By Hannah Richardson
Members of the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) had their last virtual Zoom meeting Thursday, April 15, as they will be back to meeting in person to discuss upcoming events in the city of Natchitoches beginning next month. Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:
April 17-24- National Park Week
April 22 – Citywide Cleanup for Earth Day from 9-11 a.m.
April 23- Natchitoches Steel Band Concert on riverbank stage at 6:30 p.m.
April 24- Benton High School Band Concert on riverbank stage at 6:30 p.m.
April 24-July 31- Natchitoches Farmers Market on Saturdays
April 27- NSU Symphony Concert on riverbank stage at 7 p.m.
April 29- Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce’s Crave
May 2- British Brass Band on riverbank stage
May 2-8- Sale on the Trail
May 7- National Travel and Tourism Week celebration at 2 p.m.
May 8, 15, 22 and 29- Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame “Olympic Glory” lectures
May 22- Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival at downtown Natchitoches June and July- Natchitoches Parish Library’s Summer Reading Program
June 18- Lady Bass Anglers Tournament
June 25- Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony Concert
July 3- Fourth of July Fireworks
Aug. 27- Hall of Fame 2021 Induction Ceremony Concert
The first item on the agenda was the NHDDC budget and how the commission plans to allocate their funds. The most significant check that was written this month was to the City of Natchitoches in the amount of $50,000, the same the commission has done every year. This amount goes towards the city’s horticulturist and assistant, landscaping materials, the Roque House and Beau Jardin gardens and the Natchitoches Farmers Market. Treasurer Payne Williams also went over what next year’s budget will look like.
“This past year with Covid restrictions, not all of the events were able to occur,” he said. “Therefore, we are going to have an amount that will carry over and we’ll have a better idea of what that exact amount is for next month’s meeting. To continue as we’ve done in the past in regards to certain events we’ve funded for the last several years is to see what events will occur this next year. We’re hopeful that a lot of them are, but at this point we’re still waiting. One we know for sure is the Jazz Fest.”
Williams said they are going to most likely propose a similar budget they have had for the last two years in the hopes these events will still go on. One item they are interested in bringing back is something they have practiced in the past, and that is façade grants. This is when commercial entities that have contributing structures in the historic district and are able to apply for grants in regards to their facades, which includes certain types of work that would need to be approved by the commission. Williams said they are thinking about taking $10,000 out of the special projects fund and put into a separate line item for this, which would be matched by the Cane River National Heritage Area (CRNHA). There are certain factors that need to be fleshed out due to an application process and a committee to oversee submissions.
“This is something we’ve seen in the past and we would like to see come back so we can help certain commercial entities in regards to improving their commercial establishments,” said Williams. A proposed budget will be presented at the May meeting. Chair and Northwestern State University’s Director of Recruiting Vanner Erikson said they are wrapping up the spring semester at NSU and are looking forward to the next years. Prospective numbers look great for incoming freshman, with numbers 15% higher than last year. Summer camps are still occurring, with some being in person and some virtually. Erikson said they are happy these camps are still happening but still have to consider the ever-present Covid protocols. The university will host six commencement ceremonies May 5-7.
Jill Leo spoke on behalf of the Natchitoches Historic Foundation (NHF), and shared from President Terry Cunningham that they will host a membership event at the Roque House Sunday, May 2 from 5-7 p.m. There are many good things happening with the historic house on the riverbank, such as renovations, which is cause to celebrate. Leo, who serves as director of Main Street, shared several events dates and times for the people of Natchitoches Parish to keep in mind (See schedule).
Leo also mentioned bringing some live music downtown on the weekends of July. With July 4 falling on a Sunday this year, the downtown celebration and fireworks will be Saturday, July 3. They are also working with Shane Rasmussen who oversees the annual Folk Festival, which will be different this year, bringing events to the sports museum for the six Saturdays this summer. There will be unplugged musical sets in the afternoon on these Saturdays.
There will be more details released as they become available. Arlene Gould, executive director of the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, made a reminder on National Travel and Tourism Week May 2-8 with a small celebration at Fort St. Jean Baptiste Friday May 7. The Louisiana CVB will host their annual statewide meeting in Natchitoches in November. Rebecca Blankenbaker, director of the CRNHA, had news from Fort Jesup State Historic Site near Many, who will host a mother-daughter historic tea the Saturday of the Sale on the Trail weekend. Contact the Sabine Parish Tourism office to register. The Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Toledo Bend will host their annual spring Powwow April 23-24 which is open to the public.
The CRNHA noted an uptick in road tripping tourism in the city lately due to spring break. April 17-24 is also National Park Week. In light of this event, the National Park Service will be launching a new cutting-edge mobile application, which all 400+ national parks will be featured in.
The CRCNHP also launched a new social media series titled “Train Depot Tuesdays,” which can be found on their Facebook and other social media websites. Maggie Matuschka with the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce said their recent Home and Garden Expo event was a great success, with over 350 attendees and 30 vendors and industries on-site. Their next event, Crave, will take place Thursday, April 29, with over a dozen teams already registered.