Fun for the holiday

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

FERRIDAY — Bursts of red, white and blue are expected to fill the skies and the area’s waterways as part of the long Independence Day weekend.

The celebration of the nation’s assertion of and beginning of its fight for political autonomy from overseas influence will start Saturday with the annual Lake St. John flotilla.

In an event that’s been compared to a waterborne parade, the flotilla doubles not only as the unofficial kickoff to lake season but as an opportunity for the blessing of the fleet.

Email newsletter signup

A local Catholic priest — usually the pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Ferriday — blesses the boats as they pass by during the flotilla.

The flotilla is always scheduled for the first Saturday in July. While some boaters show up without ornamentation, others decorate their vessels — which must only safely remain buoyant — like an elaborate Mardi Gras float.

“It’s a fun thing, a colorful thing, with all the boats that are decorated, and you feel good, because you are being blessed for a safe, happy summer on the lake,” Lake St. John Flotilla Chair Donna Maroon said.

“You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time, and it seems to be growing every year — a lot more people are coming out to watch.

“A lot of people are in there to be blessed, and then they fall out of line and go to the middle of the lake to watch the rest go around, but a lot of the decorated boats stay with it until the end, and that is what we really hope for.”

In addition to judging the boats that have been decorated, the committee also gives participants another incentive to continue with the flotilla — at four piers around the lake, those registered boats that pass by have their names entered into a drawing for cash.

Each pier has a drawing, and participants could potentially win all four cash prizes, Maroon said.

Registration for the flotilla will be 9 a.m. to noon at the Spokane Resort, and the flotilla will start at 2 p.m.

Line up will start at the north end of the lake, and will be led by Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick, followed by the grand marshals, Milton and Mary Catherine Rawles.

The Rawleses were chosen because they are very good about helping out with projects around the lake community, and because they send out an email newsletter every morning sharing pictures of what is going on around the lake, Maroon said.

A fireworks display will follow the flotilla, starting approximately 30 minutes after dark, shooting from across from the Duck’s Next restaurant.

“They had a poker run for the fireworks, and they raised a lot of money for it, so it should be a very good show,” Maroon said, noting that the flotilla is a community effort.

“Without the help of the community businesses and the people who make donations of prizes or prize money, it would be almost impossible to have the flotilla, and we appreciate everyone who gives,” she said.

The Natchez and Vidalia fireworks show will be Sunday, starting between 9 and 9:15 p.m., with the fireworks going up from the middle of the river, coming from Vidalia Dock and Storage.

Organizer René Adams said this year’s show would be Sunday to accommodate the long holiday weekend.

“With July 4 being Monday night, and everybody has go to back to work the next day, we thought it would be convenient instead to kick off the pre-celebration and get more people to stay in Natchez and take in the show,” she said.

The 20-minute show, “is one of the biggest shows on the Mississippi,” Adams said.

During the fireworks, organizers will be selling refresments, grilled items and other goodies to raise money for the Christmas in Natchez and lights committee, Adams said.

Sponsors for the fireworks display include the Town of Vidalia, the City of Natchez, the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Concordia Bank, The Markets, Delta Bank, Natchez Coca-Cola, the Natchez Tricentennial, Homebank, United Mississippi Bank, Bowie’s Tavern, Callon Petroleum, The Vue, The D’Evereux-Shields Town House, Bisland House, the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce and First Natchez Radio Group.