Determination pays off for fountain

Published 1:23 pm Friday, March 30, 2007

Who knew that you could preserve part of Natchez’s future with construction paper, sidewalk chalk and face paint?

Tamara Seals and her friend sure did, kneeling on the sidewalk in 2000, bearing down hard with sticks of chalk. With color and imagination, the pair helped save a future for moments of pure possibility, like that first kiss after the dance or the endless moment between “Will you marry me” and “Yes.”

Buddy Livingston also knew the power of his imagination when he played his air guitar alongside Emma Donley in 2001. With each enthusiastic look and quick strum, Livingston preserved a place for similar aspiring musicians across the region.

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Donley did her part, too, munching on her Rice Krispie treat that day. Her snack played a pivotal role in saving a spot for picnics and impromptu lunches for all in Natchez.

And what about De Andrea Mendez? Just by looking at his smile in 2002, you knew that he wasn’t just playing in bubbles. No. Mendez knew the bigger the bubbles he created, the brighter the future for a Natchez landmark dimmed by wear and tear.

So too did Claire White when she led a luau of Natchez hula girls that year.

And then there was Adam Hand and his hat made of balloons. And what about Tyler Abney and his construction paper kite?

Surely they knew that having fun in the park that May in 2003 meant preserving fun for future Sunday walks in the park.

Tuesday afternoon, all the childish play in the park culminated in a shiny bright future for Memorial Park and for a fountain that was slowly disappearing in rust and disrepair.

And much of it was accomplished with the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from the tiny hands of area children who came to the park each May just to have fun.

None of it was accomplished with a federal grant or a bond issue.

No. The refurbishment of the monumental cast iron fountain that once again graces the park was accomplished through determination and imagination — and laughter.

Out of the past seven years of working for The Natchez Democrat, I have looked forward to photographing the Memorial Park fundraiser known as Arts in the Park.

Organized in 1994, Arts in the Park became an annual event that raised money for the fountain renovation and other items for the park.

And each year families from across Natchez and the Miss-Lou packed the park with their fists full of loose change and dollar bills to contribute — more than $23,000 worth in 15 years.

Even before you could catch sight of the crowded park on that annual Saturday in May, you could hear the laughter of children enjoying the arts, crafts, music and food.

In a day and age when city leaders talk about matching multi-million dollars grants and offer incentives to woo big business, Tuesday’s completion of the Memorial Park Fountain demonstrated the power of determination — one person at a time.

At a time when residents are preoccupied with jobs and industry, the newly renovated fountain reminds us of the importance of relaxing in the park under the oak trees with families and friends.

So here is to all the children who drew chalk drawings, had their faces painted, danced in the park and helped save an important piece of Natchez life for future generations.

Thank you.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at