University of Mississippi

Mississippi Delta Cultural Tour

The 11th Annual Mississippi Delta Cultural Tour set for May 21–24, 2014

On May 21–24, 2014, the Mississippi Delta Cultural Tour returns to Greenwood and environs. The 2014 tour has been moved to May to accommodate those whose March schedules have prevented them from joining the tour in years past. We’re also hoping to get some of that perfect springtime-in-Mississippi weather, to find some crops pushing through the fertile Delta soil, and to catch some blues out of doors.

 

The tour is again based at the Alluvian Hotel in downtown Greenwood, and from there we’ll explore the rich literary, culinary, and musical heritage of the Delta towns of Greenwood, Greenville, Clarksdale, Indianola, Leland, Stoneville, Ruleville, Merigold, Mound Bayou, and Cleveland. We’ll make several new stops, and we’ll meet new people along the road.

On Wednesday afternoon, May 21, we’ll gather at Turnrow Book Company for an overview of the Mississippi Delta titled “Introduction to the ‘Most Southern Place on Earth.’” Following this presentation by the director of Delta State University’s Delta Center for Culture and Learning, Luther Brown, will be a happy hour at the Alluvian with music by a Delta musician. We’ll end the day with dinner at the famous Giardina’s Restaurant, founded in 1936.

On Thursday, May 22, we’ll start the day touring various blues sites, such as “where the Southern crosses the dog,” and then visit the B. B. King Museum and Interpretive Center in Indianola. We’ll eat soul food at the iconic Club Ebony juke joint and hear literary scholar Marion Barnwell discuss the stories and novels of Delta author Lewis Nordan. We’ll stop by the author’s boyhood home in Itta Bena en route back to Greenwood where Mississippi historians Mary Carol Miller and Allan Hammons will talk about their pictorial book Greenwood: Mississippi Memories. Miller will lead a historical walking tour of downtown Greenwood that will end with a hot-tamales-and-blues happy hour, complete with a visit by the hot tamales maker. The evening concludes with dinner at Delta Bistro, owned and operated by the 2011 James Beard Awards “Best Chef: South” semifinalist Taylor Bowen Ricketts.

On Friday, May 23, we’ll travel due west to the gravesite of the “Father of the Delta Blues,” Charley Patton, in Holly Ridge. A stop in downtown Leland to see the blues murals and Mississippi Blues Trail Markers will be followed by a trip to the country where we’ll tour the Delta Research and Extension Center, led by Dr. Rebekah Ray. We’ll then have lunch at Cicero’s Restaurant in Stoneville. After lunch we’ll visit William Alexander Percy Memorial Library in Greenville for a talk on Holt Collier, His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by the author, Minor F. Buchanan, and view the library’s Greenville Writers Exhibit. Afterward we’ll tour the 1927 Flood Museum and take a drive south to Warfield Point Park for an up-close view of the Mighty Mississippi. Early evening will find the tour visiting a local art opening, Delta Collects: Works from the Collection of Lester Nelkin, at the E. E. Bass Cultural Arts Center. After a long day we’ll have dinner at the famous Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville.

On Saturday, May 24, we’ll travel to Clarksdale via Cleveland and Merigold. Blues scholar and host of Highway 61 Radio, Scott Barretta, will join the tour to guide us through the heart of the Delta. Along the way we’ll visit legendary bluesman Robert Johnson’s gravesite (or at least the one that is most likely out of three possible sites), pause before the remains of Bryant’s Grocery in Money, where Emmett Till allegedly made his tragic wolf whistle, stop at Fannie Lou Hamer’s grave and memorial garden in Ruleville, and visit Dockery Plantation, one of the Delta’s most important plantations and occasional home to Charley Patton and other blues legends. In Cleveland we’ll tour the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum with docent and Delta State University archivist Emily Jones. We’ll have lunch at the Gallery, which is the restaurant of potter Lee McCarty, and afterward visit the McCarty Pottery showroom and garden, followed by a visit to one of the last remaining Delta juke joints, Po’ Monkey’s Juke Joint. On the way to Clarksdale we’ll stop in historic Mound Bayou, and in Clarksdale we’ll visit the Cutrer Mansion, the showplace residence that young Tom “Tennessee” Williams visited with his grandfather on parish calls. The residence is considered to be Tennessee’s Belle Reve—the lost ancestral home of Blanche DuBois and Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Jen Waller, director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale will provide background information on the house and its relationship to Williams. We’ll then visit the Delta Blues Museum, followed by happy hour at a local blues club. We’ll end the long day at the appropriately named Rest Haven, the Delta’s first stop for fine Lebanese food. Just prior to dinner, tour guide Jimmy Thomas will talk about how the Lebanese arrived in the Mississippi Delta.

Look for more information on the tour and on the places we’ll visit, as well as dozens of photos of past tours, on the tour’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mdct13) and on the Center’s website (http://southernstudies.olemiss.edu/mdct/). For up-to-the-minute information, please contact tour organizer Jimmy Thomas via e-mail at jgthomas@olemiss.edu or by telephone at 662-915-3374. Please use the following form to register.

The tour will again be based in Greenwood and is $600 per person for all program activities, meals, and local transportation. The fee does not include lodging. Remember to sign up early. Only 40 spots are available. Group accommodations are offered at the Alluvian, in downtown Greenwood (www.thealluvian.com). Rooms at the Alluvian require a separate registration and are priced at a discounted rate of $185 a night plus tax, which includes a full Southern breakfast. Call 866-600-5201 and ask for the “Delta Tour” rate. Rooms are also available at the Greenwood Best Western, 662-455-5777, or the Hampton Inn, 662-455-7985.