Members of the National Park Travelers Club visited The Delta Center for Culture and Learning on the campus of Delta State this week. The group is touring the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area collecting National Park Service passport stamps as a way to celebrate the 2016 National Park Service Centennial.
Leland Warzala (Springfield, Illinois), Deborah Archer (Norfolk, Viginia) and David Kroese (Loves Park, Illinois), visited the center to collect their MDNHA passport stamp, which is part of the NPS’ Passport to Your National Parks program. The three NPS passport enthusiasts have been traveling the MDNHA this month collecting stamps in each Delta county. Their Delta traveling adventure has yielded a series of interesting discoveries and pleasant surprises.
The travelers visited cultural heritage attractions throughout the region where passport stations are located, including the Gateway to the Blues Museum and Visitor Center in Tunica and Tallahatchie County Courthouse where the Emmett Till trial took place in 1955.
“Last night, each of us stayed in separate hotels in Clarksdale, just to get a sense of the different hotel options there,” said Archer. “We have been eating at different restaurants, too. Delta food is so delicious. We are working our way to Yazoo City next where we will stay tonight.”
While visiting The Delta Center, they learned about the internationally renowned rural juke joint Po’ Monkey’s Lounge in Merigold, an easy stop on the way to Rosedale, where the Bolivar County passport stamp is available in the Chancery Clerk’s office at the county courthouse.
They also learned about the MDNHA’s NPS centennial passport t-shirt. This collector’s item is awarded to travelers who gather all passport stamps in the MDNHA. Currently, there are 22 passport stamps across the region. This number is expected to grow as the MDNHA passport program continues to gain momentum.
Warzala gave kudos to the MDNHA and The Delta Center for managing a well organized and geographically diverse passport program.
“We would not have known about all of the interesting places to visit in the Delta had it not been for this program,” said Warzala. “We knew that we had to visit all of the counties here, because we wanted to get all of the stamps. We had no idea that there are so many great things to see and do along the way, like the Crossroads sign [in Clarksdale], Dockery Farms and all of the Blues Trail markers.”
The MDNHA launched its participation in the Passport to Your National Parks program in November 2014 with the goal of making passport stations available in each of the MDNHA’s 18 counties. By the spring of 2015, this goal was accomplished. Since then, additional regional partners in Washington and Coahoma counties have signed on to host passport stations, including the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Jim Henson Museum of the Frog and the Highway 61 Blues Museum, both in Leland. The full list of MDNHA passport locations is available at http://www.msdeltaheritage.com/.
Kroese praised the state of Mississippi for supporting National Heritage Areas.
“There is no other state where you will find three distinct National Heritage Areas that offer such rich cultural heritage resources,” he said. “As a passport collector, I have traveled to national parks all over the country. What you have here in Mississippi with the Delta, Hills and Gulf Coast heritage areas is a real treasure. They are connected and tell great stories about music, food, literature and people.”
The travel companions plan to encourage other National Park Travelers Club members to visit the Mississippi Delta, as well as the Mississippi Hills and Gulf Coast National Heritage Areas. They also look forward to returning to Cleveland and Delta State after GRAMMY Museum Mississippi opens.
Warzala said, “The Beatles is the first exhibit that will be shown at the GRAMMY Museum? I am definitely coming back.”
Mississippi Delta-based municipalities, businesses, cultural attractions, heritage sites or other organizations that are interested in participating in the Passport Program should contact The Delta Center regarding the application process. For more information, call 662-846-4311 or email Heather Miller at email@example.com.