Pilgrimage workers: Attendance as brisk as last year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 11, 2001

&uot;The houses are excellent, it’s a beautiful day and the ladies are lovely and hospitable,&uot; said Ed Brown of Hattiesburg, his eyes taking in the furnishings of the antebellum house Dunleith. Brown and wife Glenda were among scores of people from across the state and nation to view 32 of Natchez’s historic houses. Numbers of ticket sales were not available Saturday afternoon, but those working with this year’s Spring Pilgrimage said it seemed to attract at least as many visitors as last year.

&uot;We have six buses scheduled for this afternoon, with about 40 people on each bus,&uot; said Dunleith Hostess Jean Pigott. &uot;We’ve had people from Jackson, Louisiana, Florida.

&uot;(Attendance) is comparing favorably with last year.&uot;

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Last year, more than 30,000 people visited Natchez during March and the first part of April. This year, from 28,000 to 32,000 people are expected to visit during Pilgrimage, which began Wednesday and lasts through April 7. Spring Pilgrimage, the area’s biggest annual tourism event, means money for Natchez. In March 2000, sales tax receipts totaled $402,678, second only to the $469,705 in sales tax receipts collected in December.

John Shonder, a ticket taker at The House on Ellicott’s Hill, said the antebellum house had a steady stream of visitors Saturday.

&uot;We’ve had 166 people (Saturday), mostly walk-ins, although we’ve had some from the boat,&uot; Shonder said. That compares favorably with the first Saturday of last year’s Spring Pilgrimage.

But the true value of Pilgrimage is not opulence or economic impact, but history, said Jeff Tollison of Indianola, who visited Green Leaves and The House on Ellicott’s Hill Saturday.

&uot;We like antiques, so we thought coming to Pilgrimage would be interesting,&uot; Tollison said. &uot;It’s neat to go back in time and see how people lived in antebellum times.&uot;