Christmas parade will move to morning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 1999

For the last nine years, Marilyn Jackson has volunteered to plan the Natchez Christmas parade, which has taken place on a Saturday evening in December. But this year the Natchez Downtown Development Association has the permit for the downtown parade, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

The switch comes after Jackson said she refused to move the parade to the morning.

&uot;I don’t know where they’re coming from,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;(The parade) has always been where it is.&uot;

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Jackson, a local businesswoman, said she was asked by Natchez&160;Police Chief Willie Huff and NDDA Director Tammi Mullins to change the parade time.

Mullins said her interest in the parade is based on merchants’ interests.

Having the parade at night, she said, means cars have to be off downtown streets by 2 p.m. – which hurts merchants trying to attract holiday shoppers.

&uot;At Christmas, from 2 to 5 p.m. is the best shopping time,&uot; she said.

But Jackson said the parade traditionally begins with the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree.

&uot;You always start the parade when the tree is lit,&uot; she said. &uot;You can’t see the tree lit up in the daytime.&uot;

Huff said he was willing to give a morning parade a chance for at least this year because many merchants would rather have a morning parade.

Huff said he tried to reach a compromise on the parade time.

&uot;Marilyn has worked hard to make sure the parade comes back,&uot; he said.

Huff said he is also concerned about the safety factor of a family parade at night.

&uot;I’m concerned anytime there’s a parade after dark,&uot; Huff said.

The only other nighttime parade, one of the Mardi Gras parades, occurs around dusk, he said.

Jackson said she was told she would have to buy liability insurance in order to hold the parade.

Huff said all downtown parades, except patriotic parades such as today’s Veterans Day parade and the Memorial Day parade, now have to have liability insurance.

Downtown merchants polled Wednesday have mixed opinions on the proper time for the parade, but many said either time would hurt their business.

&uot;Whether it hurts my business or not doesn’t matter,&uot; said Dianne Kirby, owner of Dianne’s Frame Shop on Franklin Street. &uot;It’s for the kids.&uot;

Kirby said she’d rather have a nighttime parade because she sees more shoppers in the morning.

But Darby Short, owner of Darby’s Gifts and Accessories on Main Street, said she would rather have a morning parade because a night parade is dangerous for children.

&uot;It’s always been too dangerous,&uot; Short said. &uot;We have talked about this for years.

&uot;By the time Santa comes, the kids are in the dark.&uot;

Short said she thinks a morning parade will hurt business less than a night parade.

Hal Garner, owner of Hal H. Garner Antiques on Franklin Street, said he would rather see the Christmas parade at night because day parades disrupt business more than nighttime parades do.

A night Christmas parade is also more festive and theatrical, he said.

Jackson said she began volunteering to plan the parade because she had young children and wanted to give something back to the community.

And although Jackson said she won’t take part in this year’s parade, she said the controversy hasn’t soured her on the meaning of the holidays.

&uot;The real meaning of Christmas is doing and giving for others,&uot; she said.