Walt Grayson travels to the Belmont Plantation in Greenville.
A sleeping giant is awakening in the Mississippi Delta. The name? Tourism. The potential has always been there and now the area is really beginning to get creative. And they are inviting people to stop and stay, instead of just driving through.
“A lot of my guests are coming here from all over Europe,” said Camille Collins. “We want them to stop here. We need this to be a destination stop. Not just passing through.”
That same thing could be said of anywhere along almost any major highway in the state, but especially along Highway 61 in west Mississippi. Camille Collins at Belmont Plantation in Greenville has discovered the same thing people in Natchez and Port Gibson and Vicksburg and Clarksdale have discovered about that highway. It is a portal for tourists.
“And what I’m finding is they are coming from Memphis going to New Orleans or New Orleans back up to Memphis,” added Camille.
Why don’t the tourists just fly from Memphis to New Orleans instead of taking that long drive? Well, they come through here to experience what we’ve always had, the music, the haunting landscapes and the things we have they don’t have back home. The things we take for granted.
Our singers have sung about them and our writers have written about them and now people are coming here to see them. Belmont is an interesting taste of a slice of the Delta. It was built in the late 1850s and was a working cotton plantation until the 1940s when it became a hunting camp, and then a residence again in the 1990s until the owners grew too old and left it to their daughter, at which time it sat vacant for several years.
“And during that time it fell to the elements,” said Camille. “Critters came in and took over; broken pipes, broken windows.
Well, anything neglected will become run down; not only houses, but neighborhoods, and industries, like tourism. But there is a growing number in the Delta that is ready to do a restoration on tourism like Belmont Plantation was brought back to life.
There’s a vision here. There’s an excitement here,” added Camille. “You’re always going to have your naysayers, but this is a new era.
A new era for the Delta and anywhere else that wants to provide enough of a reason for the passers-through to pull off and stay a while.