Trees help celebrate holiday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2005

Natchez &8212; Natchez children have decorated 21 Christmas trees for display at Historic Jefferson College. The live trees, each with a different theme, are filled with ornaments made by the children, said Cheryl Branyan, site director.

As part of its 25th anniversary of Children&8217;s Victorian Christmas, the staff at Jefferson College expanded the invitation list this year, asking any children&8217;s group to participate rather than limiting the event to fifth-graders only.

&8220;We were very pleased with the participation,&8221; Branyan said. &8220;We had children from 4-H, Boys and Girls Club, Sunshine Shelter, Guardian Shelter and others.&8221;

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Copiah-Lincoln Community College student ambassadors also decorated a tree, as did children from First Presbyterian Play School. &8220;So we really have all ages represented,&8221; Branyan said.

The trees are on display now during regular hours at the site, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The display will remain open through Dec. 28 with the exception of Dec. 24-26, when the site will be closed.

Community support remains key to the success of the event, Branyan said.

&8220;It&8217;s extremely important to have support from the community, and we appreciate the support in all forms, whether it&8217;s volunteering time, a monetary donation or an in-kind donation.&8221;

Children&8217;s Victorian Christmas has remained popular since the event began 25 years ago, with people of all ages coming to see the trees, Branyan said. &8220;We&8217;ve even had people taking pictures of the trees to get ideas for Christmas decorations next year.&8221;

Staff members at Jefferson College have considered having a contest among the decorated trees.

&8220;But they are all so gorgeous. It would be hard to choose,&8221; Branyan said.

For the second year, Wal-Mart has donated trees for the event. Live Oak Nursery also donated a tree. Donors include Natchez Bank Association, made up of AmSouth Bank, Britton & Koontz Bank and United Mississippi Bank.

Concordia Bank & Trust, Smith Printing, Jody Rutter, Kevin Whittington State Farm Insurance, Mark DeVrient Construction and Terry Estes State Farm also made donations.

For more than 20 years, Coca-Cola of Natchez has provided beverages and cups, Branyan said.

&8220;This is a wonderful opportunity for businesses and individuals to help youth groups learn about Mississippi history and history of Christmas trees,&8221; she said.

The trees are on display in the West Wing, built about 1839, and in Prospere Hall, dating to about 1931.

Jefferson College was founded in 1802, the first institution of higher learning in the Mississippi Territory. The college closed in 1964 after serving as a prep school from 1866. The state Department of Archives and History owns and operates the site.

While at Jefferson College to view the Christmas trees, visitors also may see the restored student dormitory, dining hall, kitchen buildings and other historic areas. A nature trail follows alongside St. Catherine Creek, and a museum and gift shop are open in the visitors center.