Twice a year I attend an Agency Management Institute (AMI) meeting. These meetings are held all across the United States. We have agency partners in Austin; Costa Mesa, Calif.; Denver; Des Moines; Hammond, La.; Houston; Minneapolis; New York; Pewaukee, Wis.; San Diego; and Tempe, Ariz. We usually travel once a year to a city where an agency hosts, and the other meeting is held elsewhere like Chicago, Key West and San Francisco to name a few. The irony is that it doesn’t matter where we have the meeting because the majority of the time is spent in a hotel conference room.
Is this phrase familiar? “I’ve lived here most of my life and pass this attraction on a regular basis, but I’ve never stopped there.” I hear that a lot on the AMI trips. And, I hear it from time-to-time at Kiwanis Club of Tupelo meetings. When Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Birthplace, asks a group in Tupelo how many have never been to the birthplace, there are usually a few hands that go up. I’ve asked visiting parents of soccer players at Ballard Park if they’ve visited the Oren Dunn Museum. It makes a nice respite from the elements blowing across the fields. I’m appreciative of the receptions held at the Tupelo Automobile Museum. It is truly an incredible collection.
Lodges of the Order of the Arrow, the national honor society for the Boy Scouts of America, put together a guide for troops of where to go camping. Some spots are more destination oriented. If you want to see a NASA rocket, Huntsville is the place to go. But, if you’re working on Astronomy merit badge, that can very easily done at the French Camp Observatory, which is in Mississippi. Why camp far away when there are activities close to home? The state parks of Mississippi have a lot to offer.
In my last trip with AMI, I was in Austin, Texas. I got there early enough that I had a few hours to look around before our evening dinner started. So I pulled out my iPhone and started looking at what was there. I found a house where the author O. Henry lived. I stopped by and learned a lot. I was familiar with O. Henry because I’d read “Gift of the Magi” in Debbie Gibbs’ English class in 10th grade. What I didn’t realize is that most of his works were written while he was in jail and that he created the original character of the Cisco Kid that was later changed for radio and movies. I noticed a lot of similarities on the O. Henry house to Elvis Presley’s birthplace and the Tennessee Williams home in Columbus. And, I was a de facto Mississippi ambassador of tourism as others asked me about them. Hopefully, they’ll come see for themselves.
I’m proud to be a Mississippian. There is a lot to see in our state, and there’s a lot I need to see. There’s a lot that can be seen in just a day’s drive, and there’s a lot that can be found right here. I want to tell the Mississippi story because I want more people to know what a great resource we have.