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‘Harmony in the Park’ event set for April 20

 

NATCHEZ — Just as proper use of black and white keys on the piano make the best harmony, Natchez is intermingling musical genres during a free event called “Harmony in the Park” to encourage unity in a racially diverse population.

The festivities start at noon Saturday, April 20, in Jack Waite Park on McCabe Street, where the first of four different bands — including jazz, blues, rock and zydeco — would entertain attendees, said event organizer, Jack Kelly.

More than 20 years ago, a committee of the Natchez Chamber of Commerce called the Unification Committee sought to create racial harmony by intermingling with various people.

“For four or five years, we did a lot of hard work,” said Jack Kelly, who joined the committee in 1996. “We went to each others’ homes and gave each other covered dishes, and we went as far as we could go and disbanded.”

During her time on the committee, Kelly said she envisioned a day of FUN — or “Fortifying and Unifying Natchez” — and thought music and games could be used to encourage every race to come together.

After years of trying to get city officials on board with the idea, Kelly said her dream is finally coming true with help from Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, Community Development Director James Johnston and three co-organizers, Matilda Ogden Stevens, Faye Minor and Morgan Groover.

The City of Natchez contributed $5,000 from a community development fund, which is comprised of casino gaming revenue, so anyone could attend at no cost and are welcome to bring their own food and beverage or purchase food from vendors on site, Kelly said.

“You can treat it like your own tailgating party, and even bring your own beer if you want,” she said. “We’re doing this for the sole purpose of having a good time.”

A free volleyball tournament — men against women — is also planned to keep the fun rolling, Kelly said. T-Shirts are also available for $15 for regular sizes $20 for plus sizes, however, the supply is limited, she said.

“I loved this quote by Plato, ‘You can learn more about a person in one hour of play than a lifetime at work,’” Kelly said. “I want to encourage people to step out of their element and come out and join the fun. I would like to see Natchez — with all of its horrid history — come out as a shining example for the entire nation of what a community should be like.”

Those interested may visit the “Harmony in the Park” Facebook page for more details and updated information in the event of inclement weather.

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