Christmas season kicks off with lighting of tree, fireworks, snow

Published 11:54 pm Saturday, November 24, 2018


NATCHEZ — Locals who attended the 10th Annual Lighting of the Tree & Gumbo Cookoff in Downtown Natchez on Saturday evening said this year’s event was bigger than it has ever been before.

The smell of gumbo filled the intersection of Main and Commerce streets starting at 4 p.m. Saturday as local chefs competed for the best tasting gumbo.

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Roux 61 took the first-place prize, followed by Hotel Vue in second place and Rolling River Bistro in third place.

Later in the evening, hundreds of people counted down the tree lighting that was followed by a pyrotechnics show that encircled the brand new tree provided to the city by Taco Bell and its owner, the Paradise Companies.

Jackie Coleman said this was her first year to witness the tree lighting.

“As long as I’ve been here, this is my first year to come out and see all of this,” Coleman said, as her four nephews Jayse, Carter, Kwasi and Kwahli played in snow that fell from machines.

“This is my home — born and raised. I didn’t expect the big carnival, just the lighting of the tree. My husband, Eddie, works for the city and helped hang up the lights.”

Others who have been a part of the tree lighting for years said this year was almost like seeing it for the first time.

“This is by far the biggest turnout I have ever seen,” said Kevin Miers, owner of Brodeur Gallery near the corner of Main and North Commerce streets.

“It’s different this year … having the tents with the gumbo spread out, and they’ve really expanded the children’s activities. At one point, there was a line for the ride tickets more than 100 people long. It was an amazing turnout this year.”

Mary Jane Gaudet, who was born and raised in Natchez, said she’s been a part of every Natchez Christmas for 75 years, and she was impressed.

“Having grown up here — at 75 years old — it’s pretty darn good, and I’ve been here every Christmas,” Gaudet said. “Growing up, you had a live Christmas tree and you didn’t have a big interracial gathering or a big show. You just had the Christmas tree and it was wonderful. But this — bringing the community together with music and food — that didn’t happen back then.”