Christmas village on Bluff opens Friday at 2 pm.; offers shopping, activities and treats for all ages

Published 1:51 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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NATCHEZ — About a year ago, officials with the American Queen approached the volunteers of Christmas in Natchez about a new idea that would serve the city and its merchants as well as their passengers who would visit Natchez during the holidays.

That new idea — the creation of an old European-style Christmas village in Natchez — opens at 2 p.m. on Friday on the Bluff.

Downtown business owner Mamie Henry, who along with Natchezian Diane DuPont have headed up the project, said so many are excited about the village and expect it to become an integral part of Christmas in Natchez.

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Henry, who owns The Shops at Kress, Natchez Unique and Consignment and More at Jacob’s, said the cruise line donated two sets of cruises for four passengers each, which were auctioned off at Christmas in July this summer.

“Those cruises raised $18,000 in the auction, which is how we were able to have constructed the 10 little gingerbread houses that will house the village,” Henry said.

After its opening on Friday, and again on Saturday, the village will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas.

“The little gingerbread houses are so adorable. And while we have 10 of them, we have more vendors than that because some are sharing,” she said. “It’s going to be fabulous!”

The concept of the Christmas village is one that will benefit all downtown merchants, said Jaki Yarbrough of Christmas in Natchez.

“We will have a postal shop onsite. People can go to the postal shop and get a passport. They can get on the free trolley that will be operating during the times the Christmas village is open and that will take you to our downtown merchants, who will stamp customers’ passports. Customers can then take their passport back to the postal shop and get a free Christmas in Natchez gift,” she said.

Henry said it only takes five “stamps” on your passport to qualify for the free gift, which a wooden Christmas tree ornament commemorating Natchez.

“You don’t have to buy anything at the stores to get the stamp on your passport. You just have to go into five downtown businesses and look,” she said.

In addition to vendors, who will be selling a variety of gift items and will be creating some of their craft items in their gingerbread houses, a number of activities and food items are planned for children and adults.

For children, tables and chairs will be set up outside the postal shop for them to write their letters to Santa. Mrs. Claus will be at the postal shop collecting those letters from children.

Marla Toman Gibson and DuPont will man a booth and will be providing the makings for smores. The owners of historic Linden Bed and Breakfast will be serving mint juleps to grownups and will also be selling gift items.

Smoots and Wardo’s will be sharing a booth, offering adult hot chocolate, mimosas, bloody Marys and gumbo, red beans and rice and poboys.

And Santa will be at the bandstand every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The city trolley will pick up at The Depot on the Bluff and take passengers up Franklin Street to MLK to Main and back to The Depot, Henry said.

“We are so excited. All the vendors are so excited. We just need to get people to come,” she said.

DuPont said so many people have worked “morning, noon and night, in the rain and cold and heat,” to bring the Christmas village to reality.

“Chapman Sharp, Gary Layton and the guys at Moover Dudes built the little gingerbread houses and they did a bang up job,” DuPont said.