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T H E 1 7 GROUP G G R R O U P TRAVEL LE ADER T H E T he weather may be unpredictable, but these experiences are not: When cer- tain things start to happen, you know spring is on its way. It's no secret that tourism slows down after the holidays, and most travelers stay home and wait for warmer weather before hitting the road again. So when signs of spring start to appear, it marks the end of cabin fever and the beginning of travel season for groups across the country. From the shores of Alaska to baseball fields in Arizona and antebellum homes in Mississippi, spring brings an awakening of activity. Here are 10 of our favorite har- bingers of spring. Though they are not necessarily spring- themed events, each of these popular travel experiences is a sure sign that sunshine is on its way. C A C T U S L E A G U E B A S E B A L L They're known as the boys of summer, but the players of major league baseball begin their work each year at the very beginning of March during spring training. Because March is still wintry in much of the country, 15 major league teams decamp to Arizona for spring training, taking up residence at smaller ballparks in areas such as Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Much of the spring training regimen consists of exhibition games between teams. Travelers can enjoy these low-stakes contests in intimate settings by attending one of the Cactus League games in the area, which take place nightly between the beginning of March and the beginning of April. Groups can also arrange to attend training sessions during the daytime and may get chances to meet some of the professional players. N AT C H E Z S P R I N G P I L G R I M A G E Spring blossoms add one more layer of elegance and beauty to the dozens of antebellum homes that have made Natchez, Mississippi, famous. This town enjoys more than its share of gorgeous historic homes, many privately owned, and opens them to visitors twice a year for tour series known as pilgrimages. The Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez begins this year March 18 and runs through the middle of April. There are 33 homes open on the tour, some that date back as far as 1775. Each house is open on selected dates throughout that period, and groups can select from different packages of several homes each to visit. Throughout 2017, Mississippi will be celebrating its bicentennial, which will bring an added element of history and celebration to the pilgrimage. N EB R A S K A' S SA N D H I L L C R A N E M I GR AT I O N For birding enthusiasts, spring brings a chance to see throngs of majestic sandhill cranes as they travel north for the summer. Kearney, Nebraska, and other nearby destinations in the Platte River Valley see more than 500,000 birds in March and early April, when they stop in the area to eat and rest before continuing their journey farther north. Kearney bills itself as the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World and has numerous places where groups can see the birds up close. The Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary offers guided trips for visitors to see the cranes from observation blinds on the banks of the river. Visitors can also watch the birds from a bridge at Fort Kearny State Recreational Area. W H I T E WAT E R R A F T I N G In popular whitewater rafting destinations such as West Virginia's New River Gorge and the Ocoee River Artwork by Donia Simmons SPRING BRINGS BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS AND STYLISH CLOTHES TO KEENELAND RACECOURSE IN LEXINGTON. E N E R G I Z E Y O U R G RO U P W I T H O N E O F T H E S E S P R I N G H A P P E N I N G S