Thanks for help with IP decorations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2018

I don’t know about you, but this past year flew by so very fast!

Of course, time does fly when you are having fun, or very busy with work and projects.

In my case, I had both and it made 2017 zip by at a pace that was truly exciting and rewarding.

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Many of you probably know that I led an all-out assault on the old I.P. Christmas decorations that had been slowly falling into disrepair. The condition of the displays was unacceptable, and I had kept an eye on them for several years to see if they were going to be restored to their former glory.

In December 2016, I decided that someone was going to have to step up, and I started to formulate a plan to “pitch” to the city and others involved with overseeing them.

After meeting with Mayor Darryl Grennell and Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson, I got the “go ahead” to start the process of restoration.

Meetings were held to spur interest and to try to secure other individuals who could help out with the project.

We started in late February and ran all the way up into November! What many had thought would be a simple clean-up and patch project became a massive rebuild project, with the majority of figures and  structures having to be copied and built anew, always with an eye towards keeping the style and look of the displays true to the originals.

It was a lot of work!

It took a lot of plywood, treated lumber, MDO plywood, paint and electrical supplies.

I hope you got to see the finished products this recent holiday season, and that you were suitably proud of the display.

Which brings me to the real purpose of this letter:

I cannot possibly thank enough the many people who helped to bring these displays back to life.

I will try, though!

The City of Natchez, specifically: the mayor and board of aldermen, who supported the project and gave me the “ green light” to get it done; Justin Dollar of Natchez Public Works; the employees of public works who provided the man-power in moving the displays. They were all super to work with and all were very accommodating.

Debbie Hudson who was able to shake some trees and get the funds flowing to get the project going. She was so supportive and always open to ideas.

Walt Grayson was also a key person in keeping the restoration message out there, as he  popped into town several times to do stories that aired on his associated television station.

The elves, who did some beautiful work on the displays! Jan Hammack Swoveland, Joe Swoveland, Aimee Guido, Becky Blanton, Kent Blanton, Daphine Hogan, Karla Brown, Orvelle Jones and John Goodrich deserve to be recognized for being generous with their time and helping to get things done! If you read this and see them out, give them a pat on the back.

I cannot mention the businesses by name in this forum, but suffice to say that several stepped up and provided services, either at a discounted rate or free-of-charge.

I had set up a “GoFundMe” account to help raise funds for the project, and quite a number stepped up to help out, some donating several times. Also, I started a Facebook page called “Friends of the old I.P. Christmas Displays” as a way to generate interest and to let contributers and others actually see how the project was developing. To date, the page has 490 members, and is still accepting new ones!

Do we stop here? Is there more to do?

In my opinion, we keep going!

It would be something to build the display back into the powerhouse spectacle that it once was. I could easily see it become an event that could rival other regional Christmastime offerings, such as the lights in Natchitoches. All it would take would be an eye towards excellence and promotion!

So, now I get to the second purpose of this letter, and that is to invite any and all interested parties to attend an upcoming meeting where plans will be started for this coming Christmas! I know it is early. I found out by experience that the time flies by!

The meeting will be an opportunity to examine this past year’s venture and discuss what went right and also, what went wrong.

We will discuss ideas for any new displays, funding possibilities and most importantly, securing more volunteers to help out with the effort.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 at New Covenant Church.

I sincerely hope you will be interested in taking part in this community project, as the rewards are great!


The reward is the pleasure that the display brings to so many; the fond memories, and the smiles that brighten the children’s faces upon seeing these magical sights.
Burnley Cook is a Natchez resident.