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JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Emily Edwards started work in January as the new group sales coordinator for the Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, after working for several months at the ticket counter.

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Ready for pilgrims: Edwards takes over as NPT group tours coordinator

Published 11:58pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NATCHEZ — With a new face on staff and Spring Pilgrimage just more than a month away, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours is working hard to guarantee plenty of tourists are in town for hoop skirts and house tours.

Alabama native Emily Edwards is NPT’s new group tours coordinator. She started her position in January after moving up from ticket sales.

Edwards, 30, moved to Natchez from Aspen, Colo., in August and began working at NPT in September.

Edwards is originally from Fayette, Ala., and received an bachelor’s degree in English from the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.

While managing Sweet Pepper’s Deli in Hattiesburg after graduating, Edwards said she considered attending graduate school for a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism management.

“Instead of going to school, I decided to just go do it,” she said.

Edwards moved to Colorado and worked the last four years in reservations and sales at The Crestwood, a condominium hotel, in Aspen before deciding she wanted to head back to the South to be closer to home.

Edwards said she had visited Natchez several times with her best friend from college, who is a Natchez native.

“It was calling me I guess,” she said. “I wanted to stay in tourism, and Natchez seemed like the perfect place. It’s not hard to sell a place like this.”

Edwards said she is enjoying her new job and is looking forward to Spring Pilgrimage, which will be from March 9 until April 9.

“We’re feeling good,” she said. “We have close to 100 groups booked, and numbers do look up from last year.”

Natchez Pilgrimage Director Marsha Colson said the group tour numbers could be forecasting a good year for Spring Pilgrimage. Colson said Edwards and NPT employees Sarah Jones and Ivering Henry are working hard every day to promote Pilgrimage and sell tickets.

Individual ticket sales are bit less predictable than group tickets, Colson said.

“So many things affect whether people drive here (for Pilgrimage), the weather, the cost of gas,” she said. “It’s unpredictable because there are so many variables to factor in.”

Colson is optimistic, though.

“People are already buying tickets to Southern Road to Freedom, the pageant and ‘Southern Exposure,’” Colson said.

Pilgrimage will be four weeks instead of the usual five, with morning and afternoon tours of two or three houses. Four additional days of morning tours of one house and afternoon tours of another will immediately follow from April 10 until April 13, with a reception to wrap up on the last day.

Pilgrimage is typically five weeks, but Colson said the Natchez Homeowners Association, which chooses the dates for Pilgrimage, decided to make Spring Pilgrimage four weeks to make the dates easier to remember.

“We have been, for the last couple of years, trying to standardize the dates of Pilgrimage so it’s the same from year to year,” she said.

For more information about Pilgrimage or to purchase tickets, visit natchezpilgrimage.com or call 601-446-6631.