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My idea of a vacation might just keep me home

I am not a sit-on-the-porch, watch-the-sun-set kind of vacationer.

As much as I long for a break from my hectic life, watching the waves crash while sipping a cocktail on the beach doesn’t cut it for me.

Neither does standing on top of an outcropping of rock looking out across a vast expanse of mountain.

Even though I enjoy seeing similar scenes in travel magazines, I know that I would not be able to withstand the urge to get up and do something else in such situations.

Why watch the world go by slowly when too many opportunities for discovery exist? Learning new things provides an energizing, creative boost to take back home when the vacation is done.

I suspect I am not the only one.

As much as Natchez is a tourist town, one of its perceived limitations is that the area caters to one type of vacationer.

For those interested in history, architecture and beauty, Natchez has it covered. Outside house tours and sunset walks along the bluff, the conventional wisdom has always been that Natchez offered little else.

In recent years, that conventional wisdom has begun to change with the addition of a rum distillery, a beer brewing company. New heritage tours and a heritage cooking school have expanded local tourist offerings. Even a new agricultural tour is being offered to American Queen passengers when the boat docks in town.

The addition of another cooking school and folk arts school holds even more promise for all of those tourists, like me, who are looking for more to do and learn while on vacation.

In April, Regina Charboneau opened Regina’s Kitchen, a unique combination of a cooking school and wine bar.

A tourism trailblazer, Regina is not afraid to step out and offer something unique and different to expand the list of things to do for visitors and locals.

The cooking school offers a variety of cooking classes and learning opportunities for tourists and locals, including biscuit classes, wine and cheese classes and a variety of dinner classes.

In July and August, Charboneau is hosting three-course dinner and cooking demonstrations.

Just last week, three local artists announced the establishment of the Mississippi School of Folk Arts, which will be located at 209 Franklin St. in the studio of local potter Conner Burns.

Burns will continue to operate his studio at the same address as he renovates the property for his new living space and studio.

Created by artists Carolyn Weir and Sarah Freeman, the Mississippi School of Folk Arts will offer classes and workshops for artists of all experience levels.

The school will offer classes in Burns’ current studio space and will take inspiration from other regional art schools, such as the Penland School of Arts and the Joseph C. Cambell Folk School in Western North Carolina.

Both schools started in the 1920s and continue to prosper.

The Penland School started small with a one-week weaving class in a small cabin in 1929. Ninety years later the school encompasses 420 acres, 57 buildings and instructs more than 1,400 people each year. Today the school offers one-, two- and eight-week workshops.

Similarly, the Joseph C. Campbell Folk School offers more than 860 weeklong and weekend classes each year. Class subjects range from basketry to writing. The school also provides a variety of concerts, festivals and gatherings through the year.

Both started small and have grown into well-respected schools of the creative arts over the decades.

Just imagine what the Mississippi School of Folk Arts can become.

Who knows? On my next vacation, I might just decide to stay home.

 

Ben Hillyer is news editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com or 601-445-3549.