Businesses revive beloved city tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Natchez Democrat

My sister and I had this holiday game we liked to play: Sitting in the back seat of the family car, we would count the houses with Christmas lights on either side of the road.

At the end of whatever journey we had taken, the sister who had counted more lights won.

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Being the younger and more trusting sister, I always announced my total first.

It took me years before I figured out the reason Wendy always won: She simply upped her number once she heard mine.

But it was our holiday tradition, and I remember it fondly even as I kick myself for being so na•ve.

Fast forward a few years to an older and slightly wiser me, and I&8217;m in a town with more Christmas traditions than I can count.

If you ask just about anyone who grew up in Natchez about their Christmas traditions, and many people recount two things: seeing the Natchez downtown Christmas tree and driving past the International Paper Christmas light display, which was built and painted mostly by Lanus Hammack.

Several years ago, First Natchez Radio stepped in to save the downtown Christmas tree tradition, and if you&8217;ve driven downtown in the past two weeks you can&8217;t miss the huge cedar tree sitting smack in the middle of the Main and Commerce intersection.

This year, several businesses stepped up to help revive the International Paper display.

At the suggestion of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce, Isle of Capri Casino agreed to be a sponsor of the decorations.

Isle of Capri seems to be making a habit of volunteering to help the community lately &8212; at a recent Community Alliance meeting, the casino&8217;s Tony Scudiero and Baxter Lee volunteered to help water the downtown flower beds, a task that is needed to help keep up the appearance of our downtown streets.

It&8217;s not just Isle of Capri that has helped with the Christmas decorations, however; sponsors include Home Hardware, Entergy and the chamber, along with help from the Biglane family.

Former International Paper employees lovingly refurbished the old decorations, which had been in storage for the past two holiday seasons.

Isle of Capri is even providing security for the display, which sits on the side of D.A. Biglane as you drive up toward the top of the hill.

The businesses and the chamber cut the ribbon on the display Wednesday night, so the beloved decorations are back for all to see, with Santa and his reindeer (whose mechanics are a little worse for wear but still kicking), beautiful Currier-and-Ives style snowy scenes, snowmen and the Nativity.

So when you have time this season, take a drive along D.A. Biglane Street to see the holiday decorations, and keep a tradition alive for future generations.

And if you want to count the lights, that&8217;s a fun idea, too.

Kerry Whipple

is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at