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Spring Pilgrimage season begins

NATCHEZ — The azaleas are again in full bloom and Natchez’s Spring Pilgrimage is already underway.

This year, more and more tour hosts and hostesses are telling the other side of the Natchez story — the African American heritage side.

Spring Pilgrimage is a month-long celebration that began March 14 and lasts through April 14 and gives tourists an exclusive peek at 19 different historic houses that are not open for tours during other times of the year in addition to museum houses that are open year-round, said Natchez Pilgrimage Director and Pilgrimage Garden Club President, Eugenie Cates.

Many houses, such as Longwood, Green Leaves, Brandon Hall and Elgin Plantation, have expanded their tours to include enslaved persons’ narrative in the houses’ histories.

“Every home in Natchez is part of the cotton economy, which was built with enslaved people,” Cates said. “We’re trying to express both sides of the story. I believe each home has something to give and to share with that story.”

Several evening events apart from home tours have been added to the Spring Pilgrimage itinerary so that guests have more to do at the end of the day, such as “Jazz with Julep in Hand” and the “Ghostly Guardians of the Burn.”

Natchez Garden Club president Donna Sessions said visitors of Magnolia Hall would get to see a newly renovated house that has been painted in historically accurate colors. The back porch has also been screened in, as it had been when it was built in 1858 when it separated the occupants from enslaved persons who were doing domestic chores.

Marketing Director Linda Smith said ticket sales have increased by at least 30% since last year with few cancelations resulting from COVID-19.

“As of the first day after Fall Pilgrimage in October we started to sell for Spring,” Smith said. “… Our sales have been consistent. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing.”

Cates said necessary precautions are being taken to ensure that those who are able to travel and visit Natchez for Spring Pilgrimage can do so with confidence.

“We are going to have a great Pilgrimage,” Cates said. “… We feel people have chosen to take a ‘stay-cation’ closer to home rather than go on the long trips they had planned. We know that Natchez depends on Spring Pilgrimage economically. Businesses look forward to it to get them through the rest of the year. I want to say to those folks to be confident that we are going to have business this year. We need to work together as a team to have a positive outlook towards our visitors.”

Tickets for individual house tours cost $20 to $25 each and discounted packages range from $60 to $150 each.

Tickets and more information can be found at natchezpilgrimage.com.