Archived Story

Forget the party, can we recover?

Published 12:03am Friday, October 12, 2012

On Dec. 31, 2016, Natchez residents better be ready for one super-sized hangover and a big clean-up bill.

The city may have a reputation for putting on parties, but if mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown comes close to accomplishing the things he has planned for Natchez’s year-long tricentennial celebration, residents will have to take at least a month off to recover.

Speaking to the Natchez Rotary Club Wednesday afternoon, Brown invoked the spirit of P.T. Barnum as he whipped-up enthusiasm for the city’s 300th anniversary.

“It is going to be a big, big show,” Brown said. “On New Year’s Eve 2016, it is going to be something that has never been done before.”

A normal year isn’t big enough for what Brown has in mind for Natchez and its visitors. Thankfully 2016 is a leap year giving the town one more day to celebrate.

“It’s going to be a 366-day party,” Brown said. “The goal is to fill up this city, every room, every night for 366 days.”

Brown admits it’s a big, big task — the biggest task he will ever be a part of. But he and a committee of people headed up by Natchez resident Mike Gemmell are not letting the size of the task deter them.

Forget those usual 18-hole golf tournaments. Natchez plans to host a 300-hole golf tournament.

A 300-mile antique car road race complete with “Amazing Race” like tasks is in the works for the Natchez Trace.

Those are just two of the events planned for 2016.

Of course, there are other events for which Natchez is already well-known, like the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, Angels on the Bluff and the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

But that is not enough, Brown said.

“This thing of having people in our city for meetings and not having anything to do has been a problem for us,” Brown said.

One way to do that is have something happening every day of the year, which Brown plans to do.

Another way is to create things for people to see and do — things that are more lasting.

Brown calls them “legacy projects.” They include converting the old Broadway Street train depot into a farmer’s market and the old pecan factory site into demonstration gardens. Restoring the bluffs and celebrating all 366 sunsets like they do in Key West, Fla., is another legacy project.

“We will have fire eaters and sword swallowers to entertain people.”

Tamale wagons, food and wine carts, even Lucky Dogs from New Orleans will be on hand to feed the crowd.

The most challenging of projects may be Brown’s plan to create a sightseeing train ride.

“We want to reconstruct the rail line from the trail head on Broadway Street such that we can have a sightseeing train from Natchez to Jefferson Military College and back three to four times a day,” Brown said. “This is going to be a major challenge.”

Of course, such legacy projects and a year-long celebration will not come with a small price tag.

“Where will the money come from? The money, we hope will come from those who come to Natchez,” Brown said. “Build it and they will come.”

Surcharges for use of the convention center and hotel rooms are just a few of the options being considered.

That remains to be seen.

Whether Brown’s plans for 2016 are a success or failure, my bet is that residents will need more than a couple of Aspirin when it is over.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.