By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – If Neal McCoy meets with business executives looking to locate their convention to Tupelo, they’re out of luck if they expect a handshake on Fridays.
The same goes for out-of-towners stopping by to learn more about Elvis’ birthplace.
While McCoy, executive director of Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, may have a job to make people feel welcome in the city, he has no plans to shake anyone’s hands on Fridays. He has suggested staff follow suit and wishes everyone else would consider refraining.
Approaching a stranger Friday morning in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn on Friday, McCoy caught the man off guard. He held his hand up high and welcomed him to Tupelo with a high-five.
He then entered the hotel and eyed a friend, restaurant supervisor Molitha Ward and surprised her with one, leaving her with a smile.
“I didn’t even think about it,” Ward said of her spontaneous smile. “I guess it’s contagious.”
Fridays for McCoy and others means trading in handshakes for high-fives. Typically reserved for celebrations and excitement, McCoy said being in Tupelo deserves the greeting.
“Handshakes are nice and certainly have their place,” he said. “But from our perspective, there’s certainly a lot to be proud of here, so let’s give a high-five.”
The idea came from Tennessee-based musician Memphis Jones when he “hijacked” the Tupelo CVB’s Twitter account earlier this month and began suggesting people high-five in Tupelo. Since then, folks at Tupelo’s CVB have promoted “hi5friday” on social media and throughout the community, including a half-page ad in Friday’s Daily Journal.
Many people from the Tupelo area and beyond seem to have caught on. An Elvis Twitter group from Brazil has supported the high-five efforts online, while two people were observed Friday walking along Main Street and high-fived.
Jones said he’s proud of the new trend he helped start.
“Nothing boosts the mood like a fun and unity, so no more formal handshakes on Fridays – let’s put it up top,” he said. “Tupelo is awesome, Fridays are awesome, High-fives are awesome.”