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An Evening at The MAX!

The $50 million Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience celebrated its first anniversary this week, capped Friday night by “An Evening at The MAX!” fundraiser, auction and party.

The Jimmie Rodgers Festival concludes Saturday night with a concert by native son, singer-songwriter Steve Forbert at the Temple Theatre, a grand old venue with ornate features and one of the largest stages in the state.

Around the corner, the beautiful Mississippi State University Riley Center is in the midst of its spring summer season of nationally touring acts in the beautifully restored old opera house, and it’s about to get a shot of fresh ideas from its new executive director, Daniel Barnard.

Across the street, construction workers can be seen daily making progress in preserving the towering Art Deco Threefoot Building, which is on its way to becoming a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

A few blocks away, the Meridian Museum of Art is exhibiting art works and training future generations of artists in a space transformed by major renovations and upgrades in 2018 as it aims to become a destination in its own right.

Saturday morning, the Meridian Art Walk to historic Union Station returns near Singing Brakemen’s Park, where Earth’s Bounty features homegrown and homemade goods on the first Saturday of every month.

A block from the park, the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum at the historic Soulé Steam Feed Works preserves the tools of the early 20th Century that still draw gaping smiles from the children of the early 21st Century when those steam engines and foundry are fired up.

A few blocks from downtown, a vacant building has been leveled to make way for the Mississippi Children’s Museum-Meridian, which last week launched its #TakeFlightMississippi fundraising campaign that will allow construction on the museum to begin.

Residents of most cities would be happy to have any of those selling points, but sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the attractions in your own hometown.

We understand the need to point out flaws so they may be fixed. We’ve done that a number of times in this space ourselves. But we always try not to dwell on some romanticized lost glory days and instead look to the future.

An hour to the south of Meridian, our neighbors in Laurel have embraced the Home Town branding of the home restoration television series developed by Ben and Erin Napier.

Pay a visit and you will find, beyond the homes Ben and Erin have restored, the downtown historic buildings and storefronts have been restored, too. And, we might add, so have Laurel’s citizens.

With much community pride, shop clerks and restaurant servers will thank you a dozen times for stopping in and they’ll make recommendations to other places you will need to sample while visiting their city.

There are lessons to be learned from that hospitality.

The MAX representatives say more than 54,000 people visited the museum in its first year.

If you attend any events at the venues in Meridian mentioned above this weekend or in the future, don’t forget to thank the people you encounter for visiting your city.

Then suggest some of those other venues down the street and around the corner. Recommend a walk around Bonita Lakes or tell them to bring their bass boat next time and spend a day fishing on Okatibbee Lake.

Recommend Deli on 5th or Mimmo’s for lunch or Weidmann’s or Harvest Grill for dinner – or send them to another of your present or future favorites.

And when you’re traveling elsewhere, visiting the Coast or some other destination, and they ask you where you’re from, make sure you recommend what Meridian has to offer.

You may begin to feel better about your hometown, and the goal of attracting more visitors to Meridian will be realized.

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