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Biglane, Smith named Natchezians of the Year

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — James Biglane is congratulated for being named Natchezian of the Year during Tuesday night’s Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Gala.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — James Biglane is congratulated for being named Natchezian of the Year during Tuesday night’s Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Gala.

NATCHEZ — Picture what Natchez would be like without the talented individuals, businesses and organizations that bring exceptional service to the community and region.

That’s the message Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson gave to a crowd gathered Tuesday evening at the Natchez Convention Center for the chamber’s annual membership gala.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Sarah Smith recieves hugs as she make her way up to the stage to recieve her Natchezian Woman of the year award.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Sarah Smith recieves hugs as she make her way up to the stage to recieve her Natchezian Woman of the year award.

The theme, “Picture This, Imagine That,” fit perfectly with the array of talent found in Natchez, Adams County and the Miss-Lou, Hudson said.

“It’s an uplifting phrase, hopefully, capturing in some small measure the excitement that exists in Natchez and its surroundings,” Hudson said. “Excitement that would not be a reality without the efforts of so many people and organizations — including those we are about to honor.”

The award for Natchezian Man of the Year went to James Biglane — for the first time, Hudson reminded the crowd.

“I had to scour the records to prove to myself this man who has done so much for Natchez while at the same time staying under the radar for so long hadn’t received this award before,” Hudson said. “For four decades, James Biglane has contributed in many important and lasting ways to Natchez and the surrounding region.”

Biglane is credited with helping found the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, restoring many of the buildings Under-the-Hill and playing an essential role with Natchez Inc., Hudson said.

Sarah Smith, alderwoman and chair of the Miss-Lou Regional Healthcare Committee, received the Natchezian Woman of the Year award.

After moving away from Natchez and staying away for two decades after graduating from Ole Miss, the Natchez native, Hudson said, quickly got “re-involved” to her hometown community.

“It is easy to picture why chairs of civic committees throughout our region all want Sarah to become part of their group — they know she will have creative ideas, and they know she will do what she says she is going to do,” Hudson said. “What is much more difficult to imagine is how she gets everything done during a normal 24-hour day.”

The small business of the year award was given to Fat Mama’s Tamales, while Delta Bank was recognized as the large business of the year.

Award-winning nature photographer, Jackson native and guest of honor Stephen Kirkpatrick ended the evening with a presentation titled, “Sanctuary,” which featured a variety of images from the Mississippi Coastal Plain. The presentation is a tribute to the rare and endangered species and habitats of the region.