Relay of Voices visits this weekend

By Sabrina Robertson – Thursday, October 10, 2019 – Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — This weekend, Natchez will be the next stop in the “Relay of Voices,” a research project of the non-profit group called A House Unbuilt.

The project is spearheaded Victoria Bradford Styrbicki — an artist, athlete and Louisiana native — who began her 2,400-mile journey along the Mississippi River on July 9 in Itasca, Minn. pedestrian-style with jogging shoes, a water bottle and a sophisticated GPS body camera worn while running.

Styrbicki and her team of support staff and regional volunteers are gathering data from Mississippi River communities for future publication as a resource to scientists, artists, policy makers and the general public, said Jennifer Ogden Combs, executive director of Visit Natchez.

Each day of Styrbicki’s journey is posted in a blog at as she collects data by interviewing key people, interacting with people various communities on the streets and studying the landscape in 100 riverside towns and cities.

Combs said Styrbicki’s team paid multiple visits to Natchez while preparing for the trip — mapping out which places to visit and which people to interact with.

“We’ve been working with these people for a year and a half,” Combs said. “They’ve been traveling up and down, working with all of the communities along the Mississippi River and targeted some of the towns they wanted to stop in and collect stories from. A year ago in April was their first visit and they fell in love with Natchez and said that they would love to be able to make Natchez one of the stops on the 2,400-mile journey.”

The group will arrive in Natchez at 11 a.m. Friday from the Natchez Trace by Liberty Road and leave Sunday morning heading toward Vidalia to continue their journey in Louisiana, Combs said.

During her stay, Styrbicki will have interviewed those with a strong connection to the river and the community, including Jim Bob Allgood of Redneck Adventures, Kathleen Bond superintendent of the Natchez National Historical Park, Jarita Frazier-King of Natchez Heritage School of Cooking and Lena McKnight of Everyday Adventure’s kayaking camps as well as people she encounters while running or getting coffee, Combs said. 

Community cyclists would welcome the group Friday by bicycling alongside them as they enter the city and ride toward the bluff with a police escort, Combs said, adding anyone who would like to join them can meet at 10:45 a.m. at the National Guard Armory.

“I’m thrilled that they chose Natchez,” Combs said. “Most of us know the significance of the river and what it has meant to Natchez over the past 303 years and before. The Native Americans and French settlers choosing this site as a strategic location has been a very important part of our economy and why we even exist today with as many historic structures as we have. … They’ve toured a lot of cities and are obviously not able to stop in every single one. This is a great opportunity for us to shine and show the vibrancy of what our community is all about.”

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