Mississippi Tourism Gets Some Help From 'The Help'
After rocketing to number one on the New York Times best-seller list, and leading box-office sales for nearly a month as a hit Hollywood movie, 'The Help' is helping Mississippi clean up on tourism.
Fans of 'The Help' are making their way to the Magnolia state to explore sites, and walk through the neighborhoods where Skeeter Phelan and others in the film lived and worked.
The film, set in 1960’s Jackson, Miss. during the time of Civil Rights, is about a young journalist (Skeeter) who goes back home and writes a book from the perspective of black maids -- with help from two of them --Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson.
Free, self-guided tours take visitors around town to see such sites as the streets where Skeeter’s friends Hilly Holbrook (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and Elizabeth Leefolt (played by Ahna O’Reilly) lived, the headquarters of the Junior League of Jackson, and the home of civil rights activist Medgar Evars, who in the he film is gunned down.
The tours have been a big hit so far, with more calls coming to the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau each week.
“We’ve gotten calls, not just from locals, but actually from people all over the country asking about them,” Marika Cackett, of the JCVB, told FoxNews.com.
The sweetest stop of the tour though, may be Brent’s Drug Store, where Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, meets with Hilly and Elizabeth for milkshakes, and picks up prescriptions for her mother.
Tourist lucky enough to get to Brent’s early enough to beat the lunch rush can get the same booth that scene was shot. Or, if they decide to wait it out for that spot, they can check out the row of displays with many of the vintage movie props used in the film.
After grabbing a bite to eat, why not check out the state capitol building where the father of Stuart Whitworth, Skeeter’s love interest, would have spent much of his day while serving as a state senator.
Just down the street from the capitol is the Robert E. Lee Hotel, which, in the film, was the scene of many social events, including the Junior League’s annual benefit dinner and auction, where Celia Foote (played by Jessica Chastain) tries to make amends with Hilly, accidentally rips her dress, and throws up on the floor before making an exit.
In its heyday, the hotel, built in 1928, was one of the finest in the South, but in 1969 was converted into a state office building.
While driving around the nearby Belhaven neighborhood, where much of 'The Help' is set, tourists can see sites where author, and Jackson-native, Kathryn Stockett gained much of her perspective for the book, while growing up.
For fans of 'The Help', these free, self-guided tours are a big draw to visit Mississippi, especially during a down economy.
“A lot of people, especially with an economy like this, are looking to see how far their dollar is going to stretch. Your dollar stretches a lot farther in Jackson, Mississippi than it does most other places,” Cackett says.