We already knew Natchez was best

Published 12:01 am Monday, May 21, 2018

Friday afternoon USA Today announced Natchez made the list of its Top 10 Best Historic Small Towns.

The achievement is great attention for our community, to say the least.

It also is validation of something many of us have always known: Natchez is a great treasure not only for its history, but also for many other reasons.

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Natchez has a great quality of life. Situated on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, it has picturesque views from the bluff overlooking that great river and the flat Louisiana delta land on the other side.

While one of the city’s faults may be that it is off the beaten path — nearly an hour’s drive to the nearest interstate — that is also one of the city’s great strengths.

That isolation makes the city more of a community, and the folks who visit can have the satisfaction of being off the beaten path and getting away from it all.

Once you’re here, the community is welcoming and friendly and there is no shortage of great restaurants, hotels, beds and breakfasts, historic sites and culture.

Antebellum houses, including Dunleith, Melrose and Longwood, to name a few, are certainly well-known draws to folks who are already familiar with the hidden gem that is Natchez, and now the word will be getting out to more people, thanks to USA Today.

The Natchez Spring and Fall Pilgrimages are great opportunities to showcase those historic houses and to present the tableau of culture, which is worth the price of admission.

Culture is abundant in Natchez and perhaps there is no better example of the culture than the month-long Natchez Festival of Music that is currently underway throughout the month of May.

It kicked off with a performance from Mac McAnally, who is one of Mississippi’s greatest cultural ambassadors, having earned the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award nine times.

His performance was just the start of a great month of musical entertainment that has spanned America’s songbook, including operatic performances, selections from Lerner and Loewe and Bernstein and Sondheim, not to mention music from across the pond from the British Invasion era of rock ’n‘ roll.

Anyone who’s spent time in Natchez, however, knows we are blessed with a strong local music scene and great local musicians can be found performing virtually any night of the week at many of the town’s nightspots.

One of those local bands has recently captured a national audience. Bishop Gunn, a hidden gem of the Natchez music scene, recently broke out to national acclaim with their album titled “Natchez” that debuted last week at No. 4 on the Billboard Blues Album chart.

And, a couple of weeks ago, appropriately enough in the middle of the Natchez Festival of Music month, they brought their show back home with a fantastic concert and the inaugural Bishop Gunn Crawfish Boil and Music Festival, feature eight rock, blues and soul bands performing throughout the day on the Natchez bluff. That event brought visitors from every state in the continental United States. And, it was a really great show.

Thank you, USA Today, for shining the national spotlight on Natchez. I’m sure people who choose to visit Natchez after reading about it will not be disappointed, because Natchez more than lives up to the expectations.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at 601-445-3540 or at scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.