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County has plenty to offer local 'tourists'

From Atlanta to Carthage, Clarksdale's made headlines as a tempting tourist destination.

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Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2001 12:00 am

The past month has seen the Delta profiled in travel sections of newspapers through the Southeast. Its rich blues heritage was the focus of most articles; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution devoted three pages to Coahoma County in its July 29th travel section.

Georgia headlines beckoned readers: "Welcome To The Hotel Mississippi," adding after an article on Hopson Preservation Co. that "shacks are chic in Clarksdale, the crossroads of the Delta blues."

Writer Jim Auchmutey's article covered the county like a warm woolen blanket. He took readers inside the Riverside Hotel, promoted this weekend's Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival and even offered the phone number for Abe's Bar-B-Q.

While the blues opens up the town as a window on the world of tourism, the river - especially at Friars Point - is an often overlooked attraction for locals.

"What's unique about Friars Point," says Flo Larson-Redmond, a lifetime resident of the river town founded in 1836, "is that you can walk down the bank and step back in time.

"It's the best of both worlds. Five hundred yards from a paved street is sandy access to the river where you can look out and be whoever you want to be.

"You can see what DeSoto saw, imagine you're an Indian or a hunter," she said. "Or you can just be alone with your thoughts. Several people have told me that when life gets rough for them, they drive to Friars Point and sit on the bank of the river to just think.

"There's a peace and a quiet out there that helps put things into perspective."

Profiled in the current edition of Postmasters Gazette, the town named for Robert Friar - the owner of a woodyard who prospered selling fuel to steamboats plying Big Muddy - Friars Point is the only site in Coahoma County that's readily accessible to the river.

"Everywhere else you've either got to wade through turnrows or take a four-wheeler through the woods," says Larson-Redmond. "At Friars Point, a 70-year-old lady in her Sunday dress and high heels can get out and see the river."

Larson-Redmond says that one reason tourists are drawn to the community is that "it offers a unique opportunity to take a single step and be simultaneously in and out of civilization."

"Step one way and you can see wild game," she says. "You feel completely alone with the river. The way the bank is situated, there are lots of places where you can't even see the limestone plant. You're completely in the wilderness, and it could be any time in history."

However, Larson-Redmond says that when "you walk a few yards in another direction, you're back in civilization with all its comforts - a great cheeseburger at Lula Word's Cafe or an ice cream cone at Hirsberg's."

History buffs cite Friars Point as a gateway destination. Within a few blocks, visitors can see the bench where blues legend Robert Johnson strummed his guitar and the Robinson/Slack/Marinelli home, headquarters of Union Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte Buford. The house still bears the mark of shelling from Civil War gunboats.

Of special interest is the North Delta Museum, open daily from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Visitors are allowed a hands-on experience of early Delta artifacts, including antique clothing, buggies and a general store replica. The museum, which houses a veteran's military archive, is home to a valuable collection of prehistoric Indian artifacts.

Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children under age 7. There is no charge to organized groups of senior citizens, Boy/Girl Scouts, school children, churches, all members of the U.S. military and National Guard, volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and all employees of Cooper Tire and Rubber and Entergy Corp.

Call 383-2342 to arrange tours.

From "Mag's Place" written about by William Faulkner to the "haunted house" where famed aviator Charles Lindbergh landed, Friars Point is an ideal destination for "hometown travelers." Whether picnicking by the river in summer's dwindling days, or sliding down the levee when snow flurries, Coahoma Countians don't have to go far to step back centuries. Friars Point offers family adventure without highway hassles.

Got a Coahoma County destination for hometown travelers? Call 627-2201, ext. 234.

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