HISTORY OF THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST SPRING PILGRIMAGE
Born on the Mississippi Sound, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a reflection of the sea food and timber industries. It is a splendid refection of the diversity of the people who shaped its destiny. Families built homes and planted gardens along the coast. Many of these homes are gone but the gardens remain. The lovely 100-year-old oaks can be seen dotting the Coast Line.
Sixty-six years ago a group of Coast Garden Club women got together to talk about their gardens, have refreshments and form friendships while enjoying each other’s homes. The group grew and soon the neighboring towns were welcoming other towns to visit each other’s gardens and homes; eventually, calling themselves “The Gulf Coast Council of Garden Clubs”. A member of the Pilgrimage Committee recalls attending one of these earlier Pilgrimages with her mother, who was a member of the Dogwood Garden Club. She said she wasn’t sure what her job was that day but she wore a long dress and, of course, gloves which was the custom back then.
The Spring Pilgrimage soon became the gem of the Coast, with homes and gardens being toured from Pass Christian to Moss Point. The event was enjoyed by locals and tourists from all over the United States and some foreign countries. The American Bus Association gave the Pilgrimage the high honor and recognition as one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” in 2002-2004 and again in 2016.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the Coast and our Council and Pilgrimage records and history. The Pilgrimage vacationed for five years while the lovely historic homes were repaired and charming new ones built. It had a rebirth in 2011 with the 59th Spring Pilgrimage. The Coast was building back to the “new normal” and the Spring Pilgrimage theme that year was “Coming Home”. The Pilgrimage was heartily attended by over 300 guests. We have been steadily growing and getting better each and every year. 2017 attendance was over 2000 each day with many guest attending the entire week.
Theme for this Spring Pilgrimage is “April Showers Bring Coastal Flowers” was chosen by a past Spring Pilgrimage Chair, Marge Bailey, who is the current president of The Mississippi Gulf Coast Council of Garden Clubs, Inc. This is another indication of the continued dedication and commitment to this garden club community project.
Our Past Council Pilgrimage Chairs:
Marge Bailey, 2004 and 2005. Marge is our current council President and this is her third time to serve as Council President.
Hurricane Katrina 2005
Sylvia Gaffney, 2006. There wasn’t a Pilgrimage this year due to lack of phones, houses, etc. Just total devastation but the Council was prepared.
Linda Domino and Barbara Melchert, 2011 The first after Katrina, Coming Home.
Barbara Melchert, 2012 and 2013
Barbara Melchert and Dickie Roberts, 2014
Dickie Roberts, 2015
Paula Hughes, 2016
Beth Margherio, 2017