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UNVEILING HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI: A HIDDEN GEM FOR CORPORATE EVENTS, CULTURE, AND INCLUSIVITY
BY TONI WALKER

Nestled in the heart of Mississippi, Hattiesburg is a city that captivates with its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Beyond its charming southern allure, Hattiesburg proves to be an ideal destination for corporate events, offering a unique blend of meeting sites, a variety of accommodations, historical landmarks, cultural experiences, and a commitment to inclusivity that sets the stage for memorable and meaningful gatherings.

Lake Terrace Convention Center

Meeting Sites:

Hattiesburg attracts meeting and event planners with their diverse offerings, boasting an array of meeting sites equipped to cater to various needs. When it comes to planning corporate events, one notable venue is the Lake Terrace Convention Center, a state-of-the-art facility surrounded by picturesque landscapes. With versatile meeting spaces, exhibit hall, two-acre lake and terrace, this venue provides an ideal setting for large conferences and corporate functions.

The Thad Cochran Center, located at the University of Southern Mississippi, is a modern facility that offers a range of meeting spaces including a grand ballroom and technology atrium, providing a dynamic backdrop for your corporate event in collaboration with USM.

The Trent Lott National Center, also on the USM campus, is a grand building with a large center atrium, spectacular spiraling glass staircase and additional meeting space for smaller corporate functions or events.

For a unique experience, consider the Hattiesburg Zoo. Beyond its role in wildlife conservation, the zoo offers a captivating setting for team-building activities, providing a refreshing and engaging environment for your attendees. The combination of outdoor spaces and interactive exhibits makes it an engaging choice for corporate gatherings seeking a distinctive touch.

And for a touch of uniqueness, consider visiting the Historic Train Depot. This beautifully restored depot showcases the city's railroad heritage and serves as a unique venue for special events. Blending history and modernity at this site makes it an intriguing backdrop for corporate functions.

Accommodations 

There are over 3,000 plus hotel rooms with premiere properties showcasing modern amenities, pet friendly and affordable options, all conveniently located within minutes to various points of interest for your next event or conference.

Arts & Culture:

Immerse yourself in Hattiesburg's vibrant culture by exploring its artistic offerings. A hub for local creativity, galleries, studios, and performance spaces, consider incorporating an art-themed team-building activity, visiting renowned Vixon Sullivan Art, taking up a show at the iconic Saenger Theater, a beautifully restored historic performing arts venue, or organize a guided tour of the Public Art Trail, which showcases more than 100 murals and installations that celebrate diversity and creativity throughout the city. 

Cultural and Historical Sites:

For those looking to infuse their corporate event with local history, Hattiesburg has a wealth of historical sites waiting to be discovered. Explore the East 6th Street Historic Museum District, the Mobile-Bouie neighborhood that played a crucial role in the civil rights movement, which is dedicated to the history of Black people in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Many sites in the East 6th District played a pivotal role for planning meetings and fundraising events for the movement and host to many iconic leaders of that time like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hammer, Medgar Evers and Dick Gregory. Incorporating this history into your corporate event provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the work still to be done in the realm of justice and equality.

One notable and must stop is the African American Military History Museum housed in the historic Black USO Club constructed in 1942 for the purpose of providing a place for Black uniformed military personnel to congregate for recreation and relaxation. The museum provides a fascinating journey through the military contributions of African Americans service from the American Revolution and Spanish-American War, to World War ll, through modern day conflicts like Desert Storm and the Global War on Terrorism with hundreds of original artifacts on display. 

On those grounds is a monument to celebrate the contributions of our fallen heroes and the sacrifice of Gold Star Families, recognizing the parents, siblings, spouses, children and extended family left behind by the loss of a loved one who died as a result of active-duty military service. This stop provides a truly unique perspective on the city's history, offering an enriching experience that can be both educational and inspirational for inquisitive travelers fostering a connection between your corporate group and the local community.

A preservation of African American educational history, the district houses the historic Eureka School opened in 1921 as one of only two brick high schools for African Americans in the state before schools were integrated after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced public schools to desegregate.  

The Oseola McCarty house -formerly located on Miller Street and relocated to Museum Row, honors the life of Oseola Mc Carty, a washerwoman who scrimped and saved her life earnings for over 50 years to donate $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi in 1995 at the age of 87. She forever changed philanthropy at the university and left an educational legacy.

The Smith Drug Co., established in 1925 by E. Hammond Smith, was the heart of the Mobile Street commercial district that included a dentist, doctors offices, barbershops, beauty shops, grocery stores, a movie theater, ice cream parlor, restaurants, banks and even a hotel.  Smith heroically, was one of 15 men who filed a suit against the Forest County Registrar of Voters for blocking the black vote.  

Civil Rights Trail:

For the ultimate experience, take your group on the self-guided, 16 stop, audio tour that commemorates the cities journey in the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail which honors the historic role Hattiesburg played as the largest Freedom Summer site in Mississippi. Made up of 90 out of state volunteers, 3000 local participants, and 675 Freedom School students, they made history ensuring the statewide 1964 voters registration drive called Mississippi Freedom Summer, was a success; solidifying Hattiesburg's significance in the civil rights movement marked by its inclusion in the Mississippi Freedom Trail.

Local Cuisine-Highlight African American Restaurants:

No trip to Hattiesburg is complete without indulging in its delectable southern cuisine. With over 200 locally-owned restaurants to choose from and over a dozen of them Black owned, you can incorporate local flavors into your corporate event by organizing catering from a renowned Black establishment like Bourbon on Front, owned by Nelson Haskin, visionary entrepreneur, and owner of six local eateries including the Blu Jazz Cafe. This trendy establishment offers a chic atmosphere and an extensive bourbon selection and provides an ideal setting for networking and socializing during your corporate event.  For an elegant evening with vintage flair, consider including Bushman Street Cafe owned by Chef Terry Jordan, in your itinerary. This charming restaurant not only serves high-quality cuisine but also provides a cozy and intimate space for small dinner gatherings or casual meetings.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, emerges as a hidden gem not just for corporate events but as a multifaceted experience for any traveler setting the stage for an unforgettable and meaningful experience. Find a comprehensive guide to Hattiesburg's Black owned businesses here and encourage your corporate attendees to explore and support local Black-owned businesses and artists during their stay. 

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