Saturday competition will benefit Natchez Festival of Music

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

Croquet is a game requiring skill and strategy, somewhat like a combination of chess and golf, a Natchez croquet expert said.

Ron Gaude’ took up the game years ago and knows it well. For the Natchez Festival of Music Croquet Affair on Saturday at Magnolia Hill Plantation, he will serve as contest director.

Games begin at 3 p.m., with basic golf croquet as the game style for the afternoon. &uot;This will be croquet that requires just hitting the balls through the wickets,&uot; Gaude’ said.

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Regulation croquet has complex rules and requires strategy that takes experience to sharpen, he said. &uot;The American Croquet Association is interested in starting people out, and this is one way to do it.&uot;

The fund raiser is something new, different and fun, said Charlotte Copeland, who has headed the organizing of the event.

For a $50 per person donation, anyone may attend the entire afternoon of games and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks while taking part or observing. Tickets are available at Lower Lodge Antiques, 712 Franklin St., or by calling 601-442-2617.

&uot;I hope this starts a new, good and large fund raiser for the festival,&uot; she said. &uot;We want to attract clubs from out of town, too.&uot;

Croquet clubs are especially popular in Florida and Texas, but others exist as close as Baton Rouge and Shreveport, La., Copeland said.

&uot;Natchez is definitely a spot that will attract people,&uot; she said. As for a Natchez croquet club, that could happen, too.

Gaude’ said he and others tried in years past to interest enough people to get a croquet court established. The late Dr. David Steckler had a court built at Duncan Park. &uot;But the golfers ran us off and now use it as a putting green,&uot; he said.

The idea continues to have appeal, Gaude’ said. The challenge is to find a place where equipment is available to maintain the course.

Croquet appeals to all ages and is a game that can be played by people of all ages, he said. &uot;Eighty-year-olds can play this game very well,&uot; he said.

With an afternoon such as the one planned Saturday, the introduction to the game gives players and observers some of the basics.

&uot;You develop the ability to hit the ball correctly, get familiar with the equipment, learn the grip and get the instruction,&uot; Gaude’ said. &uot;If interest develops, I’d be glad to conduct a clinic.&uot;

Copeland said enthusiasm for the Saturday event has been high.

&uot;We’ve had a lot of fun putting this together,&uot; she said.

All proceeds will go to the Natchez Festival of Music. The festival opens May 6 with &uot;Porgy and Bess&uot; and also includes performances of &uot;Gianni Schicchi&uot; on May 15 and &uot;Tosca&uot; on May 28. Other performances include an evening with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band on May 14 and an evening dedicated to the music of Cole Porter&uot; on May 21.