Year in Review: Top stories of 2023 highlight winning, animals and religion

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is one of two reviewing the most-read stories published on NatchezDemocrat.com in 2023

NATCHEZ — The interests of readers of The Natchez Democrat are nothing if not diverse and broad ranging.

Top stories as indicated by reader interest on NatchezDemocrat.com ranged from people who struck it big on the lottery here, of which there were several, and a Natchez woman who walked away from Magnolia Bluffs Casino this year a million dollars richer.

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Readers are keenly interested in stories about crimes that occurred here. Crime stories are always among the most well read on The Democrat’s website.

Other favorite stories among readers involved animals sightings, from the snakehead fish near Minorca to the bears that made an early morning ramble through a Natchez neighborhood.

Other popular stories published this year included the split of area churches with the United Methodist organization, the primary and general elections, as well as people who accomplished cool things, like the Biglane family and its appearance on Family Feud.

Based on the number of readers who read about crimes that happened this year here, those stories are also among the most popular. Same with stories about people and animals, the split of area churches with the United Methodist organization and the primary and general elections.

Lottery winnings and more

Natchez Democrat readers love to read about those who win money.

One of The Democrat’s most read stories of 2023 was about a Natchez man who walked into Blue Sky in Natchez and spent $20 buying a Multiplier Mania scratch-off ticket and won $1,000. This story published Jan. 23.

As popular was a story published Feb. 15 about a Natchez woman who won $10,000 on the purchase of two Cash 4 tickets.

On Sunday, Feb. 26, T. Quarles of Brookhaven hit a $1.1 million jackpot on a $3.75 wager on the Buffalo Grand slot machine at the Magnolia Bluffs Casino.

After her big win, Quarles said, “Give to others generously and the Lord will give back to you.”

On April 6, The Democrat published a story about a Fayette woman who won $5,000 in the Lucky Break scratch-off game. The scratch off ticket was purchased from Sprint Mart No. 66 in Fayette.

Then again on April 11, a Natchez woman won $5,000 on a $5 Lady Luck scratch off ticket purchased at Blue Sky No. 510 in Natchez.

Random animal news

A story about a local coach who spotted a cougar on the Natchez Trace, an angler who captured video of a Snakehead near Minorca and the Natchez couples who spotted bears frolicking through a Natchez neighborhood are among the most read in 2023.

On April 5, Chrystal Burns and her husband, Buck, who live in Etania Subdivision, caught a bear on their video cameras.

The bear was strolling across the driveway and front yards of the Burns’ home in the densely populated neighborhood in Natchez.

On Sunday, June 4, Monterey coach and Natchez resident Patrick Wells captured video while fishing near Minorca of the Northern Snakehead fish, and invasive fish threatening other species.

He took video of the cringe-worthy fish and reported it to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

People doing cool things

Natchez residents or those with strong Natchez ties accomplished some incredible things this year, and Democrat readers loved their stories.

On March 4, Maggie Ulmer of Natchez was crowned Most Beautiful at the University of Mississippi.

Ulmer, a senior at Ole Miss, was a contestant in the university’s annual Parade of Beauties pageant. She is a 2019 graduate of Cathedral School and is the daughter of Billy and Leah Ulmer of Natchez.

About a month later, Maggie competed with her sister, Claire Ulmer, in two divisions of the Miss Mississippi USA pageant, where they walked away with a crown and a first runner-up title.

Claire Ulmer was crowned Miss Mississippi Teen USA and her sister, Maggie, was first runner-up in the Miss Mississippi USA contest.

In March, four Biglane cousins — Joanna, Rebecca, Presley and Lauren — and cousin-in-law Melinda were featured on three segments of the popular TV game show Family Feud. Readers tuned into the show, and clicked on the stories, which were some of the most-read in 2023.

Lastly, but most significantly, two Natchez families were filled with pride when their granddaughter, cousin and niece Alexis Morris led the LSU Tigers to the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Morris returned to Natchez during the summer and taught a basketball camp for young Natchez boys and girls basketball players.

A church divided

Religion, specifically the Methodist religion, was a hot topic for Natchez Democrat readers in 2023, when Miss-Lou churches affiliated with the United Methodist Church took votes about whether to leave that organization.

The issue causing the split nationally was the role homosexuals should play in the church.

Several local Methodist churches, like Jefferson Street and Grace, voted to leave its affiliation with the United Methodist Church. Others, like Lovely Lane and Kingston, took a “wait and see” approach.