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Lafayette County tourism projects receive $79K

Thanks to the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance, several organizations in Oxford will receive thousands of dollars for new projects aimed at promoting tourism in Lafayette County.

The alliance awarded a total of $79,720 in grant funds last week as part of its annual community grant program.

“We are very excited to see the growth in our grant program as we have nearly double the grant amount given out this year,” said Mary Cates Williams, executive director of the MHHAA. “We look forward to working with each of these organizations.”

Visit Oxford received a $5,000 grant to work with the Mississippi Tourism Authority Association that has partnered with Treat ‘Em Right, Inc., to develop a video series to train hospitality sector workers on how they can help improve visitors’ experiences in Mississippi.

“We will be working on building a program specific to Oxford through Treat ‘Em Right,” said Visit Oxford Director Mary Allyn Hedges. “It is a series of hospitality training videos that our office will set up with our hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions. Once employees complete the series, they will obtain their Certified Hospitality Professional certificate.”

Visit Oxford will kick off the training in conjunction with National Tourism Week, May 6-13.

The Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center was given $20,000 to use to expand its exhibits at the museum.

“This grant, along with other funds being raised, will allow us to complete the African-American core collection display as we designed in our original plan,” said Jim Pryor, chairman of the Historic Properties Commission. “With the museum complete, we will be moving on to the digital capture and display of historical, cultural information in our community. This information, along with the historical maps will be made available on screens in the museum and through the internet.”

Another $20,000 grant was given to the L.Q.C. Lamar House Museum for the creation of the L.Q.C. Lamar Historical Trail that will link Oxford to other communities using a series of new and existing historical markers identifying significant events from the life and times of Lamar. The foundation is also hoping to use GPS-connected video and audio resources to turn smartphones and other devices into a narrator and tour guide while allowing access to photographs and other documents.

“Existing markers and plaques, including the new contextualization plaques at the University (of Mississippi), are a nice first step but are severely limited by their static or permanent nature and space limitations,” said Brian Wilson with the L.Q.C. Lamar Foundation. “It’s a big improvement on the old audio tours available in the past at many museums.”

Wilson said the foundation would help communities identify new sites and secure markers to add to the trail. Communities already identified as potential new sites for markers include Ripley, Holly Springs, Corinth, Columbus, Coffeeville, Taylor, and Abbeville. A new website will be developed to advertise the trail.

“The grant will allow us to complete the research, planning, and design,” Wilson said.

Other grants awarded to Oxford and Lafayette County projects include:

  • Oxford Film Festival, $5,000. This grant will fund an area filmmaker to create a film about North Mississippi Heritage & Culture, specifically focusing on literary history and completed in time so that it can be showcased at the 2019 Oxford Film Festival.
  • Oxford/Lafayette County Digital History, $5,000. Funds for this project will allow the purchase of equipment used to acquire and store cultural and historical information, which will be linked to digitized historic maps and made available online.
  • Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, $5,000. This grant will allow the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council to connect spaces of cultural and historical significance to each other through a digital app so that they are unified into a North Mississippi Culture & Heritage Trail.
  • Rowan Oak Project, $19,720. Funds will assist with technical assistance to conduct architectural-history and archaeological research at Rowan Oak to better understand the lives of African Americans who lived and worked on the property during the pre-Faulkner and Faulkner periods.