Fall Pilgrimage set to begin today with dining

Published 12:05 am Friday, September 22, 2017

NATCHEZ — This year’s Natchez Fall Pilgrimage will include a slew of new events, some old favorites and tours of antebellum houses that are available only during the autumn season.

Lynn Beach Smith, director of sales for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said she and other organizers have added new events to entice new visitors to the area and attract returning tourists.

One new event, the Choctaw Hall dining experience, was inspired by a group of tourists from California last year who told Smith they would like to eat a meal in the style of the 1800s.

Email newsletter signup

Choctaw Hall has such diningware, Smith said. Visitors today and Saturday will join Chef Lynn Johnson to sample period-appropriate dishes on authentic silver, crystal and china. The event will also serve champagne brunch.

Choctaw Hall co-owner David Garner, said he and co-owner Lee Glover have more than 7,000 pieces of French porcelain and authentic silver to show their guests.

“Dining at that period of time was an extravaganza,” Garner said. “The dining room was the battleground of the aristocrats. The more silver and diningware you had, the higher you were in society.”

After a tour of the house, Garner said guests will sample a true Southern supper, with homemade pies, salads and more.

As Garner said his grandfather used to say, “What would life be without wonderful people and beautiful things?”

At the house on Ellicott Hill, reenactors will portray Major Andrew Ellicott’s 1797 encampment and the raising of the American flag will be in honor of Mississippi’s bi-centennial.

Coming off of a banner year for pilgrimage in 2016, Smith said she decided to up the ante by adding new events and hiring a digital advertising expert to help spread word.

And, she said, her work has paid off.

Financially, this year has already outpaced last year in terms of bookings and interest, Smith said.

“Natchez has to stay on the cutting edge,” Smith said. “Adding new products, new events, constantly adding new things. It’s very important to the growth of the event.”

One of the most popular of the digitally advertised events is the Ghost Tour at Longwood.

Last year, guide James Wade, toured 60 thrill-seekers around the five-story, 32,000-square-foot home, for which construction began in 1860, was never completed.

Similar to the octagonal house, he said, the lives of the men and women who dwelled there do not seem quite finished.

Once an avid skeptic of the existence of ghosts when he began the tour last year, Wade said he has become more of a believer since he started the tours.

Disembodied voices and a few odd temperature jumps in one of the lower rooms, he said, have begun to convince him.

Visitors who take the tour can look forward to stories about the house’s inhabitants and the circumstances of their lives, Wade said, while learning the history of the house.

“All supernatural stuff aside,” he said. “This home is just brilliant.”

Fives houses on the antebellum house tour are available only during the fall pilgrimage, Smith said.

D’evereux, J.N. Stone House, Oak Hill, The Briars and the Coyle House are not a part of the Spring Pilgrimage.

Also featured in this year’s line up of events:

4Amos Polk’s Voices of Hope, a gospel concert and dinner at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at the Carriage House Restaurant on the grounds of Stanton Hall.

4“Mississippi Medicine Show” showings at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays, from Sept. 22 through Oct. 7 with a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Natchez Little Theatre.

4Mississippi Music, a concert featuring songs of the 20th Century at 6 p.m. on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 at Stanton Hall.

4A tour of the Quarters, the only remaining structure at Concord Plantation, at 5 p.m. Sept. 23 and 25 at 301 Gayosa Ave.

4An Evening at Auburn, featuring music and Southern libations, at 5 p.m. Sept. 29 at the house at 400 Duncan Ave.