Annual literary conference celebrates Natchez Tricentennial, Mississippi River

Published 12:04 am Sunday, January 31, 2016

Illustration by Ben Hillyer

Illustration by Ben Hillyer

In honor of Natchez as the city celebrates 300 years of history, the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration will recognize 300 years of arts and literature as well this February.

Instead of building NLCC’s agenda on themes tied to the South or Mississippi, the celebration this year is “Natchez at 300: A River Runs by It,” focusing on Natchez and its historic river.

“This year it is all about Natchez, and that has been a challenge, but I think we rose to it pretty well,” Co-Chairman Brett Brinegar said.

Email newsletter signup

Because the focus was so narrow for the three-day event, Brinegar said it was different than putting together a normal NLCC. But the steering and advisory committees were great, Brinegar said, and the program for this year’s celebration contains great material.

Some of the events include an address by Dr. William Ferris, author of “Images of the South: Visits with Eudora Welty and Walker Evans,” and a live interview with John Barry, author of “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.”

Other events center on music, such as “Music at the Temple: An Evening of Jewish Music” at Temple B’Nai Israel, a performance mixing classical works and chants, as well as more modern Jewish music.

And, while NLCC attendees will recognize annual events such as lunch at the Carriage House, some of the ticketed events are getting an extra Natchez twist, including the benefit cocktail buffet at The Elms.

“We thought it had a great place in the city’s literary history,” Brinegar said. “It was built by the author of the first book ever published in Natchez.”

The house was built by John Henderson, who wrote “The Paine Detected, or the Unreasonableness of Paine’s Age of Reason,” published in 1799.

Professional chef Esther Carpenter who is the fifth generation owner of The Elms will provide food for the event.

Carpenter was voted one of the nation’s top 20 female chefs by USA Today.

“It all comes together perfectly in that one location,” Brinegar said.

With the celebration approximately one month away, Brinegar said she has enjoyed her experience. It’s her first year planning the event, having taken on the position after longtime director and founder Carolyn Vance Smith retired.

“Carolyn had not only managed this for 27 years, she created it,” Brinegar said. “She has left me with some mighty big shoes to fill, and we’re doing our best to fill them.”

Her new position, Brinegar said, has been both a challenge and a reward.

“I’m going to be really glad to see it all come together and really do Natchez proud on her tricentennial,” Brinegar said.

The celebration’s first event is a pre-conference screening of “The Rhythm Club Fire: A Documentary” with an introduction by the filmmaker.

The screening will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25. at the Natchez Convention Center. The event will be followed by a question and answer session.

The celebration officially begins at 9 a.m., Feb. 26 with an opening ceremony at the convention center. The last event is the benefit cocktail buffet 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

While most of the events are free, some are ticketed. For tickets or more information, email, visit the Copiah-Lincoln Community College website,, or call 601-446-1208.