More IP decorations part of Natchez Christmas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — Last year, Mike Lomasney kept hearing the same story over and over.

While setting up the old International Paper Christmas displays on the Mississippi River bluff, Lomasney said people would stop and reminisce about driving through the displays at IP.

This year, Lomasney has been hard at work to bring back even more memories.

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“It is so gratifying to hear the stories of families that piled into the cars with pajamas on to go see the decorations,” Lomasney said. “I feel like I have done my job when I put the decorations out there and they look just like they did 40 years ago and bring back those same memories.”

Lomasney is restoring decorations created by Lanus Hammack that were displayed for the community at International Paper. After IP closed, the decorations were shuffled around, and Lomasney estimated about one-third of the decorations were stored by the city.

Lomasney’s efforts are part of a push to create a unified, month-long Christmas celebration for locals and tourists.

Lomasney has worked approximately four hours each day in the basement of Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center since last Christmas season to get ready to unveil the decorations soon after Thanksgiving. During that time he has replaced motors and lights, repainted and repaired approximately ten units and has created a new snowman display to add to the mix.

“I like being involved in the community, and this is just one way to do that,” Lomasney said.

Lomasney is providing the labor to fuel a project partially created by Ginger Hyland.

Hyland said when she moved to Natchez, she realized there was a lack of Christmas events and Christmas spirit and she wanted to change that.

Last year, she, with the help of others, started raising funds to purchase lighted wreaths and garlands for downtown Natchez.

“We are in hard times now,” Hyland said. “Christmas should be an escape from those hard times. It should be a time of imagination and magic.”

But bringing Christmas magic to Natchez is only one reason Hyland took on the project. Hyland knows Christmas can light up more than just the eyes of children.

It can also light up the cash registers for businesses.

That’s why, Hyland said, it is necessary for businesses and citizens to get behind the efforts to light up Natchez at Christmas.

Donations and sponsorships are needed to continue with uniformed decorations in the downtown area, for continued restoration efforts for the old International Paper decorations and adding decorations to Longwood and Memorial Park.

“We might not reach all of our goals this year, but we are going to keep on trying,” Hyland said.

Sponsorships for the IP decorations are three-year commitments, and there are three levels of sponsorships.

Small displays can be sponsored for $300 or $100 each year for three years. Medium displays can be sponsored for $750 or $250 each year for three years, and large displays can be sponsored for $1,500 or $500 each year for three years.

Wreath and garland sponsorships are $350 and $1,500 respectively.

Hyland said individuals and businesses should get involved in the fundraising.

Since Christmas in Natchez is part of the not-for-profit Community Alliance, all donations are tax-deductible.

Donations should be mailed to Christmas in Natchez, P.O. Box 18231, Natchez, MS 39122. Donors can also contact the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce at 601-445-4611 to make donations.

Last year, was the inaugural year for organized Christmas efforts that included decorations and events.

Hyland said there is no doubt last year’s efforts were successful.

“At the tree lighting last year there were hundreds and hundreds of people there,” she said. “It was amazing to look out there and see that, and you could feel that some of the Christmas spirit was returning to this town.”

This year there will be a tree lighting celebration in downtown, as well as, parties to unveil the decorations at Longwood and the Mississippi River bluff decorations.

Information about events coinciding with Christmas in Natchez can be found online at