For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is September 16, 2021

Mississippi Seen

Make it a destination

By Walt Grayson

Make it a destination

After an isolated Thanksgiving and Christmas without the kids because of COVID-19, followed by me and Miz Jo by ourselves on New Year’s Eve, binge watching Netfl ix, it seems the world is finally coming alive again.

People are coming out like fire ants after a rain. The popular tourist spots in Mississippi are filling up again.

I was at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola the first weekend of June. The museum had been shut down entirely during most of the pandemic and had only recently been opening part time, Thursdays through Sundays. But there was a big crowd for a ribbon cutting and dedication that weekend.

A couple of new additions were formally opened. One is a large room housing two of B.B. King’s cars. A Rolls Royce, which they say he didn’t drive all that much — a little too flashy for his taste. And a deep blue El Camino decked out modestly with a treble clef painted under the window of both doors with two notes painted on the measure. Both of them, ‘Bs.’

B.B. King’s home away from home is on display as well — his huge travel bus. I was told the bus was actually his real home for about 300 nights a year when he was on tour. Restoration is underway so tourists can go inside. But that won’t happen until later, though.

Outside, on the grounds overlooking B.B. King’s fi nal resting place at the Memorial Garden, is a bronze statue of him sitting on a bench with plenty of room beside him for people to take a seat and snap a selfie. The statue was officially dedicated that weekend as well.

Back in 2008 when they announced the opening of the B.B. King Museum, I had no idea what to expect. My mind imagined it might be anything from a converted house in a neighborhood that had some associations with B.B. or maybe a couple of rooms at the Chamber of Commerce office. Possibly a repurposed empty store downtown? I never, ever imagined the actual world class display that is the museum’s final result.

Some of the people in on the ground floor of planning the museum told me that the best piece of advice they got was to “build a destination.” Indianola, they were told, is too far off the beaten path for people to come see just an exhibit. But they will come to a destination.

And people have beaten their own paths from all over the world to Indianola to visit the B.B. King Museum. The riverboats landing in Greenville now have tour buses going to it, for instance. It is a Mississippi

destination.

Maybe our plans fail sometimes not because we over-build, but because we under-build. We think “display” instead of “destination.”

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner was told, “If you build it, they will come.” Add to that, especially if we make it worth coming to see!

 

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.” Walt is also a reporter and 4 p.m. news anchor at WJTV in Jackson. He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at walt@waltgrayson.com.

Site designed by Marketing Alliance, Inc.