Tourism is a very viable industry in Arkansas, hosting more than 23 million visitors, sustaining nearly 60,000 direct travel-related jobs, and bringing in $5.9 billion in revenue in 2013 alone (source). With better promotion of existing offerings and new incoming area features, Mississippi County is poised to become a bigger part of state tourism.
The history of the Dyess Colony project, what it did for families
during the Great Depression, and the scores of people that found hope in
their future is gorgeously presented in the Administration Building. It
paints a picture of a lifestyle not too many years gone. When visiting
the Cash home, visitors can take that information and imagine living in
the house during that period, looking out the kitchen window at the crop
that was providing for their family, sharing a bedroom with their
siblings or parents, gathering at the piano to enjoy mama's playing
because it was the only entertainment one could afford (but still loved
it), sitting on the porch enjoying the quiet breeze in the fall, and
huddling around the wooden stove in the cold winters. One does not have
to be a Johnny Cash fan to appreciate the historical significance of the
home, or the painstaking accuracy taken in its restoration. It is just a
pretty big added bonus that it happens to be the boyhood home of such
an influential musician
Our area has many notable attractions, from the restored art deco Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Blytheville to Sans Souci Park on the
Mississippi River in Osceola, or the quaint Tudor-style square in Wilson to Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Manila. However, there is not a
solitary ace in the hole tourist destination that on its own has the
power to pull people off the interstate, travel from all over the area,
possibly even the country, and take time to visit Mississippi County.
What we DO have is a rich collection of all sorts of interesting things
that, when put together, truly does make our area a very rich place to
visit or make your home. Whether you are looking for things to do as a
family, or are interested in war history, or are a music buff or just
enjoy the outdoors, Mississippi County has something for everyone.
you think, "there is nothing to do here," we would like to highlight
some of the different ways our county can draw interest:
The legendary Blues Highway 61 runs like a vein through our county,
making music heritage the biggest influence of our area, second only to
agriculture. The aforementioned Johnny Cash boyhood home is just one
point of interest. Dyess is also home to Gene Williams, a major player
in the Nashville scene. Wilson currently hosts a concert series,
featuring a variety of musicians. Osceola has ties to a variety of blues
musicians, including Albert King, Son Seals, and the annual Osceola Heritage MusicFest is a weekend of rock, blues, country and folk on the
courthouse lawn. Blytheville is the home of the oldest radio station
west of the Mississippi River, which played some of the biggest
musicians while they were still unknowns pushing for the chance for
airtime. Blytheville also hosts an annual Mayfest event with music and
fun for the family.
We boast some of the best options for those that enjoy the great
outdoors. Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Manila boasts natural
beauty, fishing and hunting. Just south of Osceola, Sans Souci Park is
arguably the best Mississippi River outlook in Arkansas. It boasts an
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ramp for boat fishing access, several
picnic pavilions to enjoy a picnic with near panoramic view of the
Mighty Mississippi. In Blytheville, we have the relaxing Walker Park
where you can enjoy a walk or feed the geese. Options for golf are also
abundant in Mississippi County, with the Osceola Municipal Golf Course,
Blytheville Country Club, Thunder Bayou and Big Lake Country Club.
Mississippi County Historic and Genealogical Society Museum in Osceola, Hampson Archaeological Museum
and State Park in Wilson and the Delta Gateway Museum in downtown
Blytheville. Sans Souci Park, mentioned above, is also the site the
Battle of Plum Run Bend, one of only two Civil War gunboat battles.
Herman Davis Memorial State Park in Manila honors Private Herman Davis, a
native who is considered one of the top heroes of World War I. Bassett
was the site of a World War II POW camp, where Germans were housed and
taught to work with agriculture. The gates to the camp still stand along
Families are more than welcome in Mississippi County. Both Blytheville and Osceola feature wonderful
public access water park. Playgrounds are a part of several parks, including
Walker Park in Blytheville, Florida Park in Osceola and Hampson State Park in Wilson. Blytheville also has a roller-skating rink and bowling
alley for your enjoyment.
For the literary fan, Sans Souci also inspired Mark Twain's Life on the
Mississippi. Or travel to the infamous That Bookstore in Blytheville to
browse an eclectic collection of works. You might get lucky and meet
the up and coming author, or sometimes famous writers such as John
Whitton Farms in Whitton offers informative visits to their
organic farm, which supplies local residents and at least two
restaurants with quality fresh produce. Adams Gin in Leachville is the
world's largest cotton gin. Just a little beyond our county border is
Tyronza, which is the site of the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum.
As you can see, when all put together, we have a pretty impressive
slate to offer. Trip to the moon? No. A great place to make memories for
a few days or a lifetime? Absolutely.
Many people say that perception is one of the hardest obstacles to
overcome when attracting tourists or new residents to our area.
Unfortunately, the hard truth is that often the negative perception is
not created by outsiders looking in, but is instead incubated within our
residents. We have a variety of truly unique and interesting
destinations in Mississippi County, but it is not the amenities or
beauty or history that makes or breaks our perception. As citizens,
leaders, parents, friends, family and media, only WE are responsible for
the impression that people have on our communities. We hope and
encourage others to see that we really do have a lot to offer as a
county, and help spread the community pride to those interested in the
area, or more importantly, to those that are already here.