Hannah Richardson | Lifestyle Editor
Members of the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission (NHDDC) met briefly Thursday, Sept. 16 at the City Council Chambers to discuss details on upcoming events in the parish. We will see the beginning of fall this coming Wednesday, and it’s looking like this season will be filled with tons of festivals and activities, but as always these days, Covid-19 still threatens to postpone and even cancel upcoming events. We will keep up with these events and let the community know of any changes.
The largest check the NHDDC signed in August was to the City of Natchitoches for $60,000. The funds are for the City’s horticulturist, Tim Murchinson, and downtown’s landscaping, greenhouse and overall maintenance to help make, and keep, the city of Natchitoches beautiful.
Chair Jill Leo shared event news from the Natchitoches Main Street office. “Once we hit October, we are running,” said Leo. ‘It should be a good fall.”
Parish President John Richmond shared an agenda item for Monday’s City Council Meeting for the public to be aware of, discussing the Louisiana Watershed Initiative and the Water Sector Program. “We have about a dozen small, rural water systems that took a beating during the freeze. They were fragile enough to begin with,” said Richmond. “We are able to leverage our American Rescue Plan money and take about $1.2 million of that, leverage it with state money and cover the funding gaps that these water districts have.” Richmond said if the council approves it, they would take this money (that can’t be used for anything other than water, sewage and drainage) and be able to leverage around $7 million worth of work. This would affect around 3,500 rural residents in the parish.
Van Erikson, Director of Recruiting at Northwestern State University, said they were in the thick of things right now at the university. The first home football game is this weekend, Sept. 18, at Turpin Stadium at 6 p.m. against TN-Martin. They are in the midst of their volleyball and soccer seasons, with basketball and tennis seasons on the way. Recruiters are all over the state telling prospective students about NSU. Erikson mentioned some big events on the way, including a Counselors Preview Day, Oct. 16; NSU Homecoming, Oct. 23; and N-Side View Day, Nov. 6. “It’s good to be busy like this again, which was not the case last year when everything was cancelled. It feels good to be back on the road and spreading good things about Northwestern,” said Erikson. Also mentioned was that NSU’s Greek Centennial, which was to be in conjunction with homecoming Oct. 21-22, has been postponed to April 8-9, 2022. It will now be in tandem with NSU’s Flavor of Louisiana event.
Sandra Dickens with the Historic District Business Association (HDBA) shared that the Car Show will be Oct. 1-2. There will be a few streets closed that weekend to make room for the anticipated 400 cars. On Friday, streets will be closed from Touline to St. Denis, leaving Church Street open. On Saturday, street closures include the riverbank, Front Street and Second Street (from the Natchitoches Parish Library to Church Street).
The annual community scarecrow competition, Crows on the Cane, will be taking submissions starting Oct. 8. All businesses, organizations and families are encouraged to participate. The pumpkin decorating contest, Pumpkin Glow, is Oct. 28 on the downtown riverbank. Christmas season kicks off with Turn on the Holidays Nov. 20. Plans are moving forward with Festival Day and the parade Dec. 4.
New this year will be Gospel Night on the riverbank Dec. 10. Festivities and Fireworks for Christmas will be on the eve, Friday, Dec. 24. Another fireworks show will be that next Friday, Dec. 31, on New Year’s Eve. Dickens mentioned that having carolers bringing Christmas cheer is in the works.
Rebecca Blankenbaker, Executive Director of the Cane River National Heritage Area (CRNHA), said the GoNatchitoches app downloads are up to 4,298. The Heritage Area’s Grant Program application process can be found on their website at canerivernhs.org/grant-program. The grant period opened Sept. 27 and letters of intent must be submitted by Oct. 8.
Blankenbaker shared the unfortunate news that the Fall Festival at Oakland set for October has been cancelled to avoid a large gathering. But the good news is that the festival’s activities have been broken up for every Saturday in October: Oct. 8 from 6:30-9 p.m. is Astronomy Night at Magnolia Plantation, Oct. 16 from 10-11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. is Kids Craft Day with Annabel Jones at Oakland Plantation, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. is an open plantation homecoming with demonstrations, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the big house at Oakland, and on Oct. 30 will be a petting zoo day in conjunction with Main Street’s Witch Way to Main Street.
Arlene Gould, Executive Director for the Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, shared that things are starting to pick back up in the city. She mentioned Oct. 1 is Clementine Hunter Day.
Several groups will be visiting Natchitoches in the coming months: LA Bass Nation Youth Fishing Tournament – Oct. 2 Louisiana Bar Association – Oct. 21 Many Faces of Louisiana (bus group) – Oct. 22-23 Sunrise Tour Mystery Trip (bus group) – October date TBD Louisiana Parish Engineers and Supervisors Association (LPESA) – Nov. 3-4 King Kat Fishing Tournament Nov. 4-6 Southwest Bonanza Society (fly-in) – Nov. 19-21 Neihart Tours (bus tour)- Nov 30–Dec. 2 CNB Bank Travel – Dec. 1-3 Making Memories Tour – Dec. 3-5 Pearson Travel – Dec. 8 LA Municipal Clerks Association – Dec. 8-10 Louisiana Assessors Association – Dec. 6 Terri Cunningham with the Natchitoches Historic Foundation (NHF) said that the American Cemetery Tour has been postponed to the late spring.
The Christmas Tour of Homes is set for Dec. 9-11 and 16-18. Tickets can be purchased at www.natchitocheshf.com. Homes for the tours have not been named yet. Gayle Howell with the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) said the Melrose Folk Art Festival is still scheduled for Oct. 9 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Oct. 10 (10 a.m.- 4 p.m.), with a rain date the following weekend. There are 21 vendors so far, ranging from paintings to crafted birdhouses and more. For vendor information, visit www.melroseplantation.org.
Laura Lyles with the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce announced a new event, Coffee and Constitutional Amendments. It will be Tuesday, Sept. 21 from 2-3 p.m. at City Park and guests will learn how constitutional amendments #1 and #2 on the Nov. 13 ballot will impact the tax climate. The guest speaker will be Stephen Waguespack, President and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 cohort of Leadership Natchitoches, an immersive learning program for leaders in the community that engages and activates these individuals to effect change in Natchitoches Parish. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31, apply at natchitocheschamber.com/leadership. The Chamber will also host a new gala, the Thrive Gala, Dec. 9. It will serve as a fundraiser for the Chamber’s initiatives.
Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams said that while we were able to dodge two hurricanes the past few weeks, he was glad to see so many community organizations go out to help those in need and donate supplies. He said they want to push out information regarding citizens to get the vaccine. “Rates under 5% are considered under control… we are not under 5%,” said Williams. Prayer with the Mayor events will begin Thursday, Sept. 23 from 7:30-7:45 a.m. at the City office, concerning Covid-19, vaccines and the recent crimes and acts of violence. They are also in the process of applying for several grants to go towards the city.