Pilgrimage begins for fall season; visitor traffic steady

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; Despite predictions to the contrary, volunteers who receive guests at the antebellum house Monmouth said Saturday morning, the first day of Fall Pilgrimage, was a relatively busy one as far as tourist numbers were concerned.

&8220;We&8217;ve had about 100 so far,&8221; hostess Carole Anne Ferrell said at just 11 a.m., in between greeting groups of tourists at the house&8217;s front door.

&8220;We&8217;ve been delighted,&8221; added Yvonne Nosser who, like Ferrell and Brice, has been hosting at Monmouth for at least several years.

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Ferrell, in fact, has been a hostess at the house since she was in high school.

That&8217;s good news not just for Monmouth, they added, but for the area&8217;s economy as a whole, which relies heavily on tourism.

Spring and Fall pilgrimages was among the biggest tourism draws of the entire year for Natdchez.

&8220;We&8217;ve been pleasantly surprised, especially after we heard that pilgrimage was probably going to be down&8221; in terms of the number of tourists, hostess Maxine Brice said.

Brice went on to tell a group of visitors about the opulence of the antebellum house and its furnishings and fixtures, from the Waterford crystal gasoliers to the Quitman family furniture made of dark wood polished to a high sheen to the needlepoint floor coverings.

For their part, tourists William and Shoni Vollman of Alexandria, La., were impressed by Monmouth, the first antebellum house they had toured on a weekend getaway marking their first anniversary.

&8220;They&8217;re beautiful,&8221; William Vollman said, turning to make his way to the last part of the Monmouth tour.

Group tour bookings down by 75 percent from last year, in part because cities such as New Orleans that are bus tours&8217; other destinations aren&8217;t in good shape to receive such tours, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Manager Jim Coy said last week.

Nineteen of Natchez&8217;s historic houses will be on display through Nov. 5.