Natchez still a city to ‘Get On Up’ for

Published 12:06 am Friday, December 27, 2013

James Brown has left the city.

The last two months have come and gone as quickly as one of those white Hollywood trucks on a movie set.

It has been an exciting time seeing the various movie people in our town, from the actors to the caterers.

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Mick Jagger even showed up for a brief time. Jagger and his girlfriend, L’Wren Scott, a big name in the fashion industry, posted photos of their trip to Natchez on their Twitter and Instagram accounts. For one week, the most popular question in town was, “Have you seen Mick?”

The lucky few who caught a glimpse of the Rolling Stones lead singer became celebrities for the day on Facebook.

Big name actors started showing up in local restaurants and bars. Some even showed off a few of their dance moves to delight of the locals.

With all of the drama on and off the set, it is understandable that a fellow resident would ask me what the newspaper is going to do now that filming in Natchez is complete.

It is true that our daily search for movie cameras and actors, not unlike children searching for the Elf on the Shelf, has provided a jolt of excitement to our town.

But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that Natchez will suddenly turn into some dull place now that the movie trucks have left. Just because Craig Robinson, Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis are not eating one table over doesn’t mean there isn’t someone else eating a few tables down who doesn’t have a equally captivating story to tell.

As the movie crews zigzagged through town, our reporting staff has been busy seeking out those local residents who have such stories.

Michael Kerekes recently discovered the truly inspirational story of a blind child and his teacher at McLauirn Elementray school.  This student and his teacher compete in weekly singing contests to the delight of the school’s other students. In many ways, this blind child has taught his classmates and teachers how to see.

Stephen Hemelt and I climbed the steps of St. Mary Basilica to catch a glimpse of Natchez history and to hear the sounds of the bell that has been ringing across the city for more than 150 years,

Hemelt is also working on a story about a local woman who has organized a discussion group for teenage girls looking for a safe environment in which they can discuss their problems. After reading news stories about bullying and suicide, this woman felt like it was time to make a difference,

Meanwhile, Rod Guajardo has been equally inspired by a local woman who went to the bowling alley as a way to shed a few pounds and now loves the sport so much that she can’t put the bowling ball down. After 23 years, she still loves to compete against herself and others.

Those are just four of the 24 stories we are writing for The Natchez Democrat’s annual Profile edition. Each February, the newsroom staff writes and photographs stories that demonstrate how exciting our corner of southwest Mississippi and northeast Louisiana really is.

This year’s Profile will focus on how interesting Natchez and the Miss-Lou is throughout the day. Whether it is at 1 a.m. or 5 p.m., there is a neighbor and a friend living a life that is just as captivating and thought provoking as any of the scenes in Tate Taylor’s upcoming film.

James Brown may have left the city, but there is a whole lot for which to “Get On Up.”

Just wait until February. We will show you.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at