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City readies for Spring Pilgrimage 2021

NATCHEZ — Next weekend, Spring Pilgrimage is coming back again after an abrupt cancellation of last year’s event due to COVID-19.

Three museum houses and 10 privately owned homes are on tour for Spring Pilgrimage, which lasts March 13 through April 13.

The pilgrimage season is typically Natchez’s busiest time of year for tourists.

Eugenie Cates of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and president of the Pilgrimage Garden Club said pre-sales of tickets for this season are off to a fantastic start.

“Online sales this year are better than they have ever been before,” Cates said. “We’ve pre-sold 3,138 tickets to 1,772 customers since sales went live Jan. 13 and we’re excited about that.”

Forbes.com recently published an article listing Natchez as No. 5 in a list of best places to visit and avoid COVID-19 and since the articles publication, ticket sales increased by 25 percent, said Linda Smith, marketing manager for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

Smith said the hottest selling pilgrimage events and tours are “An Intimate Candlelight Tour of the Towers,” “Magnolia Hall Tour With Dinner,” and paranormal tours. Longwood is getting 3,000 to 5,000 clicks per day on Google, Smith said.

Each of the museum houses will have something new this year, Cates said.

Magnolia Hall, Longwood and Stanton Hall will each have new panel exhibits installed by the Historic Natchez Foundation, which focus on the enslaved persons who played key roles in the houses’ history. Magnolia Hall and Longwood’s exhibits have already been installed and Stanton Hall’s exhibit will be installed later this week, Cates said.

Cates said American Cruise Lines and the American Queen’s riverboats are coming back next weekend, just in time for pilgrimage.

Walter Tipton, general manager of the Natchez Grand Hotel, also said three bus groups have booked space at the hotel in the coming weeks.

Last year, the hotel lost reservations due to COVID-19 and seems to be making up for lost time, Tipton said. Half of the 119 rooms have been booked for next week with perhaps more to come, he said.

“We’re at two-thirds of the total revenue earned last year in March and were only five days into the month,” he said, adding the hotel could double those numbers before the month is over.

Cates said guests appear to be coming from as far as California with many from central Mississippi, South Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

“Our demographic is looking good and they’re staying an average of two nights and booking an average of four tours per day,” she said. “This is a strong start and we’re excited. After COVID-19, people are ready to get out and go out.”

Cates said Natchez Pilgrimage Tours is abiding by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Tour groups are limited to 10 people at a time and facemasks are required at all of the tour properties, she said.

Those who’ve visited a home and then test positive for COVID are asked to email confirmations@natchezpilgrimage.com immediately.

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