Tourism Plays Key Role in Mississippi Economy
Mon, 03/11/2019 - 09:19am | By: Caron Blanton
When we think of economic drivers, we often think of work—the number of jobs, the number of employees, and the amount of revenue and tax collections generated. But sometimes fun can drive the economy too.
Tourism plays a key role in Mississippi's economy. In its Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report, the Mississippi Development Authority reports that “Mississippi's unique tourism assets, including unique culture, culinary, history, music, natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, contributed to a $6.343 billion industry in FY18.”
The report also notes that 24 million visitors came to Mississippi in FY 2018. This number represents the second highest number ever and an increase of more than 800,000 visitors over the previous year.
Mississippi Public Universities play a key role in attracting visitors to our state and encouraging travel within the state. Universities host athletic events, arts events, exhibits, and other special events, like commencement exercises and conferences, that generate tourism and revenue for the state through hotel, restaurant and sales taxes. More than 2.4 million visitors attended athletic, arts and special events on the eight campuses during the 2018 fiscal year.
At Delta State University, more than 23,000 people attended events at its Bologna Performing Arts Center (BPAC) during the 2017-18 season. Recent headliners over the past couple of seasons include Aaron Neville, Brothers Osborne, Boz Scaggs, Gladys Knight, John Prine, Lee Ann Womack, Mavis Staples, Sara Evans, The Avett Brothers, The Beach Boys, Trace Adkins, Travis Tritt, and Trombone Shorty. Recent national Broadway tours include 42nd Street, Annie, ELF the Musical, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia!, Rent, Stomp, The Sound of Music, and The Wizard of Oz.
For fiscal year 2018, BPAC served more than 10,000 students and teachers from 20 Mississippi counties and three states through its Arts Education Department. Also, 1,600 people attended BPAC's $5 movie series. And BPAC ambassadors volunteered more than 1,000 hours valued at more than $24,000.
Delta State's cutting-edge DMI Entertainment Industry Studies program—which trains the next generation of entertainment industry professionals in the fields of audio engineering technology, entertainment entrepreneurship, and multimedia technology—regularly receives visits from working musicians, producers, and other thought leaders in the entertainment industry. Amy Grant, Rosanne Cash, Thelonius Monk, Jr., and the late B.B. King visited the DMI studios, and industry professionals from Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles connect with the DMI through a two-day virtual Sound Advice music business conference. Along these lines, DMI Director Tricia Walker hosts intimate songwriting shows featuring Grammy Award-winning songwriters that music lovers from across the region attend.
DMI also partners with GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi by calling on its industry veteran faculty members for program presentations, by hiring student interns, and by showcasing student talent for travel performances, including the DMI All-Stars featured show in Los Angeles for Mississippi Night! during Grammy week. These types of public programs draw thousands of visitors annually from around the region to the museum and to DMI. And the new Digital Media Arts Center (DMAC) will provide cutting edge instruction in animation, film and video production, editing, and more—and is already drawing interest from potential students and digital media industry professionals.
The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State administers various programs that promote cultural heritage tourism in the Mississippi Delta. The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which the Delta Center manages, partnered with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association to create the Mississippi Delta Top 40 Places to Visit website. The Top 40 website has been used as an educational tool by the Delta Center's Most Southern Place on Earth experiential learning workshops funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For 10 years, these workshops have attracted more than 600 K-12 educators from across the U.S. to immerse themselves in Mississippi Delta history and culture including blues, civil rights, religion, and foodways. Most Southern workshop participants take what they have learned back to their school communities, and several of them have returned to the region for educational and cultural events like Delta State's International Conference on the Blues and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area's Delta Jewels Oral History partnership community gatherings.
Overall, Delta State hosted almost 184,000 visitors last year. More than 32,000 of these visitors came from outside of the Mississippi Delta; they brought almost $6.4 million in new money to the Mississippi Delta in 2018, from alumni events to athletic events to admissions visits to graduation ceremonies and more. Mississippi Delta residents attended cultural programs at DSU more than 150,000 times last year—from Statesmen games to arts and cultural events at BPAC and more.
About 90,000 of them drove an hour or less to Cleveland. Coming to Delta State saves these visitors from longer round trips to Memphis, Oxford, or Jackson. When leisure time is valued at $15 an hour, the total value of time saved topped $2.1 million. Delta State Athletics hosts an average of 100-plus sporting events each year, bringing thousands of alumni, fans and spectators to Cleveland. And the annual Pig Pickin' alumni event— Memphis BBQ Network-sanctioned cooking competition, live music, visiting, football tailgating, and more—now in its 34th year, attracts hundreds of alumni and Delta residents.
Mississippi State University is home to 16 athletic programs, which play host to events throughout the year. These athletic programs are football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, cross country, and track and field.
The largest tourism driver is football, which hosts its seven home contests in the 61,337-seat venue of Davis Wade Stadium, during the months of September through November.
The second largest tourism driver is basketball, of which Mississippi State sponsors both men's and women's basketball. The Humphrey Coliseum is home to both basketball teams and has a capacity of 10,500 and regularly hosts capacity crowds. Bulldog fans shattered the all-time attendance record for women's basketball by nearly 40,000 fans during the 2017-18 season.
