City Christmas tree lighting set Friday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 26, 2009

NATCHEZ — Organizers of the first-ever “Christmas in Natchez: City of Lights” celebration promise a Friday night of lights, laughs and leftovers.

Festivities begin at 4 p.m. Friday with a turkey gumbo cook-off by the Natchez Christmas Tree at the intersection of Main and Commerce streets, said Christmas in Natchez co-chairman Regina Charboneau.

Nine teams are confirmed to participate in the cook-off, and Charboneau says it’s not too late to whip up a winning recipe.

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“Everybody can participate. All you have to do is come with three gallons of cooked gumbo and a propane burner to keep it hot,” Charboneau said. “It’s the best deal in town and a light meal after Thanksgiving.”

Tasters can enjoy gumbo for just $1 a bowl while listening to blues duo Osgood and Blaque perform live.

Charboneau said the cook-off winner, who will receive a cash prize and bragging rights for the next year, will be announced at 5:30 p.m.

Also at that time, carolers will perform for the crowd until the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree at 6 p.m. Christmas in Natchez co-chairman Ginger Hyland will serve as master of ceremonies.

Natchez Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields will sing the national anthem, the Rev. David O’Connor of St. Mary Basilica will bless the tree, Mayor Jake Middleton will offer remarks and the lights will go on.

Charboneau said downtown shops will remain open until 8 p.m., so guests can take advantage of holiday bargains. Organizers learned Wednesday the University of Arkansas Razorback Marching Band, who will be staying at the Eola Hotel Friday before traveling to Baton Rouge Saturday for the LSU-Arkansas game, will play a few numbers.

Planning for Christmas in Natchez began early this year, and the event committee collected approximately $20,000 in private contributions for decorations along Franklin and Main Streets.

“Of all the volunteer work I’ve done in Natchez, this has been the best experience of people working together for the common cause,” Charboneau said. “It’s nice to see it come alive.”

Christmas in Natchez will continue through Jan. 3. For a complete schedule of events, visit the Web site