Thursday, April 19, 2012
History and hospitality
By SUE WATSON
It takes nearly a year for the Holly Springs Garden Club to think of new angles for the next year’s tour - what to emphasize, how to get the word out.
By all accounts, the committee did a superb job of planning and executing last week’s 74th Pilgrimage and God took care of the rest by bringing perfect weather, said club representative Kathy Elgin. Her daughter Emma was queen this year.
Preliminary figures indicate that between 600 and 650 people attended the tour of homes, Elgin said. The events were also well attended. About 75 turned out for Sunday brunch at Montrose. People enjoyed hearing Elizabeth Heiskell, a chef with Viking Cooking School in Greenwood, talk about gourmet cooking. Lunch Friday and Saturday at Montrose drew about 200 guests. The Behind the Big House Tour attracted over 50 people Thursday evening.
“People seemed to have a real interest in the Behind the Big House Tour and are glad to see that a part of the tour,” Elgin said.
Visitors from far and wide visited this year as in olden days. Guests from Boston, Mass., Arizona, Tampa, Fla., and even Scotland, made the pilgrimage while local people from places like Byhalia and Potts Camp turned out to support the tour as well, she said.
The garden club publicity committee has its own method of getting the news out but word of mouth or testimonials are a big part of the continued success of the Pilgrimage, she said.
“People talking about what a great time they have is a testament to Holly Springs, its friendliness and its welcoming to visitors,” Elgin said. “The weather was made to order. God is good.”
The Pilgrimage helps keep a lot of the historic homes in shape and each homeowner on the tour gets a little money to paint or improve the dwelling and grounds, Elgin said.
“People do a little extra to keep the houses and grounds up,” she said. “This year we painted the front of Montrose and next year we hope to redo the back.”
Wakefield, a home that has a private art collection painted by the late Vadah Cochran and artifacts collected from travel, was open for the tour for the first time since 2002. Marie Moore simultaneously launched her new book, “Shore Excursion.”
Cuffawa was on the tour this year. Owned by Diane Greer, people seem to enjoy her home and beautiful furnishings and her pottery collection and yard, Elgin said.
“She has a knack of making people feel at home and comfortable,” Elgin said. “Her personality sets people at ease.”
Burton Place, owned by David Person, is also of high interest to tourists.
“David’s house is period accurate and he has a character who portrays Sam Houston who gives a lot of history,” she said. “And he has entertaining characters. Overall, we are just very, very pleased with turnout. The people who came are always so friendly. Some shopped and ate in our restaurants and stayed overnight.”
The cemetery tour remains a hit with many visitors. And the movie “Steel Magnolias” drew a good crowd at Montrose Friday evening.
“We couldn’t have this without the whole community supporting it,” Elgin said. “It is our town and everybody is a part of it.”
Greer was happy at the guests who visited Cuffawa, including one gentleman who remembered eating lunch in her entry hall on his last visit years ago.
“This is one of the nicest groups I can remember,” Greer said. “They were truly interested in history and were complimentary and we had real support from our surrounding towns like Potts Camp and Byhalia. Every day at the end of the day, people just hung around on the porch – a compliment to me.”
This year was the year for church groups and the garden club is already working on next year, Greer said.
“Planning is underway for 2013 somewhere; plus now my house is all clean,” she said. “It would be nice if I could just keep it that way.”
Suzanne Lafever, garden club president, praised the visitors for their compliments on the town, the houses, and the flowers.
“And the weather was good and they loved the craft fair,” she said. “All events seemed to go well and we got lots of compliments for the square and for businesses that opened and for the hospitality.”
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