A walk into history: New business offers guided tours of Tupelo

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Imagine you are standing in the Lee County Courthouse lawn. It’s 1860. There’s no grass. There are no stores around you. Tupelo isn’t incorporated. Lee County doesn’t exist.
Instead, you are surrounded by hitched-up horses.
This is the image that Laura Fisher brings to life with her new business that offers guided walking tours of downtown Tupelo.
The fledgling business started Oct. 1 and offers a ghost tour, an Elvis tour, a historic downtown tour and a Civil War tour. Plus, Fisher is working on a Chickasaw-related tour of downtown Tupelo.
“I’m just the messenger,” she said. “The history is already there. It just needed somebody to tell it. We decided we could do that and put on costumes and have a little fun with it.”
Fisher said the information on her tours comes from her 20 years of research. Plus, she said she worked with local historians to authenticate sites on the tours.
“I think it can be geared toward anyone who has a love of history, whether you are a traveler or have lived here all your life,” she said.
The walking tours last about 60 to 90 minutes and cover about a mile. Fisher charges $20 per person, with discounts for school groups. She gave a demonstration tour to a group of Crye-Leike Realtors last week. The historic downtown tour explored the district, giving visitors a look at many of the businesses and buildings scattered throughout the area.
Fisher described how Magazine Street got its name, the location of Tupelo’s first City Hall and where Tupelo’s rowdy saloon district once stood.
She quoted newspaper articles, stories passed down from Tupelo residents and other tales that start with “the story goes …”
Plus, she dressed up as a Southern belle, complete with a hoop skirt, gloves and pearls. Her male counterpart, Bryan Sexton, wore a Confederate uniform.
On the Elvis tour, the guides dress up in 1950s-era clothing and point out the downtown spots Elvis frequented as a kid.
“What we’re trying to do with the Elvis tour is show what life was like before he was a superstar,” Sexton said.
Fisher is particularly excited about the ghost tour. The tours are offered Friday and Saturday nights and she takes her electromagnetic field detector along. The EMF meter is commonly used in ghost hunting to show energy fields.
“I have a 20-year background in paranormal research,” she said. “There’s not much you can tell me about the paranormal that I don’t already know.”
She’s starting to get the word out about Tupelo Historic Tours. So far, she’s done two ghost tours and one historic downtown tour. Fisher and the three other guides generate enough business that they’ll be able to offer tours daily.
At the same time, Fisher is keeping her day job, operating as an insurance broker with her agency, Guarantee One. Plus, she’s written a book that will publish in the spring.
Sexton also has a day job with flexible hours, working in the banking industry. They’re both passionate about making history come alive through the tours.
“I hope it inspires people, entertains people and educates them about what they have here in Tupelo,” Fisher said.
The company is hoping to tap into Tupelo’s $63.8 million tourism industry. In fiscal year 2010, about 268,000 visitors were recorded in Tupelo.
Sexton hopes the tours help grow those numbers.
“If you want to keep drawing people, you have to have something fun for them to do,” he said.
For more information, visit TupeloHistoricTours.com, call (662) 871-1348 or go by the office at 108 Broadway St., Suite B, in downtown Tupelo.
carlie.kollath@journalinc.com