MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - We're about four months away from the projected grand opening of one of the biggest projects in downtown Meridian within recent years. To prepare for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, more work is being done in the area.
In fact, city officials started replacing a key stretch of sidewalk that's near the 22nd Avenue and Front Street intersection earlier this week. The work is being done for a big unveiling ceremony that will take place later this month. Some celebrities and their families are set to attend.
"John Grisham, the great author from Mississippi will be here," says MAEX President and CEO, Mark Tullos. "Leontyne Price, the great opera singer out of New York from Laurel, Mississippi, her brother will be here. Just a lot of stars that people will want to honor."
Tullos is talking about the new additions for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center's Walk of Fame that will be unveiled within less than two weeks.
"We also have a Jim Henson star going in too, and his daughter, Cheryl, is flying in from Los Angeles to join us," says Tullos. "So, we're going to have a lot of celebrities here on this coming weekend on the 16th."
"We're excited,"says Laura Carmichael, who is the Cultural Affairs Director for the City of Meridian. "This work is all in an effort to beautify our downtown area, to make it pretty and we're really excited to be a part of that,"
City leaders and MAEX officials are optimistic that all of the time, effort and money that's being put into the new center will be worth it. According to them, a major benefit is the fact that many of the artists who are being recognized in the MAEX have had a major worldwide impact. They say this will ultimately attract people who are not only from Mississippi, but from around the world.
"We anticipate at least 150,000 visitors in the first year," says Tullos. "I think that's conservative for the first year because we've got 14 million people that go up that interstate every year, and if we can get those people off the interstate and into downtown spending money in our restaurants and spending the night in our hotels, we're going to really fly."
The six new stars on the MAEX's Walk of Fame will be unveiled during a ceremony on December 16th at 1:30 PM. It will take place near the 22nd Avenue and Front Street intersection. The public is invited to attend.