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Historic houses back on tour for Natchez Fall Pilgrimage

NATCHEZ — Natchez Fall Pilgrimage kicks off Saturday and runs through Oct. 23 with 10 privately owned historical houses on tour and organizers said they have taken extra precautions to operate as safely as possible under COVID-19 guidelines.

“We are excited,” said Eugenie Cates, vice president of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. “We feel like we are going to have a decent season — COVID and all.”

Privately owned houses that will be on tour this year are The Towers, Oak Hill, J.N. Stone House, Lansdowne, Sweet Auburn, Magnolia Hall, the House on Ellicott Hill, Linden, Choctaw Hall and Glenfield. Longwood, Rosalie, Stanton Hall and Auburn are open daily for the event as they are throughout the year.

Only the grounds are open for Melrose due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Gov. Tate Reeves just upped the numbers for groups from 10 to 20 so that is helpful,” Cates said of statewide COVID-19 guidelines. “The larger houses that are open seven days will have tours every 30 minutes, so they will be able to take groups of 20 or 10 depending on how many people arrive.”

Spring pilgrimage was canceled just days after opening earlier this year after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March and organizers and participating houses have taken care in instituting safety measures for proprietors and guests.

“We are going to be practicing the guidelines set out by the museum association,” Cates said. “The docents will be wearing masks, and we are requiring the guests to wear masks and keep the social distancing and will have sanitation stations and all the participating tour homes will have sanitation stations and following the appropriate guidelines so we are ready. We are ready to greet the visitors.”

Cates said online presales went well and she believes a lot of visitors will be coming through the duration of the Natchez Fall Pilgrimage that will last through Oct. 23.

Cates said it appears most pre-ticket sales on the website are coming from within driving distance.

“It looks like people that are in the drive market,” Cates said. “They are just trying to get out and do some things close to home. Also, interestingly, the RV market has quite a lot of families that are coming and staying in the RV area across the river and at the Natchez State Park, so that is a trend we are seeing. People are taking little weekend vacations with RVs.”

Cates said ghost tours and other fun events are planned for evening hours and schedules can be found at the Natchez Pilgrimage Tours website at natchezpilgrimage.com.

“We think it is going to be pretty good for Natchez, for the restaurants and for the shops and things,” Cates said. “Usually it is the best thing of the year for a lot of the retailers to bring in a good number of sales dollars and tax revenue.”