Tourist center opens today in Fairpark

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The region’s newest tourist attraction – the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area Exhibit Center – opens today.
Located inside the Renasant Center for IDEAs, in the space previously occupied by PB Loco, the exhibit center is open to the public. Admission is free.
It opens at 10 a.m. today after a ribbon-cutting ceremony and several guest speakers. Hours will be Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The space features information about the region, categorized by themes.
One of the tall panels discusses the creative legacy of the region, emphasizing local musicians and writers.
Another panel has a map of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The center, the product of the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance, has a help desk that will be staffed daily.
Additional space in the center will be dedicated to special exhibits from communities in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. Tupelo is up first. King said other examples of possible exhibits include information on the pilgrimage in Holly Springs or the Sweet Potato Festival in Vardaman.
The center and the alliance are funded with federal, state and member money. For fiscal year 2011, the group received $147,000, which was designated for the national heritage area through the U.S. Department of the Interior. The money had to be matched.
The Mississippi Development Authority and the tourism division kicked in $30,000 to go toward the local match. Membership dues from the eight voting communities provided the remaining money, King said.
The current voting members of the alliance board are the Tupelo Convention amp& Visitors Bureau, Corinth Area CVB, City of New Albany, Holly Springs Tourism amp& Recreational Bureau, Oxford CVB, Starkville CVB, Tishomingo County Tourism and DeSoto County Tourism Association.
For more information about the Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance, visit www.mississippihills.org.
carlie.kollath@journalinc.com