With refurbished fountain,organizers focus on beautifying park

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The dream of a newly refurbished park fountain came true earlier this year, but the organizers of Arts in the Park have more dreams for beautifying Memorial Park in downtown Natchez.

The annual Arts in the Park will be Saturday, beginning with a fun ride that will include wheels of all kinds, said Paige Iseminger, a chairman of the event.

The $6 entry fee for the ride will be one of the fundraising efforts that organizers hope will raise big money for benches, lighting and landscaping at the park.

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“We’re hoping to place benches and lighting there that look like the original benches and lights in the park,” Iseminger said.

The fountain will continue to be the park centerpiece. Now completely restored and in excellent working order, the fountain plays a part in the Saturday event.

“We’ll have goldfish for sale, and the children can buy fish for $5 each, give the fish names and put them in the fountain pool,” she said.

Gina Buckley and Debbie Stewart organized Arts in the Park in 1994 to raise money to restore the 100-year-old fountain.

The annual event ultimately contributed $23,000 for the fountain and for other beautification at the park.

Buckley said the continuation of the drive to protect and beautify the park is heart-warming.

“It’s wonderful to see a whole new generation working to raise awareness of the park, to see the vision being carried forward,” Buckley said.

Now more than ever the park is important to the community, she said. “It’s important to keep that park and to have the green space downtown,” she said. “There are so few places like that now.”

Prior to the festive art-filled Saturday event, adults will gather for an evening of games and entertainment at Marketplace Cafe across Main Street from the park, 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday.

“This is a way to get adults involved and to have a good time,” Iseminger said. “There will be a silent auction, and Black Bayou will be playing.”

Registration for the children’s fun ride will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, and the ride will begin at 9:30. The $6 registration fee will include participation in the ride, a T-shirt and entrance to the park.

For those not participating in the fun ride, entrance to the main Arts in the Park events will be $2 for children and $3 for adults.

Throughout the park, and spilling into Rankin Street, art and other activities will keep children busy for hours, Iseminger said. The event will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The theme for the festival is “Fiesta,” and that theme will be carried out in some of the activities, she said.

There will be a Mexican-style scene where children and others may have photographs made.

Further, because Saturday is the day before Mother’s Day, children will have opportunities to make big cards for moms and to plant flowers in decorated flowerpots as gifts for moms.

“There will be hotdogs, hamburgers and nachos,” Iseminger said. “And there also will be a sale of baked goods.”

The day will include music, skateboard demonstrations, puppet shows and other activities in addition to face painting by high school students and artists with booths on Rankin Street who will sell art and provide activities for children, also.

Some art activities are free. Others have fees ranging from 25 cents to $1.