Memorial Day revelers set to march Monday

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2017


Vidalia — Despite setbacks surrounding the westbound Mississippi River bridge’s potential closure, the annual Memorial Day Parade is set to march across the bridge Monday.

The parade is noted as one of the oldest in the country, as organizers say the tradition goes back 151 years — first making the journey to the Natchez National Cemetery by ferry.

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The route begins at the corner of North Magnolia and Alabama streets at 8 a.m. Monday. The parade march begins at 8:30 a.m. and will cross the Mississippi River Bridge before stopping to take a 30-minute break at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center. The parade will then continue to its destination, the Natchez National Cemetery, arriving before noon.

The event marks the first year Vidalia Police school resource officer Christy Bowman will organize the parade. Bowman follows in the footsteps of Eddie Coleman, longtime parade director who died earlier this year.

“It’s going to be tough to fill the shoes of Eddie Coleman,” Bowman said. “I’m excited to march. I’m jittery but ready.”

Bowman said she had been helping gather and ready the dancers for the parade. Bowman said she thinks her relationship with the area’s youth is why she was selected to lead the parade.

“I work with the children, and I know a lot of them,” she said. “They respect me and listen to me.”

Bowman said longtime participant, Frank Williams of Vidalia, is expected to make the march this year. Williams is the commander of the American Legion Sidney Short Post 590 in Vidalia.

The grand marshal will be retired police officer and veteran Charles Ferguson of Vidalia. Ferguson served in the Air Force.

“I am looking forward to it,” Ferguson said. “I have been living in Vidalia all my life. It is an honor, and I am very happy to do it.”

Willa Williams Rhodes has come to Vidalia from Las Vegas to represent the Williams Foundation and family and help support the parade.

The children in the parade are from Vidalia, Ferriday and Natchez, Bowman said. More than 30 children are expected to be playing instruments, including many drummers.

A first time marcher, Jakyron Johnson, 6, has been practicing on the drums since he was 4 to make the march. Johnson is expected to be the parade’s youngest marcher.

“I am excited,” the Vidalia Lower Elementary student said. “It is fun to play the drums.”

Jay Williams is leading the percussion team. Before he was leading it, he marched in the parade.

“This is the 151st year,” Williams said. “It is a good cause. It is an important tradition, not just for the community, but for the City of Vidalia.”

Mica’h Turner, 15, has been dancing in the parade since she was 8. Now a Vidalia High School student, Turner has been coming up with the marching dances for the team.

“I enjoy it — walking across the bridge and getting together with the girls,” Turner said. “Some of the girls I go to school with, some I grew up with and some I just see when we walk.”

Memorial Day is a vital part of remembering the sacrifices of military members, Turner said.

“I think it is important to honor the people who died for us,” Turner said.