Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Tourists from Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., listen to Everette Ratcliffe as he shows a bullet with teeth marks that was used for patients to chomp on when being operated on without anaesthesia. Such practices led to the phrase, “bite the bullet,” Ratcliffe said.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Tourists from Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., listen to Everette Ratcliffe as he shows a bullet with teeth marks that was used for patients to chomp on when being operated on without anaesthesia. Such practices led to the phrase, “bite the bullet,” Ratcliffe said.

Pilgrimage turnout solid through 1st week

Published 12:07am Sunday, March 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — After a week of hoopskirts and history, Spring Pilgrimage tickets sales are “neck and neck” with last year.

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours General Manager Emily Edwards said tickets sales may be slightly down from last year.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Catherine Ratcliffe describes the main parlor of Routhland to the Arkansas tourists Saturday. The Ratcliffes are the owners of the house, which is regularly on tour each spring.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Catherine Ratcliffe describes the main parlor of Routhland to the Arkansas tourists Saturday. The Ratcliffes are the owners of the house, which is regularly on tour each spring.

“But I think that has to do with the weather,” she said.

A few groups canceled their travel plans, Edwards said, because of snow and ice in various parts of the country.

Edwards said she believes as the weather warms up through Pilgrimage, lost tickets sales will be made up.

Spring Pilgrimage ended last year with the second best season it had seen in 10 years.

Edwards said she is confident sales will be just as strong this year.

More visitors, including groups and individuals, are also staying more nights in Natchez this Pilgrimage season, Edwards said, which could mean an added boost to the local economy.

Many individual travelers say it is their first time in Natchez, Edwards said, and several group tours this year are groups that previously came to Natchez but had not in the past six or seven years.

“I’m really excited that they’re reviving their tour toward Natchez,” she said.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Charlotte Johnson from Little Rock, Ark., takes a photo of the hand-painted china pattern in the dining room of the antebellum house Routhland. Johnson came on a bus tour from Geyer Springs First Baptist Church.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Charlotte Johnson from Little Rock, Ark., takes a photo of the hand-painted china pattern in the dining room of the antebellum house Routhland. Johnson came on a bus tour from Geyer Springs First Baptist Church.

Catherine Ratcliffe, who owns Routhland with her family, said her house has been on tour twice in the past week and has seen strong numbers, nearly 90 visitors on Tuesday and 120 on Saturday.

“We’ve had a bus (tour group) each time, which makes our numbers go up quite a bit,” Ratcliffe said. “I would say for the start of Pilgrimage, it’s going extremely well.”

Brandon Hall saw 245 visitors Friday, manager Rachel Garber said.

Some visitors came with a bus tour group hailing from Canada, Wyoming and other places, and other visitors drove in for the day from Texas and Arkansas, Garber said.

“Many people have been saying they did not realize what a beautiful town Natchez was,” she said.

Edwards said homeowners have reported tours are going well and visitors are enjoying themselves.

“Everything is going smoothly, and overall, people have just been so happy to be here,” she said.

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