Christmas in July events successful even in blistering heat

Published 9:30 am Friday, July 28, 2023

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NATCHEZ — July in Natchez has been blistering hot, and so were Christmas in July events held recently to prepare for the holiday season.

The success of the events was the talk of Downtown Merchants in their monthly meeting at Natchez Coffee Company.

Mamie Henry, president of the Christmas in Natchez committee, said the Christmas in July cocktail party fundraiser and silent auction at Dunleith on July 13 was “phenomenal and well-attended.”

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The fundraiser brought in approximately $20,000 for Christmas In Natchez, $10,000 shy of the group’s $30,000 goal, she said.

“We’re so blessed because American Queen (Voyages) donated two cruises for two people each,” Henry said. “We were able to raise beyond anything we’ve done in the past. We don’t have final numbers but it is going to give us the opportunity to build Christmas village houses right across from the Grand Hotel. We will be looking for local merchants to occupy those and that will open up the weekend after Thanksgiving through Christmas.”

Natchez businessman Jimmy Smith donated the first of the Christmas village houses that had been put on display at Dunleith, Henry said, adding there would be a total of 10 put on display on the Natchez Bluff during the holiday season.

“We will own them and they will be stored here to use every year,” she said. “It’s going to be great.”

Henry encouraged local vendors to pair up and share the houses to sell their products. The big sellers would likely be small souvenir trinkets that people can package and ship back to their homes and, of course, holiday snacks and beverages like hot chocolate, pralines, etc.

Downtown merchants who cannot spare the time or staff to fill the houses can benefit from them also, Henry said.

“The most important thing is American Queen going to provide national marketing for us, which is going to bring thousands more people into Natchez at Christmas time, benefiting hotels, restaurants and shops. It’s going to implode throughout the whole city,” she said.

Henry said the inspiration partnership with the cruise company came from the Christmas in Natchez committee and Regina Charboneau, who owns a Natchez cooking school and is one of American Queen Voyage’s featured chefs.

“They’ve done a small craft fair on the grounds of one of Natchez’s historic homes before COVID years ago,” Henry said, adding Christmas in Natchez wanted to do something similar on level, visible ground on the bluff.

Also, to help draw traffic to the downtown shops, a trolley that has been out of use for a while will be “making stops at the different shops” along Main and Franklin Streets on its way back and forth to the Christmas village, Henry said.

This would be marketed to not only those on the boats, but to the national driving market as well, Henry said.

“The drive market is our bread and butter,” she said.

The Saturday following the Christmas in July fundraiser was Natchez’s Christmas in July shopping event, which included street sales of Christmas items, refreshments and holiday-themed decorations.

While it was hot out, “I believe it drove more people into the shops,” Henry said. “We sold some Christmas items that day and I feel the more things we do like this the better. We are a tourist town and tourism is extremely important. For those out there who haven’t been to Downtown Natchez in the last few years, then they haven’t been downtown. It’s a totally different downtown. We have more shopping for children, for tweens for everybody, not just the older generation.”