Children help HJC deck the historic halls

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rod Guajardo/The Natchez Democrat — Emma Homan, 11, decorates a Christmas tree for Girl Scout Troop 5392 at Historic Jefferson College Saturday.

NATCHEZ — The smell of pine trees and gingerbread wafted through the west wing at Historic Jefferson College as 20 Christmas trees, decorated by area children, were on display Saturday.

Schools, churches and various organizations participated in the annual decorating tradition, which started in 1981.

Kay McNeil, historian at the college, said she hosts several educational programs on campus, but the decorating is a great way to sneak in some learning to the fun Christmas pastime.

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“They don’t realize that history is fun and this way they’re learning and having fun,” McNeil said. “Have fun while you learn, that’s the secret.”

McNeil said she’s always amazed at some of the decorations made by the children.

Last year’s show stoppers were magnolia flowers made from plastic spoons by Riverside Baptist School.

This year, McNeil said the school made soldiers out of clothespins and painted them.

With so many creative designs and happy children, McNeil said there’s no better time to be at the college.

“I love to hear the campus alive again and the children’s voices and them playing,” McNeil said.

While most of the trees were decorated throughout the week, Girl Scout troop 5392 stepped in to help rescue a tree that couldn’t be decorated by its original organization.

Jessica Coffman, troop leader, said she received word of the tree in need after she came to decorate another tree for the National Park Service.

Coffman said it was the perfect opportunity for the troop, who was already planning on making ornaments.

“I try and get them out in the community and do fun stuff as much as we can,” Coffman said.

Troop members Emma, 11, and Madeline, 5, Homan made their ornaments using gingerbread and applesauce.

“We had to mash it all up with our hands and roll them out to make the ornaments,” Madeline said. “Some of them broke.”

Lily Levy, 4, brought her parents, Philip and Jessica Levy, to see the tree she had decorated in school.

“She’s the line leader today,” Philip said.

Lily assumed the role of tour guide, escorting her parents and grandparents through the visitor’s center and to the west wing, where the tree for Jefferson Street Day Care stood tall.

Philip said their visit had a dual purpose.

“My grandfather went to the school when it was a boys preparatory school, and I’d never been out here before, so we figured we’d come out and see the campus and the trees,” Philip said.