Prepare to make way for annual downtown Christmas tree

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 21, 2000

The City of Natchez has Sarah Waycaster to thank for its downtown Christmas tree this year. At least Sarah’s husband, Roy, thinks so. &uot;You’ll have to thank my wife,&uot; he said matter-of-factly. &uot;She’s the one who donated it.&uot;

For years, Sarah has been concerned about how close the more than 30-foot cedar was to their home on Lindberg Avenue.

Waycaster said he underestimated how large the tree would grow when he planted it as a sapling from a Wilkinson County farm almost 25 years ago.

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&uot;I was going to cut it down, but I’m not as young as I used to be,&uot; he said &uot;She didn’t want me cutting it down by myself.&uot;

Instead, Waycaster will supervise today as city public works crews ease his wife’s constant worries by cutting down the evergreen and transplanting it in the middle of Main and Commerce streets.

While he is glad to be rid of the tree — and Sarah’s worrying — Waycaster admitted it will be strange driving around the tree that shaded his backyard for so many years.

Tammi Mullins, Natchez Downtown Development Association executive director, said the tree’s odd location is a contributing factor to its charm.

&uot;That’s what makes it so special,&uot; she said. &uot;People always comment on it. They say ‘Oh yeah, Natchez, y’all put your Christmas tree in the middle of the street.’&uot;

Jimmy Fredericks, sports and news director for First Natchez Radio, is coordinating the activities surrounding the city’s Christmas tree this year.

&uot;I’ve always wondered, why put a big tree in the middle of the intersection?&uot; Fredericks said. &uot;But apparently if we didn’t, there would be a riot in the street.&uot;

While the location may the same, another holiday tradition surrounding the city’s tree was uprooted this year.

A recent moratorium on traffic light solicitations prevented Natchez Kiwanis from raising money for the tree and local charities by collecting donations at city intersections.

Though funds carried over from years past should cover the cost of this year’s tree, Kiwanis President Doug Nigreville said there will not be enough left over for donations to the Salvation Army and other organizations. &uot;I think we’re going to be OK this year, but I don’t know what we’re going to do next year,&uot; he said.

Nigreville said he is confident any problems with traffic light solicitations will be settled before next year’s drive.

Also joining NDDA, Kiwanis and the radio stations in the tree project are International Paper’s Natchez mill and Pickett Industries, Entergy and the City of Natchez.

The tree lighting ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and the Christmas parade will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

A &uot;Downtown Santa&uot; will be accepting wish lists at the Radisson Natchez Eola Hotel each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.