IN FULL BLOOM: Annual Crepe Myrtle event underway
Published 4:00 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023
NATCHEZ — Just as fireworks get ready to burst in July, Natchez crepe myrtles are already bursting with color, inviting tourists to come on a self-guided walking or driving tour to see their lovely blooms.
The kick-off for the annual “Natchez Celebrates the Blooms” is Saturday, July 8, with a special presentation of the Sallie Junkin Ballard Keep Natchez Blooming Award at the Downtown Natchez Farmers Market.
The award is named in memory of native Natchezian Sallie Junkin Ballard (1926-2017), who orchestrated the effort to make Natchez the “Crepe Myrtle Capital of the World” by planting hundreds of crepe myrtle trees throughout the city.
Email newsletter signup
The award was first given in 2022 to Marcia McCullough of “Garden Lovers of Natchez” for her efforts to beautify Downtown Natchez by hanging flower baskets and to Monroe Sago and Rita Tebbetts of the Adams County Master Gardeners for their efforts to educate the public and treat bark scale disease that threatens the crepe myrtle populace.
Honorees this year will be announced during the plant and tree sale at the Downtown Natchez Farmer’s Market, which happens between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Awards will be presented around 10 a.m., said Downtown Natchez Alliance Executive Director Mickey Howley.
The crepe myrtle festival was the first item discussed at the Downtown Merchants Group meeting led by Howley at Natchez Coffee Company on Wednesday morning.
The hot topic — literally, as the hot and humid summertime tends to ward off many activities to attract visitors — of Wednesday’s meeting was how to drive traffic to come and see the crepe myrtles during the few weeks of the year that they look their best.
Ideas included everything from hosting a themed breakfast of crepes on the bluff or selling pink crepe myrtle cocktails in the go-cup district to hosting a “cruising the crepes” motorcade with area car clubs.
“We’d like to make it an event that is marketable,” said Jo Ann Brumfield, professional hospitality manager of DNA. “I know there are a lot of places that have crepes, but Natchez is one that really has crepes.”
Tour maps to three different free self-guided tours of the crepe myrtles can be found at natchezdna.org/crepe-myrtle-festival.
The “Bloom Drive” map guides visitors on a driving tour that includes notable landmarks and historic homes such as Stanton Hall, Monmouth Historic Inn, Auburn and Dunleith.
The “City Cemetery” map, as the name implies, notes the crepe myrtles planted on the hills around the graves of the historic Natchez City Cemetery and their colors for either a walking or driving tour.
The “Sip & See Stroll” map includes crepe myrtles planted inside the city’s entertainment and go-cup district for those who like to carry a little refreshment while they appreciate the blooms or want to stop at one of the many restaurants on their way for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Also happening in July:
The annual “Christmas in July” fundraiser at Dunleith, which supports the non-profit Christmas in Natchez organization’s mission to light up and decorate the city for the holiday season, takes place Thursday, July 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person or $130 per couple, or get a free ticket with the donation of a silent auction item worth $75 or more, said Mamie Henry of the Downtown Merchants Group.
The “Christmas in July” sidewalk sales event, in which area businesses team up with in-store discounts, is the following Saturday, July 15. A list of participating merchants can be found at natchezdna.org/christmas-july. Merchants or restaurants not listed may sign up now if they wish to participate and be added to social media promotions using the #NatchezChristmasinJuly.
The Natchez Food & Wine Festival, scheduled to take place from July 27 through July 29, includes food vendors, cooking demonstrations, tastings and casual or formal dinners. Individual tickets are sold and more details can be found at natchezfoodandwine.com.