People fill the Tupelo Automobile Museum on Sunday to get one final look at Frank Spain’s car collection on the museum’s final day.

TUPELO – The All-America City will be bursting at the seams this weekend with thousands of visitors.

First, there's the two-day auction of the contents of the Tupelo Automobile Museum. As of Tuesday, more than 400 people had registered as bidders. While many of them will come from the area, others will be out-of-town guests who will be buying auto museum memorabilia and vehicles as well as spending money in local hotels and restaurants.

"It's already going to be a busy weekend with the auction, and on top of that, we have two other events going on at the same time," said Neal McCoy, executive director the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

The city is playing host to a youth baseball tournament as well as the 2019 USTA Southern Adult 65 & Over Mississippi Championship.

The Tupelo Automobile Museum auction, however, has grabbed the most attention with contents valued in the millions up for grabs.

"We'll have probably some out-of-towners just to observe the auction, but I think most of the out-of-towners are mostly there to buy," McCoy said. "That'll just add to what Tupelo has as a hustling, bustling city. If you try to move through the city, particularly on Friday and Saturdays in the downtown and mall areas, traffic really picks up. And it's welcome – we're not complaining at all."

What the  economic impact of the auction itself will provide is unknown. State sales tax will be applied to sales of cars that will be registered in the state. Cars sold and to be registered out of state will pay taxes in those states.

But the city will receive a financial boost from the auction as museum owner Jane Smith will pay off the balance of a $3.2 million loan from the city that was used to build the facility.

"Once we get the funds, I'll be able to pay off the loan," Spain said. "We will have paid over $6 million back on that loan." 

Spain hopes someone will buy the 120,000-square-foot museum once that transaction is complete.

"I want it to turn into something useful," Spain said.

Meanwhile, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have shown interest in the auction at the Tupelo Automobile Museum. Bonhams, which is conducting the auction, and the museum have been selling catalogs to prospective buyers. More than 1,000 have been printed, and each catalog comes with two passes to the auction. While many catalogs have been sold to people just curious about the event and who have no plans to attend the two-day auction, officials are prepared for a big turnout nevertheless.

And there will be the curious hoping to get a look at the cars and perhaps a sighting of some of the rich and famous who could potentially attend the auction.

"We're preparing for the potential of 4,000 people, if not more, for the auction," said auto museum director of collections Stephen Mancuso.

And even before the auction, Mancuso had more than 40 appointments with people wanting to see the collection.

"They flew in specifically to see the cars," he said. Two from England recently came to view some cars.

Prospective bidders from across the U.S., as well as Italy, Vietnam and Russia also have called to get more information about the cars and auction.


Anticipating the crowds for the auction, the CVB is lending its shuttle buses to the museum to carry people from the BancorpSouth Arena to the museum. The CVB has been meeting weekly with museum officials to work out logistics.

"Their building isn't designed to receive that many people at once, and luckily we have the arena, which doesn't have an event , and they're allowing people to park," McCoy said.

The Tupelo Police Department, Tupelo Public Works and the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association also are working with the museum and CVB to help the auction go as smooth as possible.

And then there are the other events happening at the same time.

For the baseball tournament, some 60 teams will be playing through the weekend, and some 1,200 people – including players, coaches, parents and supporters – will be in town. The tennis tournament is expected to bring 350 to 400 people.

The CVB has done what it can to advise area restaurants and hotels about the busy weekend ahead, McCoy said.

"Hopefully they're signed up to get our newsletter to let them know what's happening each weekend," he said. "We've kind of said this will be a high-traffic weekend. Saturday will be the big day for the auction, which is good from the standpoint that it is typically a slower day downtown, and you'll have all the people there."

Twitter: @dennisseid

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