Christmas in Natchez continues to see results of cohesive effort

Published 12:04 am Sunday, December 30, 2012

NATCHEZ — When the Christmas in Natchez efforts were started, the goal was to have a cohesive Christmas look downtown and to draw people into the area during the month of December. Organizers said this year they saw those goals continue to come together.

That’s in part because the effort has been around for a few years now and the Christmas in Natchez committee has had the opportunity to learn what — and how — things work, said co-chair Regina Charboneau.

“Now that it is organized enough, then maybe we can spend a little more time marketing it ahead,” she said.

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“One thing that I learned is that advance ticket sales are key.”

Christmas in Natchez events included — among other things — musical performances, a ballet and ice-skating on the bluff.

Ultimately, Charboneau said she would like to see several years worth of sales tax numbers for the month of December to see if the efforts have generated a trend of increased sales in town by drawing people in for a day.

But the Christmas in Natchez efforts are not just about money, they’re about community, and now that the effort has become an annual occurrence, more and more people are getting involved with it, and not just by attending events, Charboneau said.

“The thing that was most joyful, other than watching the people at the lighting of the Christmas tree, was how many people lit up their houses this year,” she said. “That really impressed me. It is really thanks to the community support that it has been so wonderful.”

Each year the committee learns something new, and the lesson learned this year is that the ice skating event — in which a portable ice skating rink was set up on the bluff — is too popular with children and adults alike to limit their time as much as it was this year, Charboneau said.

At the ice-skating, in which a portable ice-skating rink was set up on the bluff, participants could pay $15 for 30 minutes of skating.

“We found that it is really difficult to get the kids off the ice because they are having such a good time, so next year we will do it for $20 but for an hour,” Charboneau said. “Our whole goal is to break even with it, and we figured out that we can get enough tickets sold and let people skate for one hour.”

Over the course of recent years, some of the Christmas in Natchez offerings — like the downtown gumbo cook-off — have become standards, but the goal is not to become stagnant.

“Every year we try to create one new event, and the Christmas cabaret we did this year in conjunction with the Natchez Festival of Music was wonderful,” Charboneau said.

Next year, Charboneau said she would like to see some of Natchez’s Victorian homes come together to do a Christmas tour of homes.

“The more events we have, even if they are similar to events that are already happening, the more people will come,” she said. “We want to encourage people to create events to complement the events we already have.”

And even though Christmas has just passed, it’s never too early to plan for next year.

“I have already made all my notes on ice skating, I have put my calendar together and we are already trying to set a date for the Christmas cabaret,” Charboneau said. “That is the way it should work, and it is going to take momentum.”