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GUIZERIX: Like Laurel, Vicksburg’s revitalization is remarkable and ongoing

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I enjoyed a much-needed day trip to Laurel, the tiny dot on a road map-turned-renovation station of HGTV stars Erin and Ben Napier.

As a fan of their show, “Hometown,” and a fellow Ole Miss graduate, witnessing the fruits of their labor over five seasons of reality television was better than a trip to Disney World. As I looked around town, and the rose-colored glasses I was wearing began to fade, I was left with a couple of realizations.

First and foremost, there is plenty in Laurel that still needs to be “polished,” to borrow a phrase from the show’s introduction. It is remarkable that the work of few dedicated people has transformed a sleepy town that, at one time, was all but dead into a tourist destination and hub for community revitalization.

Downtown Laurel, with its gilded storefronts and widespread variety of small businesses, could and should serve as a model for the rest of Mississippi’s small towns. However, if one travels a couple of blocks in any direction from the main drag, they are met with glimpses of a “Pre-Hometown” Laurel. Personally, I’m choosing to interpret those locations as brimming with potential — insurance for a few more seasons of the show, at least.

The other realization I had was that Vicksburg is on the right track, by comparison. Although our tourism industry is based on very different facets from Laurel, anyone who visits the River City is able to see the reward that’s come from our own downtown revitalization.

During a radio debate prior to the city’s municipal elections, South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour pointed out the number of buildings downtown that once stood abandoned not so long ago. The figure was staggering to me, as a newcomer to Vicksburg, because all I know is the bustling downtown streets we’re privileged enough to enjoy today.

Thanks to years of hard work of a few individuals and organizations, Vicksburg’s downtown area is not only meeting but also exceeding its potential when it comes to tourism.

Much like Laurel, though, a drive in any direction from Washington Street proves that the hard work has just begun. There’s still so much untapped potential in our city — and so much excitement to see the many ways in which Vicksburg can evolve and improve as the world continues to reawaken.