DeSoto County Tourism and the Convention Visitors Bureau seeks to enhance and update the visual image of the county as a historical and heritage destination. The organization has received funding through the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area (MHNHA) to do that.
At an event Tuesday at the DeSoto County Visitors Center in Southaven, the Tupelo-based MHNHA awarded 21 grants totaling $179,805 as part of its Community Grants Program, said MHNHA Executive Director Mary Cates Williams.
“We are designated by Congress,” Williams explained. “There are three National Heritage Areas in Mississippi, the Hills, the Delta and the Coast and we are funded through the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. I think the Community Grants Program is one of the best assets of the National Heritage Area.”
The DeSoto County grant award of $19,500 will go toward updated photography and video of historic and heritage locations in DeSoto County, said DeSoto County Tourism/CVB Executive Director Kim Terrell, who is also the current secretary and former president of the MHNHA.
“We promote our history and our heritage here in DeSoto County so we applied for some grant money for new photography so we can go out and get pictures and videos of the things that we are looking for that we want to promote,” said Terrell. “We just need new photography and new video. This will also grant us the money to do an e-newsletter. We haven’t done that in a while and this will give us a whole new, fresh look. We’re looking forward to doing that as well as with our mobile site and then with our new photography all the way around, so we’re excited about that.”
Williams said 21 grants were awarded from 40 applications that. Williams said there are four themes of which each application must address at least one area to be considered for funding.
“There are four separate themes which are: Civil War, Civil Rights, Music and Culture icons and Native American history,” Williams said. “There are also federal guidelines we have to follow as far as what the money can be used for. If it is in those four things, we usually do our best to make it work.”
Terrell said the MHNHA leans more toward the northeastern corner of Mississippi, but does include parts of DeSoto County.
“It’s a 30-county community in the northern part of Mississippi, mostly northeast but certainly in part of our area, as well,” Terrell said. “What it does is give everybody a chance to promote within their own communities. Not everybody has a budget to do the different things that others have.”
DeSoto County east of I-55 is considered to be part of the area. The southern boundary is Mississippi Highway 14.
The National Heritage Area designation commemorates the region’s impact of American culture and the designation provides a unified marketing and promotion framework for the area.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 established the MHNHA.
The county receiving the most money in the 2019 grant program is Marshall County, which between seven grants will receive a total of $62,793. The money will help fund several activities and events, including the Kimbrough Festival, Blues Alley Music Series, an initial Ida B. Wells-Barnett Social Justice lecture series and others.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.