Letter to the Editor
To my fellow Holly Springers:
By now you all know of my deep love for Holly Springs. I am going to share some thoughts with you about some ways we could make this awesome little town even better.
We are a small town, with the appearance of a large town, because of our Square. Holly Springs was a very rich and prosperous town in the past and our Square is a testament of that. We are no longer rich, but there are some things that we could, and should, do to bring more revenue into our town. One place where we could take in more money is with tourists. In fact, that needs to be a major focus. And one of the ways to do that is with blues music. It is our hometown art form, and people from all over the world know about this. They know the names Burnside and Kimbrough.
My husband and I attended the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale the past two years. This is what struck me – thousands of people from all over the world were in Clarksdale to hear artists from Holly Springs, Mississippi, perform. Think about this carefully – people from all over the world (even as far away as Australia), like artists from Holly Springs so much, that they are willing to take their vacations, buy an expensive plane ticket and fly across the ocean to go to places like Memphis, Tenn., Clarksdale, and New Orleans, La., to see them perform live. They spend their hard-earned money on food and accommodations and local goods. And they would happily do the same in Holly Springs if we had a place right here on the square, or near the square to do it.
I met the man that owns Cat Head in Clarksdale. It is a blues store. He is from either Illinois or Ohio. Anyway, he mentioned that when he first moved to Clarksdale, there was no regular venue for blues music. He began talking to the city officials and regular citizens about how they needed to support blues, and by doing so it would increase tourism. He told them that “they didn’t even have to like blues music to support it.” Now, Clarksdale has blues music seven days of the week, several large festivals, and thousands of tourists spending their money every year. And Clarksdale is not even easy to get to. Holly Springs is in a much better location.
This brings me to my next point – something else that is unique to Holly Springs, is our large amount of antebellum structures. We have beautiful homes and even several original slave quarters. They tell of a time that was prosperous for some and painful for others. These antebellum homes were built by the labor of slaves. But these slaves were also highly skilled craftsmen. So highly skilled, in fact, that much of their craft is a lost art. These rare, antebellum mansions that we enjoy in our town are free-standing, magnificent works of art.
I realize that the example that I am going to give is comparing apples with oranges, but I will do it anyway.
My husband owns a construction company. He is a masonry and stone contractor, and his company has built wonderful structures all over Memphis and the surrounding areas for many years.
We can drive past a 24,000-square-foot mansion in Germantown, Tenn., or the fantastic brick fence that surrounds the entire upscale South Bluffs development in downtown Memphis, and Mike will point these out to family and visitors and say that he built that. It is a great source of pride for our family. Years from now, our kids can be driving around showing the area to a visitor, and say “look at what my Daddy built.” For as long as these structures stand, it will be a source of pride for our descendants, and proof that Mike McCarter made his mark in the world.
I realize this can’t be an accurate comparison to the antebellum mansions in Holly Springs, but in some way it is. The descendants of these highly-skilled craftsmen can find a source of pride in a painful period in history. They can look at these magnificent, free-standing works of art and say “look at what my Daddy built.”
So, here is my conclusion – you don’t have to like blues music or antebellum mansions to support both. Holly Springs needs revenue and these are ways to get it. Visitors come into town all the time, either because of blues or history. We need to come up with creative ways to showcase both of these things on a continuous basis.
All of us need to be pro-Holly Springs. Anything that is good for our town is good for us all. We ought to want visitors from all over the world to spend their hard-earned money to make Holly Springs their destination place.
We are a great town, y’all. We are rich with history and culture. In addition to our homes, we have Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery, Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum, Marshall County Historical Museum, Rust College, The Depot and Hill Crest Cemetery. Let’s come together, and work together, to do whatever it takes to also be rich with the hard-earned money of eager-to-spend tourists.
Lisa Maharrey McCarter