Family-style Saturday event will raise funds to continue beautification of park

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Don a hat and join in the fun at the annual Arts in the Park. You’re hatless? No problem. Volunteers will provide a handmade hat for only a quarter.

With a &uot;Hats on to Arts in the Park&uot; theme, the event will fill Memorial Park in downtown Natchez from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

An event that began 10 years ago as a project of a garden club beautification committee now draws volunteers from throughout the community.

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&uot;We started Arts in the Park because of the beautiful fountain in Memorial Park, which needed upgrading,&uot; said Gina Buckley, one of the founders of the event. &uot;The cost was going to be $80,000, and I imagine the cost for repairs has not changed much since then.&uot;

The fountain, more than 100 years old, still awaits repairs. However, the Arts in the Park fund raiser has provided $15,000 to purchase replicas of the small statues that will be replaced on the fountain once repairs are made.

&uot;We have been able to purchase the (statues of) four little boys that will go on the fountain,&uot; Buckley said. &uot;They’ll be on display to encourage people to continue to give to the fund.&uot;

The Historic Natchez Foundation receives the donations and ultimately will oversee the fountain restoration.

In addition to the fountain, the Arts in the Park funds have gone to other upgrades at the park, including benches and picnic tables, Buckley said.

The event has grown during its first 10 years, drawing entire families because of the kinds of activities offered.

&uot;It is a family-type gathering, and we have started holding it on the Saturday before Mother’s Day so we can focus the children’s crafts on Mother’s Day gifts,&uot; Buckley said.

&uot;There will be people there to help them make little gift boxes, picture frames and things like that.&uot;

The Pilgrimage Garden Club beautification committee sought support from the Downtown Development Association a few years ago. &uot;That has really helped, to have Tammi Mullins work with us,&uot; Buckley said. Mullins is director of the association.

Downtown Development board members have become involved, as well. &uot;They provide the food everyone looks forward to &045; hot dogs and hamburgers,&uot; Buckley said.

Entertainment during the day will include Burnley Cook and his calliope from 10 to 11 a.m.; Maggie Brown from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; the children’s choir from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.; and the Backroads Band, 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Artist Kay Browning will be on hand; Sam Jones will take the role of Dr. Seuss and provide story telling for the children. McGruff the Crime Dog will be on hand to give safety tips. Members of the Auburn Garden Club will serve as gate volunteers.

Junior gardeners from the Natchez and Pilgrimage garden clubs will have plants for sale. Natchez Coca-Cola is providing soft drinks.

Admission is $2 for children and older adults; $3 for adults. &uot;Many families come and stay the entire day,&uot; Buckley said.

Memorial Park, located behind St. Mary Basilica, with entrances on Main, Rankin and Union streets, is a beautiful park that should be used by Natchez people, Buckley said.

&uot;It’s a memorial park, and with these turbulent times we live in, it’s good to remember all who have served their country well and to see why we have such a park.&uot;

Use of the park in fact is increasing, she said.

&uot;We all seem to be slowing down from our fast pace since 9-11. That day woke us up to some of the more important things in life.&uot;