Marketing expert helps city with tricentennial plans
NATCHEZ — Tourism marketing consultant Jennifer Barbee of Dallas, Texas, discussed celebration plans with the Natchez tricentennial committee at a workshop Barbee conducted free of charge at the Natchez Convention Center.
Barbee and the committee, which is composed of representatives from industry, tourism, government and various civic organizations, brainstormed ideas for tricentennial flagship events, themed packages for visitors, partnerships and corporate sponsors and marketing.
Barbee told the committee that in order for the tricentennial to pull in visitors from all across the world, the city would need to market events in Natchez as unique.
Barbee asked the committee what events were unique or special to Natchez.
“We need to make sure we’re differentiating ourselves from other similar events,” she said. “We need to figure out how is this (event) going to really set us aside where (tourists) are going to plan a trip a year or two in advance?”
The committee members took turns suggesting events, such as the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Pilgrimage, Natchez Festival of Music, Mardi Gras, Natchez Food and Wine Festival and others, that could be marketed for the tricentennial to draw more visitors.
Committee member Rene Adams said she would like to see a new set of events, in addition to Natchez’s current annual events.
“I’d like to see a whole new set of events for people who have been coming to Natchez or maybe haven’t come in a while to reintroduce them to Natchez,” she said.
Barbee suggested tricentennial events that could become future staples in Natchez tourism.
“I did hear you are the biscuit capital,” Barbee said laughing. “How about a biscuit bash for 2016? You could get celebrity judges, corporate sponsors and really make that big.”
The idea for a 300-hole golf tournament for the tricentennial has also been thrown around, and Barbee said the tournament would be the longest in Guinness World Records history.
“I’ve worked with Guinness before, and you could get them here,” she said. “It’s not very hard.”
The committee also discussed specialized tours that could be geared around Natchez’s 300 years of history.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said she would like to see tours go beyond the Civil War era and incorporate other periods in Natchez history, starting from the city’s inception.
Barbee said certain sections of town or certain restaurants could host special events that take visitors back to different periods in Natchez history.
“If you could walk into the 1700s, even if it was just for a block, that would be an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” she said.
Natchez Little Theatre Executive Director Layne Taylor suggested that the Spanish quarter could be closed off for a Spanish-themed street festival.
Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said a good place to start would be looking at all the different places in town and figuring out appropriate places to host culturally themed celebrations.
“Looking at the footprint of Natchez and thinking about the 300 years of history, we need to see what is the Spanish area, the American Indian area, the French area,” she said.
The committee also discussed riverboat dinner cruises, a documentary film festival, events for children, partnering with other cities for special travel packages for visitors, video and online marketing and other ideas.
Natchez Tourism Director Connie Taunton said after the meeting that Natchez is on a time crunch for the tricentennial celebration.
“We’re running behind,” she said. “These things should have been done a year or two years ago.”
Taunton also said Natchez has limited funding for the tricentennial and believes Barbee can help the city land some corporate sponsors for events.
“We’re a small community, we have big plans and opportunities, but we have a lack of funding,” Taunton said. “Through (Barbee)’s help, I think we have the opportunity to get some great potential sponsors, if we organize some flagship events and really market them and sell them in the corporate world.”