Santa, Christmas Tree Fund bring smiles, toys to local girls, boys

Published 4:18 pm Monday, December 24, 2018


NATCHEZ — Smiling faces were abundant on Christmas Eve with more than 325 local children celebrating at Braden Auditorium.

The children received bags of presents, thanks to a group of local businessmen and sponsors who wanted to be sure the children there had a reason to be merry.

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Braden is perhaps the most important stop during the annual Santa Claus Parade that started at 8 a.m. Monday and the sound of car horns and sirens blared as the parade made its way through many Natchez neighborhoods.

Since 1928, members of the Santa Claus Committee pay their dues to help purchase hundreds of bags filled with toys to give out to children every year. Their work contributes to the Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund, which organizes the toy purchases and distribution.

Contributors to the festivities circled the auditorium, watching the line of happy children step up on the stage.

Mississippi Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, sat in the back of the auditorium, grinning as children around him sat opening their presents.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and Natchez Chief of Police Walter Armstrong both stood near the front of the stage greeting the children as they walked by.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell sat in a chair on the stage in a festive velvet blazer — while many of the children shuffled right past him to shake hands with a man wearing a big red suit and sporting a white beard — Santa Claus.

Kayleeah Washington, 3, held tightly to her older cousin, Destiny Brown’s hand but let go long enough to wrap her arms around Santa Claus.

“Nowhere else will you find this group of people in the same room together, and all for one good cause … making these children smile,” Patten said, observing the crowd of people who nearly filled the auditorium to its capacity, “It’s a unique thing. … There’s nothing like this anywhere else in the country.”