Ward takes reins at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours

Published 11:32 am Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Natchez native Ann Ward’s college career at Ole Miss was interrupted in 2020 by the COVID pandemic. That turned out to be a blessing, she said, because it led to what she calls the job that she was meant to do.

Ward in January was named director of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

“Really, when COVID hit, I was not done with school. Everybody went home, and so did I,” Ward said. “Everything worked out exactly as it was supposed to.”

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Ward, a 2015 graduate of Trinity Episcopal Day School and the daughter of Judge George and Iva Ward of Natchez, finished her senior year classwork virtually and earned her bachelor’s of arts in journalism and a minor in English. Yet, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do career-wise.

“I started looking for things to do and Marsha Colson, president of the Pilgrimage Garden Club, contacted me about coming to work at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. She really put all of her faith in me to be able to get it up and operating as it should,” Ward said. She began work at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours as a staffer in May 2021.

Natchez Pilgrimage Tours is the garden club’s tourism arm. It promoted Spring and Fall Pilgrimage and coordinates tours of historic homes during those times and throughout the year at the club’s Stanton Hall and Longwood.

As director of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, Ward oversees a number of aspects of the business. She promotes tourism and works with groups and individuals to Natchez to create custom itineraries.

Ward also coordinates with all of the homes that offer tours, manages all online ticket sales and runs the sales office on Main Street, as well as creates promotional material for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

She said Colson and Kathy Boutwell of the Pilgrimage Garden Club have been “amazing mentors.”

“All of this was meant to be. I am so thankful for the opportunity and for them putting their trust in me. This is my job. I love every minute of it. This job is definitely what I am supposed to be doing,” she said.

Ward said she had no idea all that is involved in putting together successful tours for groups.

“I never expected to learn all of the things I have. This job is very interesting. Every group that visits Natchez is interested in different things, so every day is different. I will work with some tour groups for three or four months before they visit, just to make sure their schedules are exactly what they want and what they are interested in. It’s so much fun watching them have a great time in Natchez,” she said.

Ward and her staff are busy planning for upcoming Fall Pilgrimage, Sept. 24 through Oct. 21.

“We will have 21 homes on tour, including three new beautiful homes — Myrtle Terrace, Gloucester and The Banker’s House,” she said. “We are working on special packages and evening events that I have full faith will be great additions to this year’s Fall Pilgrimage.”

Spring Pilgrimage is March 11 through April 11, 2023.