Officials plan big celebration commemorating the completion of Natchez Trace Parkway

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; A Natchez committee is already planning the party of the year for 2005.

In May, Natchez, along with state and federal officials, will celebrate the opening of the final 8-mile stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Decades in the making, the terminus on Liberty Road marks an historic occasion, say organizers of the May event.

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&uot;We’re going to have a really big celebration,&uot; said Janet Sullivan of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. &uot;It’s all been a concerted effort.&uot;

A committee of state, federal and local officials has been planning the event.

&uot;Plans are going great,&uot; said Walter Tipton, director of tourism for the City of Natchez.

The Natchez events will be the end of a daylong celebration that begins in Clinton, where Trace officials will open a new welcome center.

Then, a motorcade of officials will travel down the parkway for a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new stretch of road, Tipton said.

U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran are scheduled to attend, and several other state and federal officials are invited.

A public reception at Melrose will follow the grand opening, and a private dinner will be held that night at Rosalie, which is operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The DAR had a significant role in the Trace development.

&uot;The DAR was a big part of the thrust to get it completed,&uot; Tipton said.

The actual construction of the Trace began in 1934. The project has been under construction for more than 70 years.

&uot;It’s probably the longest running federal construction project,&uot; Tipton said.

The committee will be marketing the event and the opening of the Trace.

&uot;The Trace has such a legacy,&uot; Tipton said. &uot;It’s ripe with stories.&uot;

The Trace, already a scenic route that draws attention to Natchez, will be used to help market new tourism opportunities, Tipton said.

A multi-purpose trail along the new eight miles of parkway is being designed, and that will help develop Natchez as a destination for outdoors activities, Tipton said.

&uot;And you’ll be connected right with the downtown area,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a big part of improving the gateways coming into the city.&uot;