An evening of food, drink and country music set for hotel’s grand opening

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

VIDALIA &045; The flowers are perfectly arranged, the linens are tightly stretched across the beds and staff members eagerly await guests and the appearance of Mickey Gilley.

The grand opening of Comfort Suites Riverfront is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the hotel in Vidalia, and Virgil Jackson, owner and manager, is ready to officially show off the hotel and all his work.

&uot;We’re going to have a ribbon cutting and free food, beer and wine,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;Things are slow right now, so why not have a party?&uot;

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The opening, which is open to the public, will include a special guest appearance by Gilley, an award-winning country music singer/pianist, Texas restaurateur and Branson, Mo., theater owner. Jackson said he and Gilley know each other through family members and meetings.

&uot;We’re not really close friends. He’s got a lot of family in the area, and I have some in-laws who are kin to him,&uot; Jackson said.

During one of Gilley’s visits to the area last year, Jackson spoke with the artist about the hotel and his plans.

&uot;He said he wanted to come back when we got everything up and running,&uot; he said.

Jackson said he plans to fly from Natchez Friday morning to pick Gilley up in Houston.

&uot;He will be my guest,&uot; he said.

Gilley isn’t scheduled to perform, but Jackson said he is still looking for a piano in case the artist would like to play a few songs.

&uot;I’ve come up short on finding a baby grand piano, but I’ll have a piano there if he wants to play. I know he will; he’s a showman,&uot; he said.

Jackson said he expects more than 500 people to come visit the 102-room hotel during the opening. The facility includes a restaurant, bar, lounge, an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, boardroom and two meeting rooms.

Invitations were sent to Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster and other area political officials. The grand opening is co-sponsored by the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce and the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce. Both chambers will hold their Business After Hours during the opening.

Construction on the three-story building started November 2001 with the installation of 264 pilings to shore up the hotel along the riverfront.

The hotel was completed in November. Jackson said during the holidays, they held some parties and meeting for guests, but finishing touches were still being made.

&uot;Since then, we’ve been polishing it up.&uot;

Aissa Wiggins, director of the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has used the facility for its functions, including an annual meeting that included 300 guests.

&uot;We’ve had several events there. It’s already been a great asset to us,&uot; she said.

The opening of the hotel is part of an entire riverfront development project in Vidalia.

&uot;The whole river project has been a dream for so many people, and now it’s all finally coming together,&uot; she said.

Wiggins said the chamber has been holding tours of the hotel throughout the construction process.

&uot;That’s how excided we are about it,&uot; she said. &uot;The people of Vidalia are really behind it.&uot;

Wiggins said the hotel will be useful to the chamber because it now gives them someplace on the Louisiana side of the river to hold functions.

&uot;Before we were really limited because there was no place here to hold events. Now, we can do some of the things we couldn’t do in the past,&uot; she said.

Wiggins said the hotel created about 30 full- and part-time jobs.

Laura Godfrey, president of Natchez-Adams county Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber is also enthusiastic about the jobs and opportunities the hotel will create.

&uot;We’ve been real supportive of their efforts, and we’re happy to be associated with the grand opening,&uot; she said.

Godfrey said a business of this type is a welcomed addition to the community and the riverfront.

&uot;It’s a wonderful addition to our area. It gives us the extra rooms we needed during the high seasons, and it has created several jobs for the Miss-Lou area,&uot; she said.

&uot;They’ve done a beautiful job with the hotel. It’s really, really a dynamite facility.&uot;

The grand opening is set for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at Comfort Suites Riverfront, 100 Front St. The hotel is part of Choice Hotel International. Jackson said the bar and lounge will be open for the rest of the evening, with possibly a disc jockey on hand for entertainment.