Longwood to be outlined in lights starting tonight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Maybe if it had been completed years ago, Longwood wouldn’t be exhibiting so many personalities this year.

But the intrigue of the unfinished mansion has made it the perfect site for a banner year of exciting moments.

The spider webs from the Halloween haunted house are gone, and so are the crews and lights from the HBO “True Blood” film crew. But now it’s time for lighting of a different kind.

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Approximately $5,000 LED Christmas lights have been strung over the house’s six galleries, two rooftop levels, 11 trees and various bushes.

The lighting of Longwood, organized by Christmas in Natchez co-chair Ginger Hyland, will debut to the public between 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday at a paid gala event.

“I kept hearing about the movie (“A Natchez Story”) at the visitor center that showed Longwood lit for Christmas,” Hyland said. “I thought, how can we have visitors come and see it (in the movie) and then not light it?”

It’s been approximately 15 years since the Pilgrimage Garden Club-owned house was lit for Christmas.

“Everyone talked about how beautiful it use to be,” Hyland said.

And she wanted to bring that back. Hyland approached the PGC and convinced them to let her lead the charge and find funding.

When the Community Alliance took on Christmas in Natchez as a project, the committee gained non-profit status, allowing Hyland to gather more donations, donations required to purchase lights, rent bucket trucks and pay workers to take on such a large lighting project.

Those attending the gala — $40 per person or $70 per couple — will be the first to see the house lit. Complimentary champagne cocktails and eggnog plus a cash bar will be available.

The St. Joseph Orchestra will entertain and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Bingo Starr will be available.

Natchez Little Theatre star Rusty Jenkins will read “A Cajun Christmas.”

Starting Sunday, between 6 and 9 p.m., anyone can pay $5 per vehicle to drive through the Longwood grounds and view the house.

The tour is available every night except Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

A small bus can tour for $25; a large bus can tour for $45.

“When something hasn’t been seen for 15 years, everyone wants to see it,” Hyland said. “To see a beautiful octagonal house with all the trees lit, I just see everyone jumping in the car together to come out.”