The magical Natchez vibe

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2022

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Last weekend was a magical weekend for Natchez – and I actually am taking that description from the very words spoken by the Ambassador of France to the United States, Philippe Etienne who fell in love with our city in literally one day.

Sitting together watching Patti LaBelle perform at the closing concert of the first-ever Blues and Soul Super Bowl on our beautiful bluff, he turned to me and said, “This trip to Natchez has for me been magical.”

It truly was a magical weekend, one of many we have experienced lately, and it’s worth noting that the Magical Vibe of Natchez is starting to become a regular thing. We hear it all the time – and we in Natchez should be careful not to take it for granted but rather to celebrate it. Because it truly is rare, and we are blessed to be experiencing it.

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Friday night, enjoying the music of Kool and the Gang and reconnecting with a friend from high school was something I will treasure always. And that was just the beginning. Saturday morning, the weather was perfect as I greeted Ambassador Etienne, along with his wife Patricia, the French Consul General/Atlanta, Anne-Laure Desjonquères, and the Honorary French Consul/Hattiesburg, Keltoum Rowland at Dunleith. We took a brief tour, including a visit to St. Mary’s Basilica, said to have been started by a French Priest in the late 1830s.

The Daughters of the American Revolution then greeted us with an elegant lunch and a tour of Rosalie, followed by a visit to the site of Fort Rosalie where Park Ranger David Slay provided a historic presentation of the events that took place there three centuries ago. We observed a moment of silence for those lives lost, both the Natchez Indians and the French, and Consul Rowland shared memories of a ceremony held during the Natchez Tricentennial in 2016, where she, on behalf of France, and the Natchez Nation’s Great Sun Hutke Fields, on behalf of the Nah-Chee, shook hands and shared a moment of peace.

Afterwards, the visit shifted to Conde Contemporary on Main Street where discussion took place on cultural arts and fine arts exchange ideas between Natchez and France. Gallery-owner Stacy Conde helped lead the conversation, along with Bobby Dennis of NAPAC, Lance Harris of the Natchez Grand Village, Leon Hollins of Arts Natchez, Ginger Hyland of the Towers, and Carter Burns of the Historic Natchez Foundation. It will be exciting to see what comes of these discussions!

It’s hard to imagine all that took place during the Ambassador’s visit – to include a delicious dinner hosted by the Pilgrimage Garden Club and Chef Wayne Bryant at Stanton Hall, meeting the legendary Dorothy Moore, enjoying the Patti LaBelle concert on The Bluff, eating an elegant brunch with the Natchez Garden Club at Magnolia Hall, and even taking a carriage ride with “Guy and Hal”! Magical definitely is the word to describe this historic visit of a French Ambassador to the oldest French settlement on the Mississippi River.

What truly made the weekend remarkable is that, while the Ambassador and his entourage were visiting Natchez, thousands were enjoying Natchez in so many other ways, rocking to great music on The Bluff, visiting our many historic sites, shopping in our unique stores and boutiques, and indulging in famous Natchez cuisine at restaurants all over our city. Even Ms. LaBelle and her entire team were enjoying Natchez at her best, partaking in the amazing soul-food at Rolling River Reloaded, her favorite Natchez restaurant, while the Ambassador was just a block down the street talking art at Conde Contemporary.

It’s the Natchez Vibe. And we are now experiencing it all again with thousands more in our city enjoying the 37th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival with the Molly Ringwalds, YZ Ealey, the Drive-by Truckers, and Chapel Hart. Where else in our region can we find so many things to enjoy? And many more “vibe-filled” weekends are on the way!

Enjoy Natchez! And say a prayer of thanks for all we have to be grateful for. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.