Thursday, January 31, 2008
December was busy tourist time in Holly Springs
December was a busy time at the tourism bureau. We received one of our most interesting guests — performer-lecturer-author, Steve Cheseborough.
Cheseborough is known to bring life to the acoustic country blues and hokum of the 1920s and ’30s in the tradition of Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and Bo Carter – by re-creating the music and recounting the lives, legends and lore of the fascinating men and women who created the blues, and the land they came from. He is a respected authority on the blues, author-photographer of the acclaimed guidebook “Blues Traveling: the Holy Sites of Delta Blues,” and a contributor to “Living Blues,” “Acoustic Guitar” and other magazines and newspapers. He speaks and performs in the Starz! TV documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes, also featuring Morgan Freeman and Chris Thomas King, and is host and musical director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s nationally distributed “Blues Breaks.”
I was excited to meet Cheseborough, since many people have come into the tourism bureau holding his book, especially during the Mississippi Hill Country Blues Picnic in July. All have asked me about a somewhat odd-ball record shop mentioned in the book, but I had no idea where it could be, so I asked my new friend. He chided me for not recognizing what some believe to be an essential blues connection in Holly Springs — Aikei Pro’s. Clearly, a guided tour of Holly Springs was in order — him guiding me through the blues, me guiding him through the rest.
We began our quest at Rust College where Ray Autry, director of public relations, gave us a personal tour of the campus. At the library, we looked through the Roy Wilkins Collection, and found wonderful pictures of the Northeast Mississippi Blues and Gospel Music Folk Festival held at Rust many years ago.
After a quick visit to the Rust radio station, a tight schedule forced us to bypass Rust’s wonderful art collection and International Room (which I highly recommend), and we hurried to our next stop to see David Caldwell, aka Aikei Pro.
Although a bit difficult to access, due to stacks and stacks of random treasures — from cigarettes to old audio equipment — Caldwell receives guests from all over the world. He showed us his guestbook which, we were surprised to see, is actually the thesis of Sylvester Oliver, the professor credited with creating the Rust blues and gospel festival. It included pages and pages of random signatures, some from years ago, some from just the week before.
This fun trip taught me that no matter how much I think I have learned… there is always more to this amazing and unique town.
Tourism Traffic report: December 2007
• If you didn’t get to take one of the Christmas Home Tours the first two weekends of December, you really missed out! Everything was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and we received great responses from all who attended. Crump Place had a pianist and costumed guides welcoming visitors as they entered, and the tables at the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery Belle’s and Books fundraising luncheon were absolutely stunning! I’m also excited to report that Holly Springs will be featured in the November 2008 issue of Desoto Magazine for our wonderful antebellum Christmas! Check out the photo gallery section on our website: www.visithollyspring.org for images of the event. Thank you so much to all volunteers, homeowners and the Marshall County Historical Museum for putting on such a grand event!
• At Graceland Too, Paul Macleod welcomed 17 fans from the Altamont School in Birmingham, Ala. All were clad in homemade “We Love Paul Macleod” T-shirts. Paul, of course, couldn’t let them leave without snapping a few pictures.
• Here at the tourism office we welcomed 45 guests. Many were students from around the area who were on break, had heard about our charming town and were eager to see it during their short time off.
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