Mississippi State baseball regularly hosts crowds in excess of 10,000 at Dudy Noble Field during the spring, with the season running February through May. Capacity during the 2018 season was more limited than normal, due to construction and renovation work taking place throughout the stadium. This limited capacity per game to not exceed 10,727 fans during the 2018 season.
In addition, volleyball, soccer, softball, track and field, and men's and women's tennis regularly host events on campus in Starkville, while both golf programs host events at Old Waverly golf club in West Point.
Outside of the scheduled athletic events, special events also are hosted throughout each year, which bring fans of Mississippi State Athletics to the city of Starkville. These events include pre-season events such as Cowbell Yell at football and baseball, Maroon Madness prior to basketball season, and Fan Day events in the fall and spring.
On days and weekends of athletic events, Starkville is abuzz with thousands of fans traveling to town to eat at local restaurants, shop at stores, and stay in hotels while attending these events. The athletic department also regularly partners with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, as well as entities throughout the entire Golden Triangle, to create and promote full weekends of activities to encourage fans who are coming to Starkville to attend a sporting event, to come to town and stay for a full weekend – with the goal of driving additional tourism revenue for the areas surrounding campus.
Mississippi Valley State University Athletics brings thousands of visitors to the Delta area. For instance, during the University's first home football game this year, a total of 4,788 attended the game, which in turn brings dollars to the local economy.
Oxford tradition Square Jam unites the heart of the city with University of Mississippi basketball in an event that attracts thousands to see the Rebels showcase their skills on a basketball court with lights set up on the east side of the Square in the parking lot in front of City Hall. Fans get to see the teams participate in player introductions, a three-point shooting contest, a dunk contest and other surprises.
The event also features the opportunity for members of the Rebel Kids Club to register for a chance to showcase their dunking skills in the Kids Dunk Contest, and One Shining Moment, which gives fans the opportunity to try to replicate some of the most memorable shots in Ole Miss Basketball history.
Held each Spring, the annual Grove Bowl weekend gives Rebel fans an early peek at the upcoming football season and a chance to experience other sports and attend other events. The centerpiece event serves as the finale of the spring drills and features the Ole Miss offense against the Ole Miss defense.
When Ole Miss athletics and university leaders hit the road in the Rebel Road Trip, it brings an economic boost to cities around the state. The 2018 schedule included stops in Gulfport, Vicksburg, Indianola, Tupelo, Corinth and Oxford.
The University of Southern Mississippi has hosted the Conference USA Baseball Tournament for each of the past five seasons—first in Hattiesburg (2014-2016) and then in Biloxi (2017-2018). In 2015, research found that visitors who attended the tournament spent approximately $2.7 million in the Hattiesburg area during their stay. Visitors included supporters of USM and other teams participating in the tournament, which will return to Biloxi in 2019.
In 2018, Southern Miss hosted the Mississippi High School Activities Association football championship games, bringing more than $2.7 million in economic impact to the Hattiesburg area.
An independent study revealed that The University of Southern Mississippi's athletic programs contribute a total of $31.2 million in annual economic activity, supported 280 jobs throughout the state, and annually generated $1.6 million in state and local tax impact.
In addition to athletic events, Mississippi Public Universities hold events and exhibits in the visual and performing arts that draw thousands to the campuses.
For the 12th consecutive year, Mississippi State University Libraries and the Charles H. Templeton Sr. Music Museum sponsored the Charles H. Templeton Ragtime and Jazz Festival, a spring event featuring museum tours, and informative talks, educational seminars and concerts presented by world-renowned ragtime, jazz and blues artists.
The festival kicks off with the annual Gatsby Gala fashion show featuring 1920s apparel designed by MSU School of Human Sciences fashion design and merchandising students and modeled by MSU Fashion Board members. Internationally renowned pianist and festival artistic director Jeff Barnhart of Mystic, Connecticut, has provided music during the Gala since its inception. In addition to MSU Libraries and the university's School of Human Sciences, this year's sponsors included MaxxSouth Broadband, City of Starkville, Mississippi Arts Commission, Art Works and National Endowment for the Arts.
MSU's galleries and collections bring 15,000-18,000 people to campus each year. Last fall, Mississippi State's Museums and Galleries organized activities on campus to celebrate the Bicentennial of Mississippi. The events were funded, in part, by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. There were eight or nine events, including exhibits, talks and concerts, each of which had a minimum of 50 people in attendance.
In the spring, Museums and Galleries welcomed 750 to 1,000 patrons for its second “Science Night at the Museum.” The event showcases the Department of Geosciences' Dunn-Seiler Museum, Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures' Cobb Institute of Archaeology, Department of Biological Sciences' MSU Herbarium, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology's MSU Arthropod Zoo, as well as the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
MSU's Department of Art Galleries also welcomed more than 2,000 visitors during the last fiscal year, with attendance ranging from 50-100 people at opening receptions for student and guest exhibitions. The Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery and the Visual Arts Center Gallery are broad-based resources for the university and community. The galleries host approximately 14 to 16 rotating exhibitions a year featuring a range of works by internationally and nationally recognized artists, university faculty and students.
