Sen. Cochran thankful for festival

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

NATCHEZ — This year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is a salute to Eudora Welty. And on Friday, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran had a salute to Welty of his own.

Cochran, a Mississippi native, said he was once asked by a non-Mississippian whether he knew Welty.

The person spoke highly of Welty, and while Cochran knew of the writer, he said he didn’t really know much about her.

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He began reading Welty’s works and soon found them “heart-warming and spellbinding.”

He said through this stranger’s question, he discovered one of Mississippi’s greatest authors.

To the conference attendees, Cochran said it’s pertinent to be aware and proud of the talents that hail from Mississippi.

“In Mississippi, we are truly fortunate to have an abundance of talented individuals,” Cochran said.

And to have the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration make people aware of those talents is a great thing, he said.

He thanked the conference’s founder, Carolyn Vance Smith, for providing the state with such an experience and said art education is immeasurable.

“The arts enable us to better understand the human experience,” he said.

Cochran also said he felt fortunate he was invited to attend the conference, and he always marks his calendar months in advance so he’s able to attend.

“It’s an honor to be invited to this event,” Cochran said. “I’m always glad to be in Natchez. The hospitality is abundant and genuine.”

Friday marked the second day in the 20th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

NLCC founder Smith said the celebration is going well.

“We’ve had splendid, world-class programs that have been so beautifully received by an attentive, large crowd,” she said.

Smith said approximately 500 people attended programs on opening day Thursday.

“We’ve had very good crowds,” she said.

Smith said she was grateful for Cochran’s attendance.

“We were so flattered to have Sen. Thad Cochran,” she said.

The conference continues today with several lectures at the convention center.

Beginning at 4 p.m., the conference will move to the Grand Soleil hotel.

A reception will take place at 5 p.m. in honor of William and Elise Winter.

“(It’s) in honor of their being here all 20 years and (William) serving as director of proceedings each year,” Smith said.

Sunday is devoted to three different free writing workshops at Co-Lin beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Smith said the Ellen Douglas Writing Workshops are an annual component of NLCC.

All in all, Smith said the conference — speakers, exhibits, attendance — could not be going better.

“We’re very excited about our 20th anniversary,” she said.