seen people from Colorado, California, Washington and New York represented recently.

“It’s really scattered about,” Alex Brown said. “There are some days where it seems like we receive at least a couple from every state, plus some.”

As for the guests’ frame of mind, Alex Brown said they do seem to be a bit happier with a holiday spirit and expectations for a satisfying holiday meal at the end of their journey.

The Welcome Center itself is closed Thanksgiving Day, but the restrooms will be open and a security guard is available on site at all times to make sure everything stays safe as well as to offer help for those who need assistance. Lead security Eric Tubwell said he would be working Thanksgiving Day.

“I make sure everybody’s safe and all goes well,” Tubwell said.

He said traffic will be busy on the holiday, but there won’t be an overflow of people at the rest stop with many travelers already having reached their destination. He does his best to fill in for the welcome center staff and offer directions.

“When they close, I give them [visitors] the best information I can to get them to their destination,” Tubwell said.

He’s not too down about working the holiday and said he enjoys the work environment.

“Got a great staff,” Tubwell said. “Everybody tries to work as a family.”