Christmas in Natchez kicks off with gumbo, tree lighting Friday

Published 12:53 am Monday, November 20, 2017


NATCHEZ — Before the Thanksgiving turkey has had time to settle, Natchezians will be gearing up Friday for the ninth-annual Gumbo Cook-Off and Christmas Tree Lighting on Main Street.

The gumbo competition begins at 4 p.m., where visitors can choose the best-decorated booth, but Santa Claus will be available to take photos starting at 3:30 in the Home Bank lobby.

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Before the gumbo king or queen is announced at 6 p.m., kids and families can play on rides or drink lemonade and cookies.

For adults, organizers have ordered a controlled bungee jump as well this year, said Deanna Bowser of Home Bank, which is sponsoring the Gumbo cook-off.

Christmas music will start at 4 p.m. and will last until 8, unlike most years when the festivities ended early.

Competitors interested in the gumbo competition have until Wednesday to sign up. First place receives a $200 grand prize; second receives $100; third gets $50.

Gumbo booth patrons are also encouraged to decorate their tents. Visitors get to vote for their favorite booth, and the booth with the most votes also gets a prize, Bowser said.

After the winners are announced at 6, festival-goers are encouraged to gather around for the Christmas tree lighting and pyrotechnics that will follow, Bowser said.

Though forecasts say the temperatures will be in the 60s on Friday, Bowser said to watch out for a little snow on Main Street.

The rides and music will continue after the lighting for two hours, giving everyone time to mingle and dance, Bowser said.

Entry to the festival is free, but visitors can purchase a $10 taster kit to try the gumbo. Children get a $5 armband that gives them unlimited rides all evening. The bungee jump costs $5 per-person, per-ride.

Debbie Hudson, president of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, said the Christmas tree lighting fills a gap in Natchez tourism.

“Each year it’s bigger and better,” Hudson said. “We’re adding to it and making it family friendly so people can come visit.”

The festival first began nine years ago, Hudson said, when she and others in the chamber of commerce realized a gap existed in the tourism industry at the beginning of the Christmas season.

Even though several events around town, she said, visitors found it difficult to find out when and where festivities were.

The tree lighting, she said, is the perfect way to kick off Christmas in Natchez and to bring people back for other activities throughout the season.

The full list of Christmas in Natchez events may be found at Those interested in signing up as a gumbo competitor may email Bowser at