Natchez Pilgrimage Tours stays busy

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Little Engine that Could — I clearly remember this as being one of my favorite stories that my mother would read to me as a child. Even now, I get the urge to get behind that little engine and help it get to the top of that hill as I picture it huffing and puffing against insurmountable odds.

What reminds me of that story today are the employees at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. In the overall scheme of things NPT would have to be considered a little engine that almost daily chooses to climb a pretty steep hill.

Just what does NPT do anyway? Well, it spends a lot of time and effort encouraging people to come to Natchez, Mississippi. It encourages individuals and groups. Whether it is one person or a group of 400, NPT is going to get them to come to Natchez. Being the only receptive tour operator in Natchez, the City of Natchez benefits greatly from this little engine’s efforts. NPT arranges transportation, lodging, dining, touring and entertainment for our visitors.

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Let’s briefly review what NPT has accomplished this past year. During Spring Pilgrimage 30,000 guests descend upon our town and NPT makes sure there is never a dull moment. After touring the antebellum homes during the day, our guests are treated to nightly entertainment.

While Spring Pilgrimage was in progress ,the folks at NPT were already involved in making the month of May be an equal Natchez economic success. Tickets were being produced and sold for the initial Symphony Of Gardens Tour, which opened up the Natchez Festival Of Music season. The NPT employees worked in the background and helped the founders and upfront workers of these events make these events be the success that they were. This required after-hour duties of manning the ticket tables, selling merchandise and helping to solve any last minute problems. NPT was instrumental in creating a Living History Tour called Southern Ceremonies and Celebrations. This is a trifecta that includes a preparation for a 19th century wedding at Stanton Hall, a 19th century funeral at Magnolia Hall and a celebration of the founding of the oldest African-American Catholic church in Mississippi at The Holy Family Catholic Church.

NPT was also instrumental in assisting Joseph Newman Stone create the Joseph Stone Concert Social. This has evolved into an enlightening and educational evening of entertainment. As one relaxes with a glass of complimentary wine in the Joseph Stone antebellum music room, Joe not only plays classical pieces on his piano but also explains to his guests his interpretation as to what the various classical composers are trying to express in their music.

NPT along with the Natchez Cemetery Association Board has developed year-round group tours of our beautiful historic cemetery that is proving to be even more popular than anticipated. In 2007 to date 468 guests have toured the cemetery.

Those wonderful folks that were responsible for the very successful Food and Wine Festival solicited NPT to sell their tickets to the many different and varied venues that featured Southern cuisine at its best.

The Pilgrimage Garden Club recently needed tickets for their Halloween fundraiser for Longwood and NPT was there ready to provide them at a moment’s notice.

The Group tour operators at NPT handle all of the offshore Natchez functions for the Majestic America Line, which brings the ever-important steamboats to Natchez.

Before you know it Fall Pilgrimage has rolled around and the huffin’ and puffin’ intensifies.

But with the cooperation of the antebellum homes and the entertainment provided by The Amos Polk Voices of Hope and The Mississippi Medicine Show, everything goes as planned. Then it’s on to assist in selling Balloon Race and Natchez Bluff Blues Fest tickets.

NPT also on a daily basis takes Bed & Breakfast reservations for the 28 B&B’s that NPT represents in addition to acquiring lodging for our guests in the hotel venues. The sophisticated customer now desires the purchase tickets online services that the Internet has made possible and NPT provides that service.

As I said earlier there are many people who are responsible for all of the above events but I think that it is important for the reader to know that there is a little engine out there that does a lot more than just run Spring and Fall Pilgrimage. That little engine is not only assisting time honored events but it’s constantly encouraging and creating new events that will entice people to come to our Natchez.

The employees that do all of the huffin’ and puffin’ for that little engine are Artie Catania, Marsha Colson, Linda Watts and Ginger Browder in administration; Ivering Henry and Sarah Jones in Bed & Breakfast and ticket sales and Margaret Hall and Beth Porter in group sales. Our new employee Jan Kirkwood has already demonstrated that she will be a great addition to our team. NPT also benefits from seasonal employees Jeanette Patrick, Gail Healy and Jan Scarborough. These employees epitomize the phrase “overworked and underpaid” and deserve a big “thank you” for all that they do for Natchez.

Dr. Jim Coy is their boss, who sometimes pushes them a little too hard to get up that hill.