Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mississippi Welcome Centers connect past, present, future

The past meets the future in elegant style at the Welcome Centers scattered along the Interstate Highways in Mississippi. Designed and furnished to resemble traditional antebellum homes, the centers offer tourist information, hot coffee, clean restrooms and Southern hospitality while celebrating the rich traditions of Mississippi.

At thirteen locations ringing the state, travelers can stop in for maps and brochures about Mississippi’s attractions while stretching their legs and reviving their spirits. At the same time, they can learn about the rich cultural heritage of the area from staff members knowledgeable about the state’s offerings. Questions about local shopping and dining mix with requests for information about historic sites and contemporary events as the staff welcomes a steady stream of visitors.

Cindy Poland, supervisor of the Pearl River County facility on Interstate 59 at Picayune, credits her job with opening her personality.

“I used to be an introvert,” she says. “Meeting and greeting people every day has helped me open up and be comfortable speaking to others.” She enjoys meeting visitors from all over the world and helping them find what they need in Mississippi.

Each person who enters the building receives a warm “Welcome to Mississippi,” and the offer of a cup of complimentary coffee. Folks in need of a restroom get pointed in the proper direction. A quick request for the visitor to sign the guest book (anonymously, if they prefer) and provide a zip code allows the center to track the origins of their clientele. Some folks even provide the reason for their trip, whether it be business or pleasure, to a Mississippi destination or somewhere beyond the state borders.

In addition to the standard variety of brochures and maps, the centers provide seasonal décor and monthly displays celebrating the contributions of local talents. The themes cover the tapestry of Mississippi treasures. January focuses on Food; February looks at History; Arts and Literature star in March. April goes Outdoors while May celebrates the state’s rich Music heritage. June shares Fun Things for Children to Do in Mississippi; July brings Festivals and Fairs; August promotes Free in Mississippi, free things to do throughout the state. September tees off with a Golf theme; October, Agritourism; November, Shopping and December finds the centers decked out in seasonal finery to honor Holiday Happenings.

The monthly themes add to the basic charm of each location and make the Mississippi Welcome Centers a worthwhile destination even for those travelers who don’t need a cup of coffee or a rest stop.

Originally appeared 03/07/2015 at

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