Tour shows off downtown area

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 8, 2008

This year’s tour of homes, complete with stops in apartments,religious settings, retail outlets and business offices, was alittle off the beaten residential path of years past.

Where former tours of homes have focused on just that – homes -this year placed the emphasis on the downtown revitalizationproject, calling attention to the progress as well as the historyof the downtown district. This year’s tour is themed “The UP Sideof Downtown,” and featured 26 local landmarks.

Many of the newer downtown apartments were featured, as the city’seyes have turned in recent years to above-business living in thecentral business district. The “B” Building Balcony was alsocomplete with a live band serenading passing tourists withcontemporary music.

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McComb resident Brian Strickland and his wife DeAna said they havecome to the tour of homes every year for the last five years, sinceintroduced to it by relatives in the Brookhaven area. Stricklandsaid the new perspective is a nice change of pace.

“I like the difference this year,” he said, as they left BoernerLaw Firm on Railroad Avenue. “It’s not as crowded as it has been inthe past because there’s more to see, and you get to look not onlyat where people live, but at what goes on downtown. The Inez Hotelwas also pretty interesting.”

Other out-of-towners visited downtown stores with an eye towardshopping as well as sight-seeing. Beverly Oliver, of Clinton, andher mother Mary East, of Florence, perused the gift possibilitiesat Billy Martin’s en route to meeting friends downtown.

“I have a friend from Wesson who told me about this,” she said. “Sofar it’s all just beautiful.”

And Brookhaven native Phyllis Sanders said she enjoys the tour ofhomes because there are always decorating ideas to be found.

“It gets me in the mood to decorate my house,” she said. “It givesme ideas. Most of the people on my street don’t put up a lot oflights, but we go all out.”

Meanwhile, some places were open for sight seeing like theMississippi School of the Arts and the Military History Museum.Brookhaven resident Joshua Cole browsed an exhibit of war-eraphotographs and books at the museum, and added that he helped paintsome of the buildings on the tour.

“I’ve been getting feedback on what people think,” he said. “Butoverall this really lifts my Christmas spirits, especially seeingeverything all in lights.”

Mother Julia and daughter Rechel Mejia, both of Brookhaven, enjoyedthe tour with their friend Angie Smith. They stopped at St. Francisof Assisi Catholic Church to view the inside of the church, as wellas the advent wreath and nativity scene.

The trio said it was their first year to make the rounds.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Rechel Mejia. “We’ve loved it.”

Meanwhile Jim Heard kept his daughter Sandie Malone company as shegreeted guests at the I.F. Thomason building, reinforcing that oneof the best parts of the holidays is togetherness.

“She was going to take a break to go to dinner,” he said. “But shedidn’t go, and I decided to stay.”

And Jan Thurman, Angie Bessonnette, Sharon Ellis and Ann Hatcher,who have all been friends since they were children and graduatedtogether in the Brookhaven High School Class of 1977, said they gettogether to take the tour of homes as a group each year.

“It’s about sharing friendships and being together with the peopleyou care about,” Bessonnette said.