NGC Balloon Bash to kick off fun weekend

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — There will be music, food and fun even before the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race festival grounds start rocking Friday night.

The Natchez Garden Club is hosting a Balloon Bash and silent auction from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Natchez Grand Hotel.

The Balloon Bash is a continuation of the NGC’s annual fall event, but this year organizers wanted to spice things up a bit.

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“We are excited about doing things a little differently,” NGC President Cheryl Morace said. “By having this event on balloon race weekend, we are hoping to include a lot more people, both locals and people who come in from out of town.”

Admission for the event is $10, which includes food and music provided by local favorite Chris Cavette. Morace said the club dropped the admission price this year to attract more people.

“This is a very casual event,” she said. “We call it a night out and are hoping to pull in more of the younger crowd because it is such a fun weekend.

“But of course, us older folks love it, too.”

The event ends in time for party goers to walk across the street and hear balloon race entertainment, which begins at 8 p.m. with Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers.

“Because the venue is so close, there really isn’t a conflict,” Morace said. “We want to drive people into downtown with our event. This event will just flow right into (balloon race) festivities.”

Jambalaya and pick-up hor’devours will be served along with a cash bar.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Natchez Garden Club office by contacting Renee Jennings at 601-443-9065 or e-mail at

In addition to the party, there will be a silent auction for donated items including restaurant gift certificates, spa packages, original artwork, shopping sprees, silver service and luggage.

“One of the ancestors of the Henderson family (original owners of Magnolia Hall) has donated an original print and some note cards with an original print,” Morace said. “It is just a wonderful thing to have something from the family.”

There is also a first release print of the Bud Scott Band at the inaugural Spring Pilgrimage in 1932. Only 100 of the poster-quality prints will be released, and No. 1 is up for auction at Balloon Bash.

NGC began having a fall event three years ago and Morace said they have been popular each time.

Ginny Benoist, chairman of the Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill within the Natchez Garden Club said this year’s event should surpass the popularity of previous events.

“We just love the atmosphere that is going to be created by having the bash on Broadway right across from the bluff and balloon glow,” she said. “People will be able to leave us and walk right across and continue enjoying the festivities.”

The Preservation Society of Ellicott Hill is the umbrella non-profit organization for the Natchez Garden Club that allows the club to accept donations and apply for grant funding.

Any proceeds from the event will be used to further the clubs mission of preserving and restoring its historic properties. The club manages Magnolia Hall, the House on Ellicott Hill and the Priest House.

Currently, the club is focused on needed repairs at Magnolia Hall. Rain, wind and storms have caused exterior damage to the property.

“Being able to maintain the integrity of these properties is important from an economic development standpoint,” Benoist said. “No one wants to see a historic property in disrepair. It isn’t good for the neighborhood. It isn’t good for downtown, and it isn’t good for tourism.”

Magnolia Hall, built in 1858 by Thomas Henderson, was the last mansion built before the Civil War. It was once the site of Trinity Episcopal Day School.

The Natchez Garden Club obtained the property in 1976 and began an extensive renovation to return the house to its original grandeur.

“It is an anchor property in Natchez,” Benoist said. “It is located just one block from the new federal courthouse, part of the museum of the streets and it one of the featured properties in downtown Natchez.”

For those reasons, Benoist said it is important for the house to be maintained on a regular basis.

“If maintenance is neglected and the house begins to fall into disrepair, it just becomes a domino effect from there,” she said.