Good ideas submitted for City branding

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Oakland Plantation

NHDDC budget supports festivals, events

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

***Note: The Horse Soldiers starring John Wayne is now showing on the Outdoor Channel***

The Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission contributes to almost all major events and festivals in Natchitoches. Last year, the NHDDC prepared for a 12 percent cutback of state funding which allowed them to continue funding most projects. This year, they are taking the same precautions. Treasurer David Stamey provided a proposed budget at the May 17 meeting. Among the issues on the proposal is continued funding for billboards south and northbound on I-49.

Van Erikson informed the commission that the area in front of Watson Library is being renovated into an additional parking lot. “It will help out with University Marketplace, which is going up in the old Neebo location as well as for the library and Starbucks.” The project should be complete by August. Photo by Hannah Richardson

The NHDDC shares costs with HDBA. Members discussed locations and the possibility of utilizing a now available double billboard near the Powhatan exit. The commission already has the top half and the bottom just became available. Stamey noted the total for administrative fees is less than 5 percent of the budget. “We have requests and responsibilities to the City, including $3,500 for monthly for maintenance of City parks,” he said. “In addition, Cane River National Heritage Area benefitted from last year’s contribution. We’re in the second year of a 2 year obligation for a full page ad in state tour guide.” The ad promotes Melrose, Los Adaes, Fort St. John Baptiste, Oakland and Grand Ecore , entities that traditionally do not have a budget for marketing. “This funding really increased their exposure last year,” Stamey said.

One event that won’t return is the Meat Pie Triathalon. “Organizers from Shreveport haven’t shown interest in continuing the event,” said NHDDC president Van Erikson. Stamey advised keeping funds available for special projects, including conventions. “We’ve traditionally been able to attract groups to town. For example the state realtor association group was here for three nights, with 300-375 people coming to town. This allows Natchitoches to be competitive in bringing the people here instead of elsewhere. Last year, the NHDDC was approved for $360,000 then got the 12 percent cut. “We got $319,165. They have that amount in House Bill 1. That is why our current total budget is at $301,000, in the event of another cut. We have to plan for it, then if we get the additional $18,000 we’ll be in a position to have the meeting we had a year and a half ago to decide how to spend it,” Stamey said. “Our portion collected is $290,000 from the hotel- motel tax with another quarter to go. Money is there, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get it. We won’t know until HB 1 is completed.”

Erikson updated the historic district marketing plan. The online submissions phase is now closed. “We got a lot of responses. There are some great ideas we’ll now sift through,” he said. The university is also looking into hiking and biking trails in the wooded property along the intersection of Hwy 1 and Hwy 6. “The City is focusing on a biking/pedestrian master plan. We’ll be working in tandem with that … as well as a proposed bike share program.” That program would include bikes outfitted with GPS and geofence for security as well as branding opportunities. Sandra Dickens reminded the group that girls weekend will be June 8-10. The HDBA is also finalizing booking entertainment for the Christmas Festival. Brochures could be available as early as July. She also announced the Pumpkin Glow will return this year in October. Carrie Mordorf with the National Park Service said approximately 400 people attended the Find Your Park event. “It was a great success for us,” she said. Oakland Plantation has also been added to the Lt. Governor’s movie trail. The movie “Horse Soldiers” starring John Wayne was filmed there. “We’ve have a vignette set up with movie items,” Mordorf said. Tourist Commission Executive Director Arlene Gould said the Christmas Festival has drawn the attention of some big names, including Ryan Seacrest, the host for Dick Clark’s Rocking Eve. “They are looking for sights for showcasing Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” she said. “We want them to look at us.” Gould said there will be fireworks, Wednesday, July 4, but no entertainment due to mid-week scheduling. The Farmer’s Market is possibly moving down to the riverbank so Front Street can remain open. “The Jefferson Highway Assn. is bringing their conference here next April,” Gould said. “The Jefferson Highway began over 100 years ago and runs from Winnipeg, Canada, to New Orleans.

APHN representative Gayle Howell announced there were over 90 vendors at the Melrose Arts and Crafts Show and they reported a good tourn out, despite inclement weather the second day. Chamber President Liz Juffin reported on one of the newest events in the City, the Education/Scholarship banquet. “It was attended by the highest achieving seniors. We gave $4,500 in scholarship funds to eight students.”