Destination Downtown: Let’s keep Natchez blooming

Published 2:25 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

The latest Y’all Means All event coming up this weekend in Downtown Natchez has Natchez “blooming” with anticipation.

Blooming By The River, described as a floral and gardeners’ haven, is taking place this weekend at Choctaw Hall and First Presbyterian Church, and promises to be an enriching experience for all attendees.

Michael Gray is the event chairperson and past president of Y’all Means All Natchez, a 501c3 organization whose goal is solely to raise money to support expanded mental health services in Southwest Mississippi. Michael shared with me that the event began as part of a broader mission to bring together the community and utilize the natural beauty of Natchez to support mental health.

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The idea blossomed in 2018 when Gray and his colleagues sought to create impactful community activities to help serve Y’all Means All’s goal. Blooming By The River emerged as a cornerstone event, celebrating the art and beauty of floriculture and gardening. Gray explained, “We wanted to pull from the beautiful natural setting that is Natchez. And to capitalize on people who love flowers, who love cutting flowers, love arrangements in their home, live flowers, even silk flowers — we bring in people who we have contacts within these industries from around the country.”

This year’s event features an impressive lineup of presenters, including Felder Rushing, known as the Gestalt Gardener on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and other notable figures like Jim DelPrince and Ralph Null.

“Felder has a tremendous following. He is a quirky gardener with great appeal and talks everybody’s language,” Gray noted. The event has evolved over the years, continually adapting and growing in popularity. After a brief hiatus due to the pandemic, it resumed with strong community support.

Blooming By The River not only focuses on the aesthetics and techniques of floral design but also deeply intertwines with the nonprofit’s mission to support mental health. “Every bit of the proceeds from our events goes back into the community to support mental health initiatives,” Gray emphasized. This commitment extends to funding local students’ graduate studies in social work and supporting mental health programs regionally and nationally.

This weekend’s event includes a special reception on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Choctaw Hall aimed at increasing engagement and attendance, followed by the main symposium on Sunday. The event promises a range of activities from expert presentations to demonstrations and a silent auction of floral pieces. Tickets for the reception and symposium are priced at $30 and $50, respectively, with a discounted rate available for attendees purchasing tickets for both events.

Gray’s closing thoughts highlighted the broad appeal of the event, “Whether you’re a seasoned floral designer or someone who just appreciates the beauty of a well-arranged bouquet, this event has something to offer. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature, learn from top experts, and support a great cause.”

Also among this year’s experts are DNA Board member Brenda Zerby and her daughter Bethany of Moreton’s. Brenda chairs DNA’s Downtown Design Team, and she is actively looking for volunteers who can lend their time and talents to beautifying our Downtown.  Coming up in June is DNA’s “Celebrate the Blooms Crepe Myrtle Festival,” and DNA is now accepting nominations for the “Sallie Junkin Ballard Keep Natchez Blooming” award.

Just send an email to with the name and contact info of your nominee. You can read about the purpose of the award and past recipients at

For those interested in attending Blooming By The River, tickets and more information are available on the Y’all Means All Natchez website. The event promises to be a vibrant celebration of nature’s beauty, and of course, a demonstration of our communities’ commitment to a vital cause.

Michael Wilson is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Downtown Natchez Alliance (DNA). He can be reached at