JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Recovery from a devastating fire in 2014 is finally coming full circle at the Ag and Forestry Museum. Friday’s groundbreaking isn’t just about what’s to come, but what was once there.
“Today we have the opportunity to celebrate beauty from ashes and a brand new beginning,” said Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson.
The fire at the Mississippi Ag and Forestry Museum happened on November 13, 2014. It started just before 5:00 that evening inside a petting barn that housed animals. After hours of fighting the fire in windy conditions, the children’s barnyard, a vet clinic and maintenance shop were all total losses.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was Ag Commissioner at that time.
“I said God was up there blowing the wind away from this building right there because it didn’t get it,” noted Hyde-Smith.
But the cleanup and recovery has been a lengthy process.
“We, for the first time in a really long time, see the light at the end of the tunnel,” explained Museum Director Aaron Rodgers.
They’ve already started building a new equipment barn. And this children barn and multipurpose building will soon take shape.
“The goal of what we are trying to do is the same goal we started with 40 years ago, and that’s to cultivate an appreciation for the past, the present and certainly the future of Mississippi’s agriculture and forestry industries,” added Rodgers.
Gipson noted that it’s also a tourism opportunity.
“Last year, even in the absence of the animals, we had 144,000 people come right here through these grounds," said Gipson. "We expect to double that with the return of the animals and the barn to the Ag Museum.”
The costs to rebuild are covered by insurance money from the 2014 fire. Construction is expected to be complete by October.