Lance Clay likes to try new ideas and provide group trip opportunities that others haven’t tried or offered in the past.
The Vice President of Trek Travel Programs is constantly collaborating with travel enthusiasts and community groups, and his newest offering — the Pioneer Woman Mercantile Tour — is one that really has drawn interest from many all over the state of Mississippi.
Clay has partnered with the Oxford Park Commission to offer this trip for May 16-20.
The genesis of Pioneer Woman dates back to the requests Clay received from those who traveled on day trips to Laurel to visit the site of Home Town. The popular HGTV series, starring Ole Miss graduates Erin and Ben Napier, has been the network’s newest hit, but Mississippians who loved visiting Laurel wanted more.
“HGTV has exploded in popularity over the last three to five years and what has helped locally in Mississippi is Home Town in Laurel; but Chip and Joanna Gaines have always been the stars of that network,” Clay said. “We had had several calls from groups and travel clubs, parks and rec groups, that had been to Laurel for the day trip that had a desire to visit Waco, Texas and see the Silo market that Chip and Joanna created.”
Clay used the requests as motivation, and once he finally got a little downtime, he got to work and came up with the idea of a “circle tour” which included the destination of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the home of the Food Network’s Ree Drummond, and then a stop at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. For those that aren’t as familiar with the art museum, it was established by Alice Walton and it opened to the public in 2011.
Clay called the Pioneer Woman Tour “a 3-for-3 win” because it brought so many great destinations and sites together. When Clay first started promoting the trip to groups in the metro Jackson area, the first bus was full and a waitlist had been created in the span of three weeks.
“Now we have 13 on that waiting list and looking to try and get 80 so we can take that second bus. There is a huge popularity with Chip and Joanna in Waco. We thought this would be a tour people would gravitate towards, a very fun, relaxing tour,” said Clay, who has partnered with local tour guides lined up in Waco and Pawhuska to enhance the tour.
“We pride ourselves to have the local flavor. We’ve done an Oxford and Ole Miss day trip for our groups from Central Mississippi, and the first call I make is to the Visit Oxford office and I line up a local guide to be with us for at least half the day to really bring the campus and city to life. We do that with all of our big trips. We are going to have step-on guides in both Waco and Pawhuska with us to really bring those trips to life. That’s a big part of what we do as well.”
And for those who have questions about safety in relation to COVID-19, Clay said that everything operates by the CDC guidelines.
“Our No. 1 priority is safety and health at Trek Travel programs,” Clay said. “We’ve probably operated almost 12 trips since March of 2021. There has been a combination of student and senior adult trips, but most are senior adult trips. I’ve made a point leading up to the trips to not have any cases, but also after the trip was over to make sure that there were no outbreaks at that point. I’m proud to say that we have not had one outbreak of a COVID-19 case contracted by the result of being on tour.”
If you’re interested in taking part in the Pioneer Woman Trip, register online at https://www.trektravelprograms.com/register-make-a-payment.