By Hannah Richardson, Lifestyleeditor@natchitochestimes.com
The Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) met via Zoom Thursday, July 16 to discuss upcoming Natchitoches events and attractions and their respective projects. While several agenda items discussed are still up in the air, the fate of a few events has been decided and members of the commission are readying for what’s to come in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
Chair Van Erikson had an update on the #GoNatchitoches commercials. Videographer Zack Breaux has been working on getting shots of different attractions for them. The next one will be released soon, then one will cater to young adults and the next will have a “girls weekend” theme. They hope to have them released monthly.
Erikson, recently named the Director of Admissions at NSU, presented a reminder of the return-to-campus framework, which was announced earlier this month. The fall semester plans begin Aug. 17 and classes will be offered through several modalities, including face-to-face, online and in hybrid format with an emphasis on social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “I assure you that all proper precautions, CDC guidelines are all being followed. It’ll just look a lot different,” said Erikson. The university will still go forward with smaller events so students will be involved in regular college experiences, just in social distancing style.
Sandra Dickens of the Historic District Business Association (HDBA) said they are still planning for their regular events but there will be a lot of changes.
Carrie Mardorf of the National Park Service (NPS) said that the parks are still in Phase One, but they will be entering a modified Phase One Sunday, July 19, opening open-air buildings and exhibits at Magnolia and Oakland Plantations. They are continuing with their events, including a painting class Saturday, July 18 that reached maximum occupancy and a stargazing event set for Friday, July 31 at Oakland. The hot yoga class July 25 has been cancelled.
Arlene Gould with the Tourist Commission said there are plans for a virtual Folk Festival, which would usually be in Prather Coliseum this month, but a date has not been set. It has been confirmed this week that the Natchitoches Zydeco Festival has been cancelled, and plans for the Meat Pie Festival are still being discussed but organizers are unsure if it will happen. Sale on the Trail, promoting travel from Natchitoches to Nacogdoches, will still occur at the end of the month but Sabine Parish had to pull out. Gould shared some economic impact numbers at the meeting, referring to data shared by the research office of the Louisiana Office of Tourism. The Crossroads Region, or central Louisiana, has a loss of over $7.9 million economic impact from cancelled and postponed events with a total of:
· Festivals/Events loss of $1,962,384
· Meetings/Conventions loss of $2,184,205
· Sports loss of $3,785,226
The economic impact for Natchitoches Parish had over an estimated $997,000-nearly $1 million economic impact loss from cancelled or postponed festivals/events. A calculated total loss of over $760 million economic impact statewide for Louisiana, which continues to increase weekly, has been reported.
Rebecca Blankenbaker of the Cane River National Heritage Area (CRNHA) said the Grand Ecore Visitor Center is still closed, and the Los Adaes site is still open. Physical improvements to the building are complete and they are working on new exhibits, with local artist Annabel Jones working on a new mural in the building. They will host a Coffee and Conversation program July 25 at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live with historian Robin Cole-Jett.
Terri Cunningham with the Natchitoches Historic Foundation (NHF) said they are planning to go full steam ahead with the American Cemetery Tour Oct. 9. The student tours will most likely not occur this year, but they might begin the tour a little earlier in the day. They are still working on plans for the Christmas Tour of Homes.
The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) will combine the Fall Tour of Homes with their Arts and Crafts Festival and tours at Melrose Plantation can still be scheduled.
Jill Leo of Main Street had a follow up on the Fourth of July event, saying they were thankful for continuing the event and there were around 500 attending. KTBS broadcast the fireworks show, stating there were over 17,000 views from the ARK-LA-TEX area. Leo said several front street businesses and restaurants were grateful for the event as well.
As for other events, TappedTober is moving forward, the Car Show is on the books and the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony have their first concert of the season scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 26 on the downtown riverbank stage. Beau Jardin is also picking up on wedding plans; several are being scheduled for the next few months.
City Chief of Staff Edd Lee said the decking for the pavilion roof on the Jefferson Street Park has been completed. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is available to help dedicate the park in October, the weekend of the Car Show. The printing of Christmas Festival brochures are underway. They will be generic and simple due to the uncertainty of the future, but any updates can be found on www.natchitoches.com.