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Today is July 16, 2018

Mississippi Seen

What attracts tourists to Mississippi?

What attracts tourists to Mississippi?

A couple from Australia enjoys the view in the restaurant atop the First National Bank building in downtown Vicksburg. They are taking a self-guided tour down Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans. They are among a flood of out-of-state and out-of-country tourists who find their way along the major routes between big cities and pass through Mississippi. Photo: Walt Grayson

It happened again the other day. I bumped into more tourists taking a road trip through Mississippi.

We were doing live shots in our afternoon newscasts on WLBT-TV from Vicksburg leading up to the Miss Mississippi Pageant. Our stories weren't just about Miss Mississippi but about Vicksburg and Warren County, too.

I was at the 10 South Restaurant on the top floor of the old First National Bank building downtown and asked a couple from Australia eating there if it was okay with them if they were in my shot of the Mississippi River. When I went back to thank them, I asked what all they were seeing in Mississippi.

They had landed in Memphis, rented a car and were driving Highway 61 to New Orleans. They had stayed in Greenville. Now they were in Vicksburg for a couple of days. That afternoon they were heading to Natchez and then on to New Orleans.

A few months prior, we were in Natchez doing a similar run of afternoon live shots featuring Adams County during the Spring Pilgrimage. I happened to meet a couple from Holland taking that same tour, only in reverse. They had started at New Orleans and were headed for Memphis with stops in Natchez, Clarksdale and a side trip to the Elvis Birthplace in Tupelo.

Their young teenage son was evidently a blues and rock-and-roll fan. He laid out some pretty impressive Jerry Lee Lewis licks on the antique Chickering style piano in the double parlor at Stanton Hall.

I bring all of this up just to underscore what we’ve know for a long time, that a lot of tourists are coming here from Europe in particular and also Asia. They are attracted to our musical roots first, and then a close second, to see what they can see in Mississippi that they can’t see at home.

And what is that? Antebellum mansions, Civil War battlefields, the greenness of Mississippi, among other things. Ernie Breithaupt, who owned the Old Country Store in Lorman many years ago, told me that oftentimes tourists marveled at how green a place Mississippi is.

We went to the canyons out west several years ago. We started in Salt Lake City and went south through Arches National Park and on into Arizona to Monument Valley, then back to the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon. It is all out-of-this-world beautiful. If you ever get the chance to go see it, do so.

But after a couple of days roaming around in south Utah, it occurred to me that even as marvelous as all of this is, I could never live there. There is no green. It’s all red rock. But I’d go back and visit again anytime because it is something we don’t have here at home.

One of the big tourist attractions of Europe is the architecture. I’m sure if we had places like Neuschwanstein Castle here in America, the real deal in Germany wouldn’t have nearly the appeal.

Actually, we sort of do have Neuschwanstein in this country. Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland are both based on it. For that matter, Disney’s Haunted Castle is designed after Stanton Hall in Natchez.

All that to say, people from all over the world are coming to Mississippi to see the stuff in our back yard that they don’t have in theirs. When you cross paths with them, make sure they know we have something else here they don’t have: the kindest, most polite and helpful people anywhere.

    Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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