Doming it up right

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nicole Zema/The Natchez Democrat — The dome on top of antebellum Longwood needs attention, Pilgrimage Garden Club members say. But restoration will be costly. The club has dedicated funds raised at this year’s Natchez Antiques Forum to Longwood restoration. The forum begins Oct. 19.

NATCHEZ — Bethany Overton’s antique peg lamp can be washed and buffed until it gleams, but the dome of Natchez landmark Longwood will need a little more than a rag and polish be restored to its original grandeur.

Proceeds from the 34th annual Natchez Antiques Forum — set for Oct. 19-22 — will go toward the restoration the tattered dome of the famous house, owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club.

Overton, a Natchez resident and Pilgrimage Garden Club member, said the forum started as a way to raise funds to restore King’s Tavern in 1977. The first forum was a success, King’s Tavern was restored, and the forum lives on, helping to restore historic properties owned by the club.

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But Overton said those who think antiques are nothing more than outdated furniture are mistaken.

“When you say antiques, you think, ‘old stuff,’” Overton said. “But I think about antiques as things people cared enough about to endure. And antiques are all sorts of things. You can really get into the nuts and bolts — literally, of what to collect.”

But of all fundraisers, why antiques?

Overton said the club wanted to seek funds from outside of the community.

“We felt there were so many things that we ask for money from local people, so we thought we would have an event that brought people to Natchez to help raise the money,” Overton said. “Also, when we started the antiques forum, it was before the bicentennial, so people were interested in history.”

Overton said 400 people attended the first forum.

“We did raise a tidy sum,” Overton said. “And it became an educational thing for the community as well as for those outside the community. We just wanted to do something that hadn’t been done.”

The forum is still a few months away, but organizers are encouraging folks to register early to take advantage of new events this year.

Early registration includes free house tours, merchant discounts, dinner at Landsdowne, a complimentary milk punch tour and cocktail reception.

Besides new events, the date has changed as well. Forum co-chairwoman Susan Graning said the forum was moved from September to October because children are settled in school by October and adults are more likely to get away.

Lectures begin Friday with the theme, “Our American Heritage: Pleasures of the Past 1750-1850.” Graning and Overton both said they are thrilled to have Wendell Garrett, a vice president at Sotheby’s and editor-at-large for “The Magazine Antiques” once again participating in the forum.

Garrett was instrumental in beginning and developing the Natchez Antiques Forum. Overton said he is a knowledgeable and gifted speaker.

“We are so fortunate to have him,” Overton said. “He is not a flowery speaker, but he makes you think the English language is alive and well — you want to use the language as he does.”

Graning said people should visit the forum for two big reasons — educational and social.

“We have absolutely world-reknowned speakers in their field,” Graning said. “This is a unique opportunity to get a plethora of information. Not only lectures, but opportunities to mingle in a social setting with our speakers.”

Graning said many social events will be included in the price of a ticket, and even people who don’t care so much about antiques can still have fun.

“If you’re local, come and support local activities bringing business into Natchez,” said Graning, who added that the committee is hoping for an attendance of 200 this year.

Graning said “antiques row” will again be set up on Franklin Street, but with a twist.

“This year we are having antiques row extravaganza with heavy hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, music and dancing, which is all free and open to the public, sponsored by the antiques merchants on Franklin Street,” Graning said.

Although no registration deadline exists, registration costs will not be refunded in the case of cancellation after Aug. 15.

The Lansdowne dinner is open to the first 50 registrants.

“It’s cocktails and dinner — a true, old, Southern, sit-down, formal dinner,” Graning said.

At a cocktail party on Thursday, Middleton School of Dance soiree dancers will perform.

Graning added that a bookstore will be open at the main venue — the Natchez Convention Center, selling titles on subjects discussed at the forum, and by participating authors.

A special Antiques Forum rate is available at the Natchez Grand Hotel.

“We are one of he original, first and longest-running antiques forums in the country,” Graning said. “We have even had people come from overseas.”

For more information, pick up a brochure around town, call 601-445-7479 or visit the website,

To purchase tickets, call 800-647-6742 or visit and click Natchez Antiques Forum.