Delta Attractions Continuing to Draw Tourists from All Over the Globe
One thing is certain about the blues, people who love the music enjoy spending their money and time spreading quite a bit of joy around the Magnolia State and Delta area in particular. Delta area museums from Tunica to Indianola have seen an increase in visitors who enjoy all things blues. Other museums that include artifacts and history in addition to the Mississippi Blues have also seen an uptick in visitors and each has plenty of activities planned for 2019 to keep blues lovers and historians coming back for more.
In Tunica, Richard Taylor keeps the doors of the free museum open each day for visitors to learn about Tunica County since he came along in 2002. The numbers add up to quite a few people coming through, but even with other attractions nearby getting a few less visitors, the museum still chugs along.
“We had about 20,000 people in 2016 and 20,000 in 2017—maybe a few less,” he said. “The casino economy is slipping a little each year, but it’s not a complete disaster. This is the museum of our county’s history and the Delta as well. The River Park Museum is about river history and The Blues Museum covers the music. We all work together.”
The Tunica Museum has 18,000 square feet of exhibition space. Taylor explained there are two to three traveling exhibitions each year.
“A few years ago when things were much better we’d do two to three Smithsonian Exhibits. But the funds that allowed that aren’t available to us anymore. We’ve shared some things with the Delta State Capps Museum and Archives,” said Taylor.
The Tunica Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located at 1 Museum Boulevard on Highway 61.
Bus tours come through, but the museum is more of a self-guided tour. Taylor has seen visitors from California to New England and “we try to make them aware of the unique qualities of the Delta. We have some things in the planning stages for 2019, but we aren’t ready to talk about that just yet.”
Cheryl Thornhill, Executive Director at Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood has seen a steady crowd of interested visitors.
“I think it’s about the same for the past several years,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t seen it go up or down significantly over that time. A lot of people come to town for the Alluvian Hotel and Spa and the cooking school and stop by here on tours to see movie locations for The Help.”
She mentioned that many visitors are part of the Civil Rights Tour and Freedom Trail as well as Blues Trail. The former Cottonlandia Museum has been open for more than half a century.
“We started in 1969 so we are certainly one of the oldest ones in the Delta,” she said. “We have a lot of pre-historic fossils and mammals from the dinosaur age in our permanent collection. We have art and we have Civil War, a little bit of Civil Rights, but we are known for our Indian artifacts. They date from the 1400s to the 1700s when the Europeans came and found the native Americans.
The museum has about 12,000 square feet that also includes a changing exhibition and gallery that will have four to five shows per year.
“We get between 5,000 and 6,000 tourists per year,” she said. “But we get a lot of local residents and schools who come for special programming that aren’t part of that number.”
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm.
At the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, executive director Emily Havens noted that attendance is great.
“In the three and half years we’ve been open, we’ve had nearly 90,000 visitors overall—about 16,000 students, visitors from thirty-eight countries and every state in the United States,” Havens said. “It’s a great balance between international visitors, visitors from this region and locally.”
Last May, the Grammy Museum surpassed their number of students from the previous year. Havens has heard plenty of visitors state that they enjoy every aspect of the museum.
“Most people are surprised at how many artists came from Mississippi and are always surprised at the impact Mississippi has had on American music,” she said. “It’s really great to be able to share our story here in the gallery.”
Current exhibits include, And the Grammy Goes To… that runs through February 3 and the Celebrating the Legacy of Michael Jackson that runs through April 29. Permanent exhibits include History of the Grammy Awards, History of Dance, Legacy of the Electric Guitar, Mississippi Gallery and many more.
“We have all twenty of Henry Mancini’s Grammys,” she said. “We have artifacts from Madonna to Michael Jackson to Ella Fitzgerald and Pavarotti. The museum displays cover all musical genres.
The museum also has musical artist who pop in from time to time. This is very special for any visitor who might be touring the museum that day.
The B.B. King Museum in Indianola has seen a steady stream of visitors over the years. Open 10:00 to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, the museum takes you through the life of Riley (B.B.) King and includes his tour bus and other artifacts on the property. A special homecoming is held each year in June and used to celebrate the King of the Blue’s birthday before his passing in 2015. Administrators noted that February will include the annual “Tune into Black History” series. Actual numbers weren’t released but it was noted that 2016 attendance was over 26,000 and 2017 attendance was over 27,000.
February we will begin our annual Tune Into Black History Series
In Clarksdale at the Delta Blues Museum, Shelley Ritter has been busy with festivals throughout the fall into November. She noted things slow down from November to February, but there have been more and more visitors each year.
“We saw a 3.6 percent increase from 2016-2017. I think this had something to do with the John Lee Hooker Centennial celebration,” Ritter said. “Annually, the Delta Blues Museum celebrates August as John Lee Hooker month and April as Muddy Waters Month.”
The museum is coming up on its 40th anniversary and will have some special celebrations upcoming. The museum is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum is celebrated as the first ever that honors Delta Blues music.
Mississippi Delta museums, full of history, music and visitors from every corner of the world. Something that won’t slow down anytime soon.