Thursday, April 18, 2013
Pilgrimage charms visitors
By SUE WATSON
Blue skies welcomed visitors to the 75th annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage tour of antebellum homes last weekend.
Breezy weather Friday meant some people were still bundling up or trying to warm up in the sun on the downtown square, as the rich history and culture of the city charmed visitors and hometown folk alike.
Temperatures warmed up more Saturday and Sunday.
For Joe Busby, pastor of First Baptist Church, the beauty of the town reminded him of “God’s love for us.”
“Help us to strive to continue to make Holly Springs a place to live, to work and to worship,” he prayed.
New this year to the opening festivities at Montrose were The Cherrypickers – Gary Adams, Jody James and Jeanie Fant, who played “Amazing Grace” and “Dixie.”
The Holly Springs School District JROTC provided a color guard again this year for opening ceremony. And Vernon Stroupe plied the streets in a horse-drawn carriage for Pilgrimage Queen Wesleyann Gardner Ray and her escort Joshua Perry Mask.
Both families have a long history of working with the Holly Springs Garden Club.
Wesleyann is the daughter of Alice and Tommy Ray and a sophomore at Marshall Academy. Her mother was queen in 1981 when a sophomore and her grandmother, Ann Callicutt, has a long history of service to the garden club. Wesleyann’s cousin, Caitlin Callicutt, was queen in 2008 and was escorted by her brother, Will Patton.
Wesleyann’s great-grandmother, Mrs. Edwin Callicutt Sr., was a charter member of the Holly Springs Garden Club. Her great-aunt, Mrs. Wayburn Callicutt, is also a member. And Mrs. Hayward Callicutt, Wesleyann’s aunt, was also a member.
Josh, a junior at MA, is the son of Perry and Amy Mask and the grandson of Vicki Swords and the late Frank Swords. The Swords family has always been great supporters of the Pilgrimage.
Garden club president Sarah Taylor, in welcoming remarks, recognized the long lineage of queens and escorts from the queen’s grandparents, aunts and mother. She aptly described the true spirit of the homecoming celebration.
“This tour isn’t just about a lot of drafty old homes and stuffy antiques,” she said. “Holly Springs Pilgrimage is so much more. More than anything, it’s about history, about the people, black and white, young and old, Confederate and Union, who worked, lived, loved, suffered and died here. You can almost hear the tinkling of china from long-ago dinners in these beautiful rooms, smell the gun smoke when you see actual bullet holes in the doors of these homes, absolutely feel the presence of souls when you walk through the gardens and hallways and cemeteries of this place that time really hasn’t changed all that much.
“Writers lived here, amazing musicians lived here, politicians who changed the world lived here, future presidents lived here at times! It’s not just a sleepy little hamlet in North Mississippi…it’s so much more. Holly Springs was once a cultural, legal, and business capital in this part of the antebellum South, believe it or not. General Grant, himself, stayed just next door and one of the most fascinating skirmishes of the Civil War, Van Dorn’s raid, took place right down the road here. The time-honored American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow fell head over heels for one of our most beloved literary residents, Katherine Sherwood Bonner, from just across the street.
“I love this town so much and not just because of its history, though that alone is unbelievable. I love this place for its people, too. They have lovingly preserved and cared for pieces of this little town and they’ve opened their homes every single year for 75 years now so that others can share in the history and beauty of the past.
“And not just those who own the homes… little old ladies work in their yards for weeks to get their azaleas and camellias ready for Pilgrimage, restaurants set up bistro tables and have food specials just for Pilgrimage visitors, churches open their doors and have recitals from their organs and singers come in to sing these amazing old slave spirituals.
“This is the time of year when the whole town comes together with a common goal, and it is my favorite time of year. Pilgrimage makes me proud to be living in Holly Springs.”
In welcoming remarks, Mayor Andre’ DeBerry mentioned the role that the Pilgrimage plays in the town and in the state.
“Welcome to the city of ‘All Kinds of Character,’ ” he said.
The Pilgrimage celebrates the history of the people who toiled and crafted the antebellum homes and the people who built them and who now preserve them, he said.
“It is a distinct honor to declare open the 75th Pilgrimage,” DeBerry said. “Welcome to Holly Springs, Mississippi’s best kept secret.”
Walthall Place enjoyed lots of visitors, according to Bea Green, who said it seemed to be one of the biggest Fridays she can remember.
“Saturday was all day long, too,” she said. “A lot of people said they got in the car on the spot and drove down.”
There were a lot of church groups touring Friday, Green said, creating steady traffic for the garden club lunch at the art gallery Friday.
“Friday, the Episcopal Church sold out for both Friday and Saturday,” she said. “I’m telling you, people were boiling chicken Friday night.”
The crowd at the Friday night party at Montrose was about half locals and half tourists, Green estimates.
“There was great dancing, great music – a glorious night Saturday night,” she added.
Green said the visitors were very nice, very courteous, and the kind of people you would want to be your neighbors.
She enjoyed the benefits of opening her house for the tour this year.
“You get your house clean, you get fresh flowers, and people tell you how pretty your house is. It’s a win-win-win,” Green said. “What’s not to love about it?”
John Loftin, owner of Hedge Farm said he estimated about 300 tourists visited during Pilgrimage. Loftin manufactures candles, some of which are Kudzu candles, at the 170-acre farm on Cayce Road.
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