Hop aboard license plate bandwagon

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 1, 2015

I know I am going to be rockin, with my new Natchez Tricentennial license plate on the back of my Mazda 3.

Last week, I wrote about my difficulty deciding whether to keep my beloved Mississippi State University car tag or exchange it for the recently unveiled tag commemorating Natchez’s 300th birthday in 2016.

Twenty-four dollars of the $31 fee for each tag goes to the Natchez Tricentennial Commission.Three hundred tags must be presold before they are printed.

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A week ago, I had not committed to getting the new license tag. In fact, I was leaning against spurning my alma mater for Natchez’s big bash.

I think for most people that is what the Natchez Tricentennial has become —366 days of celebrating. Much of the focus has centered on 300-hole golf tournaments, 300-mile races and 300 other ideas that play up the Tricentennial theme.

Listening to much that has been said up until now about what Natchez has in store for the upcoming celebration, many people may have come to the conclusion that the Tricentennial has more to do with tourists than it does with residents.

To be sure, tourists will enjoy many of the events. But this week after talking with many people, who responded both positively and negatively to my remarks, I have come to realize that the Natchez Tricentennial is more about pride of place and bringing the community together than it is about blowing out 300 candles on a birthday cake.

Events targeted to improving the community, informing the public and fostering conversation about what Natchez used to be, what the town is today and what our community can be in the future are already being planned.

Among these events is a series of weekly conversations for residents to come together to hear and tell their unique stories. Still in the planning stages, these meetings will take place in different venues across the city to encourage residents from all corners of the city to to participate. Each meeting will focus on one aspect of Natchez’s history. When 2016 is over, the hope is that residents will have learned more about their city, more about their neighbors and more about themselves.

In addition to weekly meetings, there will be the Natchez History Minute. Spearheaded by the Natchez National Historical Park, this project will offer 60-second audio pieces that detail events that happened some time in Natchez’s history each day of the year. Available on social media, the recordings will encompass everything from the Natchez Indians to the 1998 Natchez tornado. Organizers hope to find 366 different community members to record the pieces in an effort to highlight the many people and stories of this place.

Organizers are also planning events to help clean up the community, provide educational programs for local students and create public art projects in which the entire community can participate.

The goal is to use the city’s 300th birthday to help bring together a community that is divided in more ways than just black and white, organizers say.

If the goal is finding unity among our diversity, then I am for doing what I can to make it happen.

It is for that reason I signed up for a Natchez Tricentennial license plate Thursday morning — not only to celebrate but also to contribute in whatever way I can to the future of my community.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by email at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.