This annual tour of the Mississippi Delta, March 17–20, 2013, is set to lead intrepid travelers across the Delta countryside once again. The tour will be 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, Winterville, Tutwiler, Rosedale, and Benoit. We’ll make several stops that we’ve never made before, and we’ll meet new scholars, writers, and filmmakers who are producing new work based in and on the Delta.
On Sunday afternoon, March 17, we’ll gather at the increasingly famous Turnrow Book Company for an overview discussion on the history of the Mississippi Delta by local author-historian Mary Carol Miller, followed by a discussion with food journalist Susan Puckett and photographer Langdon Clay on their new book of Delta eateries, Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey through the Soul of the South, which will provide a tantalizing preview of what lay in store for the rest of the tour. “William Faulkner’s Delta,” a talk by Philip Gordon, the Frances Bell McCool Dissertation Fellow at the University of Mississippi, will conclude the day’s sessions. This will be the first time a talk focusing specifically on William Faulkner in the Delta has been given on this tour. We’ll end the day with dinner at the famous Giardina’s Restaurant, founded in 1936At the Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood we’ll visit the “War Comes to the Mississippi Delta” exhibition, which focuses on the Civil War’s Battle at Fort Pemberton (the sesquicentennial anniversary of which will happen in March 2103).
On Monday, March 18, we’ll start the day touring various blues sites, such as “where the southern crosses the yellow dog,” with blues scholar and the host of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Highway 61 radio show, and then visit the B.B. King Museum and Interpretive Center in Indianola. We’ll dine on soul food at the iconic Club Ebony juke joint and then travel to the new Museum of the Mississippi Delta to visit an exhibition on the Civil War’s impact on the Delta near Greenwood. Later that afternoon we’ll return to Turnrow Book Company to snack on hot tamales with the Southern Foodways Alliance’s (SFA) oral historian Amy C. Evans. She’ll educate us on the SFA’s hot tamale trail as well as on their barbecue, gumbo, and boudin trails. We’ll end the day learning about Craig Claiborne, the celebrated New York Times food editor, from writer Tom McNamee. His book The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat “profiles Claiborne’s turbulent, brilliant, and unscripted life—which had such a profound impact on a huge swath of American culture,” claims Danny Meyer, writer and famed restaurateur. We’ll break for drinks at the Alluvian bar before we set forth to dine at Delta Bistro with chef Taylor Ricketts, a 2011 James Beard Awards “Best Chef—South” semi-finalist.
On Tuesday, March 19, we’ll tour the historic Burrus House (completed in 1861) on Hollywood Plantation in Benoit, where Tennessee Williams’ screenplay Baby Doll (1956) was filmed, and there University of Mississippi film and literature scholar Jack Barbera will give a talk on the film and its fascinating connections to ethnicity in the Delta. We’ll then have lunch at the Blue Levee restaurant in Rosedale. After lunch we’ll venture down to Winterville Mounds, just north of Greenville, to explore “the site of a prehistoric ceremonial center built by a Native American civilization that thrived from about A.D. 1000 to 1450.” Site archeologists and historians will be on hand to explain the significance of this historic site. That afternoon in Greenville we’ll hear a lecture by literary scholar Marion Barnwell at the William Alexander Memorial Library on Greenville author Walker Percy, winner of the 1962 National Book Award for his novel The Moviegoer, and then dine at the famous Doe’s Eat Place, another historic Delta eatery that Amy C. Evans has documented for the Southern Foodways Alliance.
On Tuesday, March 19, en route to Clarksdale, we’ll visit legendary bluesman Robert Johnson’s gravesite, pause before the remains of the store in Money where Emmett Till allegedly made his tragic whistle, and visit with local quilters and gospel singers at the Tutwiler Community Education Center. Clarksdale sites will include the Cutrer Mansion and St. George’s Episcopal Church, where Tom “Tennessee” Williams spent a great deal of his impressionable early childhood and where his maternal grandfather, the Reverend Walter E. Dakin, was rector for 16 years (1917–33). Following lunch at the Cutrer Mansion, New York filmmaker Karen Kohlhaas will show sneak-peek selections of her film-in-progress on the life of Tennessee Williams. That afternoon, Mississippi actress Alice Walker will perform scenes from Tennessee Williams’s Mississippi plays on the front porch of local resident Panny Mayfield. 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 discourse on how the Lebanese, including his own ancestors, arrived in the Mississippi Delta.
The Delta tour is $600 per person for all program activities, 11 meals, and local transportation. The fee does not include lodging. Remember to sign up early. A limited number of seats are available, and they will go fast.
Group accommodations are offered at the Alluvian Hotel, in downtown Greenwood. Rooms at the Alluvian require a separate registration. Standard rooms are priced at a discounted rate of $175 and include a full Southern breakfast. Call 866-600-5201 and ask for the Delta Tour rate. Additional rooms can be reserved at the Greenwood Best Western, 662-455-5777, or the Hampton Inn, 662-455-7985.
Call tour organizer Jimmy Thomas at 662-915-3374 for more details, or e-mail him at email@example.com.