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Azaleas blooming in time for Spring Pilgrimage

When I backed out of my driveway Friday morning, I noticed the most delightful sight in my front yard: My azalea is blooming!

As I drove through town, I noticed other azaleas just beginning to open up. Looks like Natchez will be alive with color by Saturday, March 14, when our annual Spring Pilgrimage begins.

I don’t care where you go in this entire wide world; no one has more beautiful azaleas than we do in Natchez. No one.

Natchez native Biron Case, son of Audley and the late Lorna Biron Case and my lifelong best friend, lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Biron is a master gardener and the gardens he has designed and cultivated at his home there are nothing short of breathtaking. But one thing he doesn’t grow is azaleas.

When asked why, Biron will tell you no azalea he would grow in Tennessee would ever measure up to those we grow in Natchez, so he doesn’t even try. Biron leaves the azalea growing to us.

Since I was a little girl growing up in Natchez, I always have loved our azaleas. Those vibrant, gorgeous, lush blossoms mean spring and Spring Pilgrimage are near. And for a little Natchez girl, Spring Pilgrimage is a fun and exciting time of the year.

From March 14 through April 14, Natchez will be filled with visitors from all over the world who are here to see the most exquisite antebellum houses found anywhere.

I’m so sorry we no longer have the tableaux as part of Pilgrimage. I remember being so excited to dress up in a costume with a hoop skirt and pantalettes and dance in the little Maypole. That was such a tradition here for generations.

I wish we would as a community could come together and revive it in some form.

What is so special about Pilgrimage is the number of Natchez residents who volunteer to help receive visitors, give tours and make tourists feel welcome.

It’s no easy task opening up what are typically private homes for an entire month for others to walk through and enjoy.

When it comes to Spring Pilgrimage, it truly does take a village. We have the members of the Pilgrimage and Natchez garden clubs to thank for Spring Pilgrimage.

They have it down to an art form, which ultimately benefits every resident of Natchez and Adams County. It benefits the entire Miss-Lou, truly.

What is especially rewarding now is Pilgrimage is becoming a multi-cultural event and history from the perspective of enslaved people is being shared with our visitors more and more, as it should be.

For more than 80 years, Natchez has come together to make Spring Pilgrimage a reality.

It’s not only our lovely old houses or exceptional antiques that take center stage. Our lush gardens are just as special and beautiful.

Take the time this spring to look at Natchez as if you were a tourist here. We so often take our city for granted, but we truly do live in a remarkable place.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com or by calling 601-445-3627.