Hotel, Gilley star in grand opening

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

VIDALIA &045; Judging from the comments of those who attended the grand opening of the Comfort Suites Hotel Friday night, there were two stars &045; Mickey Gilley and the hotel itself.

A lobby full of attendees &045; local officials, Chamber of Commerce members and the merely curious &045; jockeyed up to the country music star to trade hugs and handshakes.

&uot;It’s always wonderful to be back,&uot; said Gilley who, with cousins and fellow Ferriday natives Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, are three of the parish’s most famous notables.

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&uot;The good, the bad and the ugly,&uot; Gilley (pronounced &uot;Jilly&uot;) said of the three cousins, himself included. &uot;And I’m not going to say which is which.&uot;

Later, Gilley &045; who plans to be back in Concordia Parish at Panola Woods Country Club later this year for a golf tournament named in his honor &045; treated attendees to several of his most famous songs.

Those included &uot;Room Full of Roses&uot; and &uot;Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.&uot;

But those attending the grand opening didn’t waste any time expressing their admiration of the evening’s other star &045; the 102-room hotel, which opened late last year, and its riverfront surroundings.

&uot;The only thing I can say is, outstanding &045; just as much as everyone thought it would be,&uot; state Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, said of the Vidalia Landing riverfront development.

The project also includes a restaurant, Lorraine’s, an amphitheater and a riverwalk.

&uot;This is great. When I was a boy, there wasn’t much here,&uot; Gilley said. &uot;There was only a swimming pool, and me and Jerry Lee used to hitchhike to get to it.&uot;

Guest Logan Sewell only had one regret &045; that riverfront visionary and former Vidalia Mayor Sidney Murray Jr., who died of cancer last year, didn’t live to see the grand event.

&uot;He would be tickled by this,&uot; Sewell said.

Actually, Murray was present in a way, since the building’s conference room was named after him.

And the hotel’s ballroom was named after current Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, whom hotel owner Virgil Jackson also gave credit for making the project happen.

&uot;This is a tremendous night for Vidalia &045; and this hotel is a tremendous asset for Vidalia,&uot; Copeland said after helping cut the ribbon for the new building.

In the midst of it all, Jackson’s face showed more than a little relief.

&uot;It’s been 15 months of hard work and paying attention to the details,&uot; Jackson said.

Still, he said, the project was only accomplished &uot;with tremendous support from the community,&uot; making the presence of chamber members from both sides of the Mississippi River even more appropriate.

&uot;Without Natchez,&uot; Jackson said, &uot;they’d be no need for a place like this.&uot;