By Courtney Warren
With a smile on her face and a heart to help others, May Vaughn McCarty has returned to Canton as the new Canton Tourism Executive Director.
McCarty is a graduate from the University of Mississippi, and, after graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi, she earned a master’s in public relations and communications. It was then that McCarty started to realize what she’d like to do with her future.
“I did not get involved in tourism until we moved to Greenwood in 2014. After we moved there, I was eventually hired as the marketing manager for The Alluvian Hotel and hospitality group, including the hotel, The Alluvian Spa, the yoga studio (Studio A Yoga), the Viking Cooking School, and Giardina’s restaurant. In addition to managing the marketing and advertising efforts, I also managed various special and seasonal events for each of the entities within the hotel group,” she said.
While working there until 2017, McCarty served on the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, which was her first experience in the tourism industry.
It was through her role at the hotel that she also became heavily involved as a volunteer at the local Chamber of Commerce, a valuable community partner with both the hospitality and tourism industries. She eventually went to work for the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce and the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation (a dual role) as their Membership and Special Projects Coordinator.
McCarty’s love for event planning has local roots and began with Cantonian Susie Morgan.
“My passion for event planning came at an early age, when I would help local event planner extraordinaire, Susie Morgan, with some of her weddings when I was still in junior high and high school growing up in Canton. She would create these magical events for the happiest day of someone’s life, and I would be in awe and so happy to be a small part of it.
“Growing up, I also had the best examples of how to be a good hostess through all the women in my family, particularly my grandmother. I really didn’t grow up knowing I would be a marketing person one day or with dreams of being in the tourism industry. But I knew, no matter what I ended up doing, it had to be where I could be around lots of different people in a super social atmosphere, which you definitely get being in tourism and event planning,” she said.
The Christmas season is just another area where McCarty shines, and to begin as director shortly before the holidays was a dream for her.
“I love anything where I get to be creative and anything that has to do with planning and organizing, hosting, food, decorating and design, music, and, of course, Christmas. I’m a huge Christmas nut. I planned my own wedding in December, which, of course, I asked Susie Morgan to help with. It was magical and exceeded all my expectations.
“It sounds cliché, but it really was a day I’ll never forget, thanks to her. No matter what I’m planning, I just want to give people that same experience. Whether it’s my son’s birthday party, a friend’s baby shower, family gatherings, or the Canton Christmas festival… I want them to enjoy every minute and remember how they felt because of it. That’s how I want people to feel about their time in Canton,” she said.
Canton is home for McCarty, and she’s thrilled to bring that magic to citizens. She was born and raised here, went to school here, and even married Tripp McCarty, another Cantonian and now the headmaster of Canton Academy. The two of them have a silly, giggly son named Stock.
“It’s home. I’ve been gone a long time, almost eighteen years. I’ve lived in a lot of different towns and traveled a ton while I could. There really is no place like home. And now I get to not only work in my hometown but for my hometown. What could be more motivating,” she said.
With events such as the Flea Market, the Christmas Festival and parade, as well as the movies that were filmed here when she was growing up, McCarty is driven to keep Canton shining bright.
“It’s the coolest feeling that I now get to be a part of that and call it work. Canton is already on the map, thanks to the phenomenal past leadership of Jana and JoAnn Gordon. It’s my job to keep it there. I know I have big shoes to fill,” she said.
With those big shoes to fill, McCarty said she is incredibly grateful for the team she has alongside her.
“I’m so eager to learn more. Fortunately, I have the absolute best teacher beside me in JoAnn. What an unbelievable gift to have her experience and knowledge at my fingertips,” she said.
“I can honestly say, the thought of coming on board with less than three weeks before the festival was daunting. I was a bit of a deer in headlights coming to work that first day. But truthfully, after day one on the job, any doubts or fears I had about whether I could handle it were put to rest when I realized who I get to work with. “Team” is the operative word. I’ve never seen a better effort. From the staff to the city and county, CMU, our police and sheriff’s departments, the merchants… it’s inspiring; and I’m so proud to be associated with them all. I hope our small town understands how lucky we are to have each of them.”
“The support I’ve felt is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. To have that vote of confidence from so many is overwhelming. I have the best village, and I just hope I make them as proud as they’ve made me,” she said.
With the team assembled and ready to make Canton the best place it can be, McCarty had a few final words she wanted to make sure were mentioned.
“My husband is usually the one being interviewed or speaking for his job, and he never fails to mention me for my support. I just want to return the sentiment, while I have the opportunity, to say how very lucky I am to have him by my side during so much new in our lives. He’s been great,”she said.
Be sure to stop by Canton Tourism to meet May, revisit with May, or see what’s going on in Canton.