Welcome spring and tourists …

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Say what you want about the weather anywhere else in the world but spring in Natchez is just fabulous.

Everywhere you look daffodils are nodding their yellow heads in the afternoon sunshine, fluffy ruffled azaleas in an array of colors and even the dogwoods are close to sharing in the fun.

Since Mother Nature is making such an effort to greet our Pilgrimage guests with such a wonderful display, maybe we Natchezians should make the same effort to greet them.

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Think of all of our Pilgrimage tourists as guests in your house. As you come in or out of a shop, say hello to them and smile. Heck, you could go all out, strike up a conversation, and find out where they are from and what brings them to visit our city.

The other day while driving home, I noticed a couple from out of town standing outside of Stanton Hall and it was clear they needed some help.

What gave it away?

It might have been the map they were turning all which a way and the circles they themselves were turning in. I pulled to the side of the street and rolled down my window and for just a brief second I wanted to laugh.

The look of surprise on their face when I spoke to them made me feel momentarily like a child-snatcher.

I could hear them thinking to themselves, &uot;Don’t talk to strangers.&uot;

Within five minutes, I had their map turned the right way, pointed out the direction of the river and downtown and I was on my way home.

Oh, I know, many of you dislike all the tourists in town. Your streets are clogged with buses, your favorite restaurant is too busy to take you and your family, and, heaven forbid, there is another one standing in the middle of the street with a little bitty camera taking a picture of a great big house.

However, one of the reasons we have such great restaurants in a town this size and the number of unique gift shops is because of the tourist economy. Locals alone cannot support all of them.

This past Christmas when everything monogrammed was so big I was able to get things for both of my daughters right here in town. Last week I conducted my own experiment: I went in six different gift shops, and I found each one of them to be different. Not just different merchandise but different atmospheres also. That not only appeals to tourists but to locals as well and makes our lives better.

This weekend will find me and my children in the yard. It is time to rake and do a little planting and since we live by the river, we will inevitably get to visit with tourists. Last spring Emily laughed herself silly at all the women who wanted their picture taken in front our neighbor’s azalea, and I gave several of them the little red seeds from my magnolia.

So this week make it your goal to speak to tourists. Flash them your best &uot;welcome to Natchez&uot; smile. I promise this summer when tourism slows down in the heat and you are sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant admiring the many choices you have in such a small town, you will think of them.

Christina Hall

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