The galleries' programming focus on student and community engagement through exhibitions, visiting artist lectures, workshops, tours and special programs, including receptions and MSU summer camp experiences. The gallery programs attract visitors from all parts of Mississippi and the Southeastern region of the United States.
The galleries also support an artist-in-residence program in collaboration with the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Visiting artists-in-residence have traveled from as far as The Netherlands to spend four weeks making artwork and conducting research at the Refuge. The Department of Art also collaborates with the local Starkville Area Arts Council to host the annual Cotton District Arts Festival Juried Arts Exhibition held every April. The Cotton District Arts Festival hosts thousands of out-of-town visitors, and the Department of Art Galleries play an active role by hosting the festival's highly competitive exhibition that displays artists from across Mississippi.
Last August, Mississippi State welcomed 35,000 people to downtown Starkville for the university Student Association's annual Bulldog Bash, which is branded as Mississippi's largest, free outdoor concert. The event's “Maroon Market” featured food and retail vendors and performances by local musicians all afternoon. Sponsors included MSU's Student Association and the City of Starkville, among others. The Bulldog Bash 2018 concert and “Maroon Market” saw an estimated 37,000-40,000 people in attendance. Clark Beverage Group Inc. was title sponsor for the event, which was headlined by alternative rock/power pop titans The All-American Rejects.
For decades, Mississippi University for Women has served as a hub for music, literature, theatre, art and lectures. Located in the heart of historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W is home to premier cultural events, which attract guests from both near and far. From the second annual Music by Women Festival to the signature Welty Weekend at The W, audiences all come for one reason--a shared experience through the cultural arts.
In just two years, the Music by Women festival has grown from 170 presenters and performers to 250 from places such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, New York, Wisconsin and Arizona, just to name a few. The festival features papers, presentations, workshops, panels, lecture recitals and performances all related to the subject of music composed, taught and performed by women. The event was made possible through the support through the Leslie Farrell Threadgill Lecture and Artist Series and local, state and federal support from agencies such as the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Community and culture have been coming together for almost 30 years as part of the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. Participants are able to connect with authors in an intimate setting. Over the years, this annual weekend, which honors the world-renowned MUW alumna Eudora Welty, has drawn noted authors, journalists, scholars and artists.
Featured authors have ranged from Eudora Welty in the symposium's first years to John Grisham, before he was a household name, to Mississippi-born poet Natasha Tretheway, who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2014.
The Symposium, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through generous support from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation.
The Welty Gala, sponsored by the MUW Foundation, also is a part of the signature Welty Series held in October. Guests are able to hear authors of current best sellers discuss their work. Headliners have included guests such as Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's chief legal analyst and a staff writer for The New Yorker, and Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin. The Welty Gala raises scholarships for deserving students.
Throughout the year, The W's theatre department puts on four to five performances. Usually there are two main stage shows, which have a small admission, and two to three smaller events that are usually free and last one or two nights.
The W's Galleries were established in 1960 when the Department of Art and Design moved into the building now known as Summer Hall. According to Joyce, this makes the Galleries the first dedicated gallery space in the IHL system.
Hudson started the department collection in 1948 with two student organizations—Kappa Pi and Palette and Brush—making the initial purchases. For several years, the two groups purchased two paintings annually. Eventually the collection was fleshed out with help from faculty members, the department and donors.
Anyone who has a passion for the arts is able to enjoy the Diane Legan Howard Art History Lecture Series established in the alumna's honor to celebrate her love for the arts through a scholarship and lecture series started in 2012. Howard was a 1959 graduate, who studied art history and graduated summa cum laude. An avid antiques collector, Howard was born in Macon and resided in Columbus for many years before moving to Arizona.
The Art History Lecture Series has seen the likes of presentations that study portraits of free women of color in antebellum New Orleans and research and publications about the intersection of gender and visual culture in 19th century French art and in feminist art of the 1970s.
The Nell Peel Wolfe Lecture Series has been hosted by the university's Gordy Honors College for five years. A gift from the Wolfe family, of Tuscaloosa, the series honors the legacy of Nell Lyon Peel Wolfe ('30), one of four sisters from Waynesboro, Mississippi, all of whom graduated from then- Mississippi State College for Women.
Hundreds of people, including blues enthusiasts, community members and students, attended Mississippi Valley State University's fourth annual B.B. King Day at MVSU Symposium last month. The annual event is hosted each year to preserve the legacy of B.B. King, a true Mississippi Delta treasure, through a unique blues education experience featuring influential musicians, writers, visual artists. This year's event was sponsored in partnership with the MVSU B.B. King Recording Studio and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola.
Mississippi Valley State University History, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and Khafre, Inc. partnered once again to host the Seventh Annual Sweat Equity Investment in the Cotton Kingdom Symposium Nov. 1-2. Since its inception, the symposium has served as America's premier interdisciplinary conference on the Cotton Kingdom, exploring sharecropping, tenant farming and the signi