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Hundreds turn out for annual Christmas tree lighting

NATCHEZ — Friday’s annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Downtown Natchez marked the beginning of another holiday season and the close end of another era.

The area of Main and Commerce streets surrounding the Christmas tree was packed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people waiting to see it light up, both with lights and fireworks.

Before the celebratory lighting took place, however, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell had an announcement.

“This will be my last Christmas tree lighting I will attend as mayor of this city,” Grennell said, implying that he would not run for re-election in 2020.

Grennell later confirmed that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

It didn’t take long for 5-year-old Brook Griffith to get into the holiday spirit during the tree lighting festivities. As soon as she saw Santa sitting in his chair in the lobby of Home Bank, she was already there.

“Everything,” Griffith exclaimed when Santa leaned down and asked her what she wanted for Christmas this year.

“Mind your mama, and we’ll see,” Santa said, rolling with amusement.

Griffith wasn’t the only one smiling during Friday’s celebration.

The blue fairy, also known as 16-year-old Carmen Verser, also smiled and a crowd full of hundreds of people cheered as she danced to her scene from “The Nutcracker” along with other cast members from the Natchez Ballet Academy.

Snow machines prompted 5-year-old Makenzie Rice to smile too after the fireworks. She reached above her head and grasped at the flurries as they clung to the curls in her hair.

Grennell described the close end to his mayoral term as bittersweet shortly after the conclusion of Friday’s event.

He thanked the sponsors for the evening’s festivities and the Natchez Public Works department for setting up the holiday decorations.

“This is a great evening for the City of Natchez,” Grennell said. “The reason that it is so great is that we have so many wonderful citizens here in Natchez.”

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