Tour guides have as much fun as tourists
The turn of a hoop skirt, the tale of a time gone by — the Pilgrimage stage is set, but the show, it turns out, is not only for the tourists.
Hosts, hostesses and tour guides often enjoy the pageantry as much or more than their visitors, they admit.
Catherine Ratcliffe dons her pink 1800s hoop to bring the stories of her husband’s family home, Routhland to life each year.
“You meet so many interesting people as a tour guide that it helps me see Natchez through their eyes,” Ratcliffe said.
“I love being able to identify with people who lived back then and try to tell their story today and bring their circumstances back to life.”
A painted portrait of her husband’s grandmother, Laurie Ratcliffe, hangs within the house — her story is one Ratcliffe enjoys sharing by wearing a diamond necklace just as Laurie wore in the portrait.
“It’s special to be able to carry on the stories of the people who preceded us,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s all for the tourists so they can know what’s going on.”
Natchez resident Beverley Adams, a descendent of African prince Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim ibn Sori who was enslaved in Natchez, tells his story at Texada, Greenlea and the Governor Holmes House.
“As a tour guide, I’m thrilled that I can tell tourists about Natchez’s history and of course, my history,” Adams said.
Adams said she has come across many tourists who display sympathy when she shares the story.
“It’s a great experience,” Adams said. “I have traveled around the world, but being here and meeting a lot of visitors for pilgrimage is more special because I get to tell such an incredible story.”
Dallas resident Jon Wickham and Tennessee resident Scott Smith were once tourists who traveled to Natchez for Spring Pilgrimage, but now they travel to town to participate as tour guides.
“One of the things you have the chance to do as a tour guide is to expose the tourists to aspects of history they do not know about,” Wickham said.
Smith, who portrays Jimmy the Cricket at various homes in the area, has fascinated himself with entertaining tourists.
Smith said he travels to Natchez where he spends approximately six months sharing what he has learned over the years with tourists.
“You can just stand in the house and the whole world will come to you sooner or later,” Smith said. “I see folks from Japan, New Zealand and Europe. I learn how educated they are, and they give me humorous ideas that really add to the tour. They appreciate being able to be a part of the home — even if for a short while.”
Retired educator Donna Martello spends most of her time at Elms Court during Spring Pilgrimage to see Natchez through the eyes of tourists.
“When you see your town from other people’s viewpoint, it gives you a real appreciation of you town,” Martello said.