Houses see fair turnout for first weekend

Published 12:27 am Monday, October 1, 2007

NATCHEZ — For the 30th year, women donned hoop skirts and invited strangers into their houses for Fall Pilgrimage this weekend.

The first three houses on tour Saturday had a fair turnout, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Manager Jim Coy said Sunday.

“We had 285 at Stanton Hall, and The Burn and The Wigwam averaged about 190 (Saturday) afternoon,” Coy said.

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Since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, group tour numbers to Spring and Fall Pilgrimages have been down because of fewer tours to New Orleans, Coy said.

“We’re depending a lot upon individuals coming,” Coy said.

And so far, it has been individuals who have made their way to Natchez to tour the antebellum houses this fall, he said.

Coy said more may be affecting group tours than just fewer tours stopping on the way to New Orleans, though.

“I sense that as the baby boomers start to come, they’re not going to want to ride on a bus as the generation before did,” he said. “I think they’re more independent that way.”

Two such visitors who came on their own from Germantown, Tenn., were Bill and Dana McKelvy. Sunday afternoon, they toured Bontura.

This was their first Pilgrimage, sparked by a gift of a stay at Monmouth Plantation, provided by their daughter.

“We’ve wanted to come for decades, but we’ve just never had the time,” Bill McKelvy said.

Now that he’s retired, the couple has the chance to tour, they said. Both were impressed by the hospitality and the tours in Natchez.

“There’s lots of destinations in Mississippi where you can learn,” Dana McKelvy said.

Natchez was one of those, she said.

“We’ll definitely be back, and we want to bring our grandchildren,” she said.

Ron and Nancy McKenzie traveled from their home in Springtown, Texas, for their first Pilgrimage.

After a tour of Vicksburg’s battlefield, the couple made their way to Natchez.

“A friend of ours had been here and said Natchez was really pretty,” Nancy McKenzie said. “And (Ron) loves history.”

More individuals visiting as opposed to pre-booked group tours makes predicting Pilgrimage numbers a little trickier, Coy said.

“You never know the numbers until the end,” he said. “But it’s a good start.”

Pilgrimage runs for two weeks, through Oct. 13.