Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Impressions Shattered

Revisiting West Point, Mississippi

Looking North into West Point's
neat little downtown. Taken
from the city park.
West Point is the smallest of the three towns that make up the Golden Triangle area of Mississippi, known for its recent claim to massive investments from foreign and domestic industry to the tune of over eight billion dollars, including a Japanese tire manufacturing plant in West Point. On our trip through this part of Mississippi in 2015, when we knew very little of the Golden Triangle area, Cliff and I got gas in West Point after visiting Waverley Mansion just outside of Columbus, between Columbus and West Point. We stopped for gas at a busy little gas station on what turned out to be the outskirts of West Point, on the east end of its main street.

We were not impressed and wrote off West Point as disinteresting, doubting that it had much in the way of historic homes or history in general. But in the last few weeks, now that Cliff is living here in Columbus, we have been back to West Point three times and plan to make reservations at one of the town's locally owned restaurants to take in dinner and the usually great blues bands that play at Anthony's Restaurant each Wednesday night. We've been back several times, because our first ill impression of West Point has been shattered with each subsequent visit. I wrote about another cafe in West Point in my last post, and we have eaten there three times. But we've also found a delicious antiques store called Annabelle's and we plan to go back there, as well.

Howlin' Wolf is one of the
iconic blues players of the
South and a native of
West Point, Mississippi.
But our biggest misimpression was that because West Point is small (around 11,000 people) it couldn't have had much of a history. Not so; West Point is almost 200 years old and it has a treasure in its historic homes and bustling downtown, as well as a contributor to Mississippi's Blues history. Howlin' Wolf is one of the best known blues greats and is a native of West Point. His museum resides in West Point and a memorial stands in the city's beautiful park, which covers several blocks in the downtown area. This small city has another historic point of interest however that fits well with the history of Columbus, and that is its history of slave relations before and during the Civil War. Let me put that another way. I had already found out that Columbus has a progressive history, is LGBT friendly, and is the home of the first Memorial Day celebration. But Columbus and West Point have a shared history in how slaves and former slaves were treated, compared to other parts of the Old South. Word of mouth from native West Point citizens have told me that West Point was progressive and had elements of abolitionists there before the Civil War. But I will have to leave this notion to further research. Make no mistake, West Point is a Southern city and also has a long history of plantations and slavery. Still, there's no way to just write off this town. It has a great deal to offer. There is a busy section of big box stores, fast food joints, and other businesses, but there is also an interesting downtown, where the store fronts have been maintained and a collection of fun places to visit.

Like other towns in Mississippi, West Point has the annual Prairie Arts Festival.

39th Annual Prairie Arts Festival

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A greatly anticipated annual event in West Point and the surrounding area is the Prairie Arts Festival.  The Festival is held each year on the Saturday before Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in West Point's downtown. Including Fine Arts, Crafts, down-home southern cooking, four stages of live music, Classic Cars, Kidsville, and much more, the Prairie Arts Festival features more than 600 exhibits.
The festival has been recognized as one of the top ten events in the south, and is one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the country.
 I leave you with a musical performance in 2013 by a band called The Kevin Waide Project, singing "Meet Me by Your Back Door" from their album Lost in Mississippi...