Parade needs power from you for success

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 23, 2007

A Mississippi State architecture professor of mine, David Lewis, used to tell me that every original idea comes with a series of challenges and obstacles.

It is the great designers that meet those challenges and overcome the obstacles.

And if they do it with creativity and imagination they have the opportunity to create something that is powerful and lasting.

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As a young designer, it was a hard piece of advice to take. In effect he was challenging me stop designing like everyone else and think creatively.

I can’t say that I always followed his advice.

Yet, those words of inspiration have stuck with me, not just through my short architecture career, but throughout my entire life.

And while his counsel has not been easy for me to follow, it has become increasingly easier for me to recognize others who are guided by similar words of inspiration.

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing the tail end of the Natchez Christmas Parade organization meeting.

I had poked my head into the meeting to say hello to a few people and had expected the meeting to be a rehash of the annual Christmas parade stuff.

Assuming the conversation would center on things like parade route and parade times, I was surprised to hear an entirely different conversation.

Instead of talking about the mundane aspects of the parade, organizers were buzzing about creating a new type of parade that would be so spectacular it would become a new Natchez tradition that would hopefully attract people from throughout the region.

Rather than assume the parade was nothing more than a few bands, a few floats, some horses and Santa, this year’s organizers decided to create something new and entirely different.

Unlike the past, this year’s parade will be at night and the floats will be covered with twinkling light designs.

Sponsored by local businesses, designs will range from a jukebox with colorful music notes to Frosty the Snowman, the Nutcraker and other holiday characters.

And instead of packing up these professionally designed displays after the parade is over, the lights will be installed along the bluff for residents to walk and drive by during the holiday season, turning the entire bluff park into a holiday wonderland.

In the past few years, the Natchez Christmas Parade has been teetering on extinction. Moved to Sunday at the request of local business who complained that the parade was taking away from their business, the parade suffered from lack of interest and lack of attendance.

Last year, the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau took over the parade, hoping to rescue it from its demise.

So this year, organizers decided to create something new and original. Instead of moving the parade to a Sunday, this year’s parade will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

And if everything goes as planned, it may end up being one of Natchez’s newest holiday traditions.

But as my architecture professor warned, with every original idea comes challenges.

And there are a few challenges that organizers face before claiming success.

Powering a dozen lighted floats with holiday music is no easy task. In order to do so, parade officials will need 20 generators that will electrify a dozen light displays. Organizers hope that a few people who bought generators during Hurricane Katrina will offer them.

While acquiring the generators may be the biggest challenge, the parade also needs truck drivers, trailers and trucks to pull the floats.

But with the help of the community, officials hope that they can meet these challenges and create a parade that is ensured of a bright future — one that will be a lasting holiday tradition.

Any one who interested in donating the use of a generator can call Carrie Lambert at the Natchez Downtown Development Association.

Ben Hillyer can be reached at 601-445-3540 or