Pageant continues to bring Natchez story to life

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NATCHEZ — Lynne Fayard of Biloxi first attended the Natchez Historic Pageant 15 years ago, and 15 years later, she’s still amazed by the elaborate costuming and choreography that bring the 19th century South to life.

“It was a little different, but it was just as beautiful,” Fayard said after the pageant concluded Monday at the Natchez City Auditorium. “The costumes were a little different and the scenes were a little different, but it was just as beautiful as the last time.”

Hosted by the Natchez Garden Club and the Pilgrimage Garden Club, the 2010 Historic Natchez Pageant, or Tableaux as it’s now called, takes guests on an hour-and-a-half journey from Natchez’s founding in 1716 to the start of the Civil War in 1861.

Though locals still refer to the event as the Historic Natchez Pageant, the French word Tableaux, meaning “living picture,” was adopted this year to aptly describe the scenes, Pilgrimage Garden Club Pageant Chairman Jan Kirkwood said.

“A tableaux is a still picture that comes to life,” Kirkwood said. “The curtain opens and everyone is still, and as the music starts, (the scene) comes to life.”

Snapshots of Natchez’s past included the city’s colonization by the French in 1716, the arrival of the African prince Ibrahima, who was sold into slavery, and the English custom of May Day as children danced around a maypole covered with streaming ribbons.

Bar brawls at Natchez Under-the-Hill, soirees at Jefferson Military College and the wedding of the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, were also part of the scenes.

The pageant concluded with the presentation of the Pilgrimage Garden Club Queen and King, Kathryn Lin Kirkwood and Chase Bradford Caldwell, and the Confederate Court.

Jan Kirkwood, mother of the Pilgrimage Garden Club Queen, said approximately 200 volunteers ranging from age 3 to adult volunteered to coordinate the pageant this year — a testament to the event’s value to the community.

“The pageant is something we’ve all grown up with, and a lot of our lives center around it during March,” Kirkwood said. “Natchez is such a wonderful place to live, and we want to show how important our heritage is.”

The Historic Natchez Pageant is at 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Natchez City Auditorium. Admission is $15. The Pageant runs until April 3.

For ticket information, call 601-446-6631.