Scanning the States
The Mississippi Blues Trail is Under Construction
The Mississippi Blues Commission is creating a statewide heritage trail to honor the Blues. The Trail will be a series of interpretive displays that celebrate the people, places and events that gave America one of its first distinctive art forms.
Like other heritage markers in the state, these displays are heavy cast aluminum, with raised letters on the front. The back, however, is graphically designed and color printed on a vinyl insert that is bonded to the metal marker. It includes text, photos, copies of important documents, and other images. Collectively, the front and back make up a “chapter” in the statewide “book” about the Blues. The ultimate goal is to create a distributed museum experience that will inform local citizens and attract tourism dollars to towns throughout the state. Existing markers can be viewed at the Commission’s web site at www.MSBluesTrail.org.
Nine heritage markers initiated the Trail. These were funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with matching funds from local supporters. Initial work on the project began under a Share Your Heritage project with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which allowed the creation of a data base of Blues sites. Subsequent sites on the Trail were chosen by a panel of Blues scholars who selected sites that are historically and culturally significant. All of the existing sites will have graphic markers, but some of the proposed sites will also have audio visual components that are activated by cell phones or other developing technologies. Maps, guide books, and other corollary products are also in development.
The Commission received additional funding from both NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division, many Chambers of Commerce and Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus, and private sources. The total raised to date is over $1.2 million, and the Commission expects to unveil approximately 120 stops on the trail over the course of the next two years. The Blues Trail is the first of four Heritage Trails that the state is developing. Others will focus on civil rights, the Civil War, and Mississippi literature.
Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and
Founding Member of the Mississippi Blues Commission
Music Trail Under Development
(Excerpted from an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette written by Mike Linn.)
The juke joints that once dotted the Arkansas Delta like cities on a map have all but disappeared, and many the musician who played amid their smoke-filled halls and beer-stained floors has passed. Tucked away throughout east Arkansas, from Blytheville to Dumas, these bars and clubs were instrumental in the coming of age of renowned musicians and songwriters, from Johnny Cash and Sonny Boy Williamson II to Elvis Presley and B.B. King.
Today, Delta heritage advocates in Arkansas are working to put these places on a map, literally, albeit with the ulterior motive of drawing more tourists and music lovers to the west side of the Mississippi River. Dubbed the Arkansas Delta Music Heritage Trail, planners expect the project to start taking shape this fall with the release of one or more compact discs featuring oral histories of as many as 40 artists.
“Heritage tourism is obviously one of the fastest-growing areas of tourism, and the beauty of that in the Delta is we have a rich heritage,” Ruth Hawkins, Director of Delta Heritage Initiatives at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, said in an interview about the project.
In addition to tales born of rural roadhouses, the CDs are expected to include stories about other locations, including churches, radio stations and Cash’s boyhood home of Dyess, in northeast Arkansas. The purpose is to get folks to drive from one end of the Delta to the other, steeping themselves in musical history along the way, said Hawkins, who noted that driving tours have become increasingly popular among tourists.
Students in a cultural heritage and tourism class she taught about the Delta last summer reinforced the idea of chronicling the musicians’ impact on the communities and the communities’ effect on them. “As they visited these towns in the Delta, they indicated that a lot of the places were gone, but that the stories people told were really wonderful stories, and they said: ‘We’ve got to find a way of capturing those stories,’” said Hawkins, who also serves as executive director of Arkansas Delta Byways, a tourism-promotion association for the 15-county Delta region.
Hawkins is developing the CDs with Beth Wiedower, Field Representative for the Arkansas Delta Rural Heritage Development Initiative, a pilot program aimed at preservation-based economic development. This initiative, with a project in both Arkansas and Kentucky, is funded in large part by a $745,000 three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as funneled through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
(Read the News Release.)
The Arkansas project’s CDs will include stories about blues, gospel, jazz and rockabilly musicians, Wiedower said. Some of them are still performing.
“It’s nice to be on a list with Elvis and Johnny [Cash],” said Walter Witherspoon, lead singer, writer and producer of the Racy Brothers, a Dumas-based gospel group.
The nine-member group formed in 1988 around the nucleus of brothers Bobby and Vernell Racy, and their two nephews, Witherspoon and Pervis Holly, according to the group’s Web site. The Arkansas Delta Music Heritage Trail mirrors a Blues marker project developed by the Mississippi Blues Commission.
For more information about the Arkansas Music Trail, contact Beth Wiedower.
Documents Impact of Historic Preservation
The Michigan Historic Preservation Network released an eight-page REPORT CARD: The Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation in Michigan in November 2006. It includes a section on heritage tourism in Michigan.
Guide Highlights Kentucky's Cultural Heritage
Kentucky's new, 40-page Multicultural Tourism Guide provides information about sites, activities and destinations that highlight the Blue Grass State's multicultural legacy, from the Underground Railroad to Cherokee State Resort Park, the state's first and only resort park for African-Americans.
Copies of the free, printed guide are available at www.kentuckytourism.com
by clicking the Request a Multicultural Tourism Guide icon, as well as at welcome centers and state historic sites.
To order a copy by phone, call 502-564-4930.
Publishes Heritage Tourism Guidebook
The Heritage Tourism Guidebook, developed by the Texas Heritage Trails Program of the Texas Historical Commission (THC) is designed to provide assistance to communities or individuals who are interested in developing heritage tourism in order to preserve historic and cultural resources and boost local economies.
The guidebook begins with an overview of tourism and the heritage tourism industry and identifies issues to consider before beginning heritage tourism development. The guidebook provides a step-by-step process for the development of a local heritage tourism initiative including tips, success stories and a resource section that includes organizations beneficial to a successful heritage tourism program.
The Heritage Tourism Guidebook is a complementary publication to the nationally recognized and awarding-winning Texas Heritage Trails Program which includes seven regional travel guides and five thematic travel guides.
All publications can be viewed, downloaded and a hard copy requested on the THC's website or download PDF directly.
Geotourism Incentive Act of 2007
In March 2007, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed into law HB 2278, the “Delta Geotourism Incentive Act of 2007." Sponsored by Representative Robert Moore from Arkansas City, this new legislation provides a 25% income tax credit for investments of up to $100,000 for geotourism businesses in the Arkansas Delta. The act defines “geotourism” as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of an area including without limitation, its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, natural resources and well-being of its residents.
Click here for more information.
Launches Multi-Year Initiative
The Colorado Tourism Office, with funding from the Colorado Historical Society, has launched a multi-year heritage tourism initiative to work with four pilot regions in Colorado. One component of this project will be the development of a web-based heritage tourism inventory which will include the development of quality standards.
For more information, contact Scott Campbell, Heritage Tourism Program Manager at email@example.com.
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