Pilgrimage looks past low first-week numbers

Published 12:04 am Friday, March 16, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Tour-goers look over the balcony into the garden as they come to the last stop on their tour of Rosalie, 100 Orleans St., Thursday afternoon during Spring Pilgrimage.

NATCHEZ — Despite high numbers of individual Spring Pilgrimage house tour ticket sales throughout the first week, overall ticket sales are down 5 to 10 percent from last year.

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Executive Director Marsha Colson said that the best day of sales for the first week totaled 1,042 tickets sold for all Pilgrimagerelated events. Of those tickets, 900 were strictly for house tours.

Colson said early numbers don’t always reflect what the final totals will be and that some things are out of the hands of all those involved in the 80-year tradition.

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“There’s so much in our business that contributes to our success or lack of success that we can’t really measure,” Colson said. “If individuals don’t come we have to ask ourselves: Is it the economy? Are people watching their pocketbooks? Is it gas prices? The weather? Or is it something else?”

With several large groups canceling trips to tour the 30 historic houses in Natchez, Colson said group tours are also down from last year, but cancellations can’t be planned for.

“Generally, those are because the groups didn’t have enough people to come, and I’m assuming high fuel prices is affecting that,” Colson said. “Those things we can’t measure or determine, and that’s the frustrating thing about this business.”

Never discouraged by first- week totals, Colson said the organization will continue to promote and advertise the Spring Pilgrimage.

“We’re trying to target big groups, but also groups closer to homes in Mississippi and Louisiana like church groups and school groups,” Colson said. “It’s always hard this early to know how it’s going to turn out.”

Along with several other houses, Colson said The Burn is one historic house that has seen high numbers in its first week on tour.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Emily Callaway of Madison stands in the archway as she looks outside during the tour of Longwood.

Owner Bridgete Green said she was pleased with the amount of people on the first day the house was on tour — especially for it being a Tuesday.

“I did not expect to be as busy as we were that first day. It was great,” Green said. “Hopefully the rest of the Pilgrimage will stay the same or continue to have larger numbers.”

With The Burn doubling as a bed and breakfast, Green also said she was glad to see that visitors on tour and staying overnight have been familiar faces.

“A lot of our business this year are people returning from last year,” Green said. “I’ve had people tell me they came last year and decided to come again this year.”

The 2012 Spring Pilgrimage continues through April 14.

On tour today from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. is the purple tour, including Magnolia Hall, Shields Town House and Airlie.

From 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. is the peach tour tour, including Elgin, Richmond and Twin Oaks.

Tickets can be purchased from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

For more information, visit www.natchezpilgrimage.com.