Locals get a musical treat
NATCHEZ — The Christmas season kicked off Thursday with what Regina Charboneau described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In the next year, the American Queen steamboat will be in Natchez more weeks than it is not — 29 times in all — but will not be open to the public.
But Thursday, with the first Christmas in Natchez event, the steamboat was open to the public, and locals who would not normally board the boat were able to attend a classical-and-jazz fusion concert by the Annie Moses Band in the Queen’s Grand Saloon.
Charboneau is the Chef de Cuisine on board the American Queen, and by working with the boat’s management, she had been able to book the band for the Christmas in Natchez event a year in advance.
The original plan for the concert, however, was for the concert to be at the gazebo in the Natchez bluff.
“A couple of days ago, (the boat’s management) said they thought it would be possible to move the concert onto the boat, that we could easily accommodate 125 in the Grand Saloon,” Charboneau said. “They thought it would be a great opportunity for people to see the boat — it was a last minute decision, and a good one.”
While the event organizers knew about the slight change of venue in advance, Charboneau said they decided not to advertise it for safety reasons. Those who showed up for the free concert on the bluff were directed or shuttled to Natchez Under-the-Hill and given a bracelet to board the boat.
Once on board, to get to the saloon, local concert-goers had to walk the length of the Queen and take in the sights and sounds of travel from another era.
Among those who attended were Cindy and Glenn Etheridge, who said the concert combined with the location made for a memorable day.
“They could have made big bucks for that event,” Cindy said. “It was wonderful, fantastic, and it makes me want to take a cruise on the boat. We will never forget this Thanksgiving.”
For those who weren’t able to make the concert, Christmas in Natchez will continue on land at 5 p.m. today with a turkey gumbo cook-off downtown. The Natchez Christmas tree lighting ceremony will follow at 7 p.m.
And while the Christmas in Natchez committee has many events planned, Charboneau said the success of the events depends on the community.
“We can make these events, but the community has to come,” she said. “Fortunately, Natchez is very good about that.”