Private houses open doors for 90th season of Natchez’s Spring Pilgrimage

Published 7:30 am Friday, March 4, 2022

NATCHEZ — Spring is in the air and Natchez’s Spring Pilgrimage is right on its heels.

Next weekend, Spring Pilgrimage begins its 90th season with an offering of 21 house tours of private homes and large museum houses to choose from for tours.

Since 1932, private homeowners have opened their doors to the public for tours.

Email newsletter signup

This year, Pilgrimage Garden Club President and Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Director Marsha Colson says homeowners are upholding the tradition by showcasing their houses which appear to be frozen in time, complete with antique, authentic antebellum furnishings.

However, times have changed even with Natchez Pilgrimage.

Many who receive guests have chosen to wear clothes from this century instead of dressing up in period hoopskirts.

A few still are, including Colson who said, “I’ll wear my hoopskirt until I die.”

Natchez Garden Club President Donna Sessions said the club is no longer hosting the Historic Natchez Tableaux, a decades-old tradition where child actors portray scenes throughout the city’s history. Instead, the tours include historically accurate accounts of the people who once lived there, including those who were enslaved.

The Pilgrimage Garden Club will not be naming a new king, queen and royal court this year but will instead be honoring the garden club members’ children who would have reigned in past seasons where they missed serving because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colson said.

“At the Save the Hall Ball (on April 16) that king and queen will be presented and honored for the Pilgrimage Garden Club,” Colson said. Tickets for the formal event are $100 each and proceeds are used for the preservation of Stanton Hall and Longwood.

Sessions said the NGC will have its annual Magnolia Ball, where the king and queen will be announced for the first time and crowned, and their first-ever Magnolia Festival.

Cheryl Rinehart said this includes a series of many events focusing on the NGC royalty that began with the announcement of the court in December and lasts through Spring Pilgrimage. In addition to the Royal Court, which includes garden club children in elementary school through college, NGC will also be honoring a group of fifth and sixth-grade boys and girls participating in a junior cotillion.

“We will not only be celebrating but teaching them etiquette, dance and dining skills,” she said.

Public events include an Easter Egg Hunt, which begins at 2 p.m. April 9, at Monmouth. Tickets are $10 per child or $25 per family.

The Magnolia Ball begins at 6 p.m. on April 23, at the Natchez City Auditorium. General admission is $50, with a cash bar and options to sponsor the event at various sponsorship levels. Proceeds go towards the restoration project at The House on Ellicott Hill, restoring the upstairs of Magnolia Hall and the use and preservation of other NGC houses.

The Magnolia Festival Tea begins at 2 p.m. on April 30, at Magnolia Hall. Admission is $20 for an elegant afternoon tea to honor NGC royalty.

Thus far, pre-sales for Pilgrimage seem to be going well, Colson said.

“We’ve had more groups this year than we’ve had in the past,” she said.

Three-house tour packages for $60 include tours of Rosalie, Stanton Hall and Longwood; or for $40 patrons can tour two houses, Stanton Hall and Longwood. Individual house tours are between $20 and $25 each.

Colson said this season also includes special evening entertainment packages.

At The Burn, Colson said visitors can enjoy a glass of wine and appetizers accompanied by a piano performance before venturing out through the partier and terraced gardens.

The gardens were first laid out in the mid-19th century for the home’s original owners, John P and Sarah Walworth. It features camellias, azaleas, magnolias as well as rare trees and shrubs, including Asian yews or Cunningham firs commonly known as “monkey puzzle trees.”

At Concord Quarters, “A Very Natchez Revue” allows guests to enjoy a wine and cheese tasting before getting to experience history told through a series of skits, songs and dance.

These tours are $40 each for adults, $30 for children.

Concord, built for Spanish Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos in the 1820s, holds the remnants of a two-story brick building that originally served as one of two matching quarters for enslaved people. It was remodeled in the 20th Century to serve as a single-family residence and was badly deteriorated when purchased by Gregory and Deborah Cosey.

“They have restored it beautifully,” Colson said.

To book with Natchez Pilgrimage Tours call 601-653-0919 or visit natchezpilgrimage.com, or to book with Little Easy Tours, call 601-890-2388 or visit littleeasytours.com.