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Plenty of fun events planned around Natchez Balloon Festival

By Lyndy Berryhill

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — While the Natchez Balloon Festival’s schedule is limited to strictly hot air balloons this year, other businesses and organizations are stepping up to sponsor socially distanced activities for attendees.

The Natchez Manor venue and the Natchez Grand Hotel are hosting events the weekend of the balloon festival, which starts Friday.

Natchez Grand events

In partnership with Visit Natchez and the Natchez Convention Center, The Natchez Grand will host the Four Element events for families and individuals and the Manor will host live music each night for their inaugural fall concert series.

“We were trying to create events that complement the Natchez Balloon Festival,” said Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff, who is the events coordinator for the Natchez Grand Hotel.

Laukhuff said the Grand’s events are built around the four elements; earth, water, wind and fire.

The earth-themed event is a partnership with the Natchez Farmer’s Market. Starting Saturday morning, the Farmer’s Market will take place from 8 a.m. until noon.

The event celebrating water is focused on the views of the Mississippi River.

The Plein Air painting contest requires artists to submit their best painting of the River by 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19. The winner of the painting contest will take home $500. The winning painting will be displayed in the Natchez Convention Center.

Photographs of the Mississippi River must be submitted by 8 a.m. on Oct. 19. The photography contest winner with the best photo of the river will receive $300 and their photo will also be featured at the Natchez Convention Center.

The wind element will be represented by a free kite-making table for children and enthusiastic adults.

Laukhuff said participants would get to color their kites at socially distanced tables and then assemble them.

The Natchez Fire Department will bring a fire truck and give a demonstration about fire safety for the fire element.

“They’ll essentially be doing a show and tell event,” Laukhuff said.

Both the kite activity and the fire safety demonstration will take place from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Laukhuff said the balloon festival is one of the biggest revenue generators for businesses in Natchez, so not having the large crowd of visitors like during a typical balloon festival impacts everyone economically.

However, Laukhuff said, businesses are working together to help each other out and host safe, socially distanced events to benefit the city and fellow business owners.

“Natchez is working together to make sure everyone still has a great weekend,” Laukhuff said.

The Natchez Manor music events

The Natchez Manor will began the weekend Thursday by hosting acoustic musician Jessie Howell at their Rooftop Bar from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. and on Friday, the Franklin Street Bar will have live music from 6 p.m. until midnight.

On Saturday, the Manor will hold a larger outdoor event with NRrythhm Band from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and Emerson Hill from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. DJ Shelly will perform at the Franklin Street Bar from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. Saturday.

Emily McNeil, business director of the Natchez Manor, said all patrons would be screened with a temperature check upon entrance and required to socially distance as much as possible. 


Free concert Saturday at gazebo

On Saturday a group of musicians organized by Chris Jackson and Benji Sonders, will present a free live concert at the gazebo on the bluff starting at 11 a.m. with Rabbitt Hatt followed by Cross Street from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., Scratch from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Backroads from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. YZ Ealy & Friends.

Attendees must practice COVID-19 guidelines, Jackson said, adding a special thanks to Kevin Graham for working the sound system and Tammy Thomas for producing the event flyer.

“Because we weren’t having music at the balloon festival the local musicians are getting together to put on a free concert,” Jackson said. “Donations to pay the bands will accepted and appreciated.”

Top Shot

A “Top Shot” archery and shooting competition will be held Friday and Saturday and includes various skill competitions among registered competitors using the north end of the bluff near Madison Street.

Registration is from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and is sponsored by Mississippi Auto Direct on the bluff “Live @ Five” and The Natchez Balloon Glow.

Saturday events include an 8 a.m. archery shoot with contestants starting on the bluff and running the Natchez trail and hills back to the open field for the archery competition.
Lunch will be at 11 a.m. Saturday before transporting competitors to Natchez Shooting Sports at noon for a 1 p.m. clay pigeon shoot at Second Union Hunting Club and a 6 p.m. closing ceremony.