We are all tourism ambassadors

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2016

Maybe everyone in Natchez needs to wear a party hat.

Nearly 150 days into the city’s birthday celebration, I was a bit perplexed when a local resident approached me recently to give her two cents about the Natchez Tricentennial.

“I guess not much is happening,” the lady said. “Since the first few weeks, I haven’t seen much.”

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As someone who has been covering many of the events associated with the city’s 300th birthday, I couldn’t help but respond with a look of bewilderment.

Nothing happening? Haven’t seen anything?

The Natchez calendar has been filled with events. Starting with a unity and prayer on Jan. 2 and continuing to this weekend’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the local Memorial Day parade, there hasn’t been a week when locals and tourists haven’t been given an opportunity to celebrate or commemorate all that makes Natchez unique.

By my count, there have been more than 70 events so far this year that are either sponsored by the tricentennial commission or tied to the year-long celebration.

When I asked if she saw the Color Dash 5K run or came out to watch the Dock Dogs competition on the bluff earlier this month, she said she wasn’t much interested in those events.

She went to see the Glen Ballard and enjoyed the concert very much, but that was really a Festival of Music event, she said. I pointed out to her that while it was a festival event, Ballard came to Natchez because of the Natchez Tricentennial. Many annual events, like the festival, have deliberately tailored their events to coincide with the anniversary, I said.

I realized in the middle of our conversation that with a calendar filled with so many events, not every event is going to appeal to everybody.

Those who like art and music may not be interested in color runs and jumping dogs. Talks about the history of heirloom plants in Natchez may not appeal to those interested in the origins of hip-hop music or the American Music Triangle. Some people are into parties, other crave serious discussions about history.

As I walked away from our conversation, I had another thought — with so many things in store and with a schedule so varied, what are we doing to get the word out?

As locals, what are we doing to invite both tourists and locals to this year round celebration?

Sure tourists can drop by the visitor center to get a calendar of events or a Natchez Tricentennial brochure. But the CVB is just the beginning for those who visit our town.

But what happens after the tourists leave the visitor center?

Natchez is not Walt Disney World. Our town doesn’t have a billion dollar budget or a legion of employees to make Natchez the happiest place on earth. We are more like Mayberry with a limited bank account and a small workforce.

As residents of a town that thrives on a robust tourism industry, we are all ambassadors of Natchez.

Whether we put signs in our storefront windows that invite others to the year-long party or stop to smile and offer directions, our enthusiasm, or lack thereof, is contagious.

We all need to put on our party hats and share in the celebration, because there is a lot for everyone to enjoy.


Ben Hillyer is the news editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by email at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com