Inaugural festival to celebrate area’s thousands of crepe myrtles

Published 8:34 am Sunday, June 9, 2019


NATCHEZ — Washington, D.C., may have its cherry blossoms in the spring and the Great Smoky Mountains may have its leaf tours in the fall, but nothing compares to the beauty of 10,000 crepe myrtles in Natchez in the summer.

Just ask New Orleans Historic Properties Specialist Peter Patout, who said he was blown away by the spectacular display of color when he saw the trees for the first time on a Natchez visit last year.

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“It was astounding,” Patout said. Patout has regularly visited the area since the 1980s and represents several clients in the area as a Realtor.

The white, pink and purple blooms were so beautiful that Patout said he decided a special event needed to be created devoted primarily to the trees.

With the help of local crepe myrtle enthusiasts, Patout has founded the inaugural Natchez International Crepe Myrtle Festival. The two-day festival will be June 21-22.

“No other city can boast the extraordinary display of crepe myrtle blooms,” Patout said. “The whole community has supported taking care of the phenomenal natural beauty of these trees.”

Like the town’s annual pilgrimages, the crepe myrtle festival will celebrate one of the area’s significant assets, Patout said.

“The pilgrimages celebrate the area’s architecture; this celebrates one of Natchez’s natural resources,” Patout said.

The event also honors the memory of Sallie Ballard, who made it her mission to make sure the town planted 2,000 crepe myrtle trees to celebrate the turn of the millennium in 2000.

“The crepe myrtles that Ms. Ballard helped plant have made Natchez the crepe myrtle capital of the world,” Patout said.

The headquarters for the two-day event will be at Natchez Architectural and Art Discoveries, 515 Main St. Maps, tickets and information about the festival will be available at the headquarters throughout the festival.

The festival will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 21, with “The Crepe Crawl.” During the crawl, participants will walk under downtown crepe myrtles to enjoy appetizers at participating restaurants and live music at several downtown venues.

For $20, two wrist bands will be provided for two-for-one drinks or appetizers and a two-for-one cover charge at the live music venues.

From 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, June 22, festival-goers will enjoy live music, fresh produce, baked goods and arts and crafts at the downtown Natchez Farmers Market in the 100 block of Commerce Street. Crepe myrtles and other plants will be on sale.

Free lectures and workshops will also be provided from 9 a.m. until noon, just a few steps away from the farmers market at the Historic Natchez Foundation conference room.

Topics will include demonstrations on the proper care and pruning of crepe myrtles, controlling crepe myrtle bark scale, a presentation of the history of Natchez crepe myrtles. Many of the workshops will be presented by area master gardeners and other regional experts.

Self-guided tours of the Natchez City Cemetery, Auburn Antebellum Home, Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens will be available throughout the day on June 22.

A book signing for the event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 22 at Regina’s Kitchen at 312 Main St.

Patout said he had been met with a “groundswell” of enthusiasm since he first introduced the idea of a crepe myrtle festival. He said he is especially thankful for the hard work and support of co-chairs Regina and Doug Charboneau and co-chairs Mike and Elaine Gemmell. Patout said the contributions of the Adams County Master Gardeners has been equally astounding.

“We have such a diverse committee that has worked hard to make the festival a success,” Patout said.