The Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission is hoping to develop a new activity that would bring visitors and local residents alike to Front Street — the Natchitoches Time Machine Weekend.
Commissioner Joe Darby said that anyone interested in historic recreations, or who has any ideas to share on the program, is invited to attend a meeting Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m. at the Fort St. Jean Baptiste visitor’s center on Jefferson Street. “If you think you could help in any way, please join us,” he said.
Darby said he was inspired to propose the program to the Tourist Commission by the success last year of a Civil War battle reenactment on Front Street, which drew huge crowds to the downtown area.
“Most of our Time Machine weekends would not be nearly as spectacular as that battle, but we hope to put characters in costume on the street who will act and speak as if they were from the past,” he said.
Natchitoches offers a rich source for historic characters and events, he said. “Among the programs we’re talking about could be weekends featuring Colonial History, Native Americans, the Cane River Creoles, the Civil War, World War II, the 1920s and ’30s, Louisiana sports stars and, perhaps for October, a haunted Natchitoches program.
As to the Colonial History weekend, characters would be out and about dressed as early French settlers, French marines, traders and woodsmen, Darby said. “And we would stay in character. If a tourist asked one of us what was the best way to get back to the interstate, for example, we would probably answer something like, ‘What is an interstate. We are a colony here, not a state.'”
A Civil War weekend would be relevant because the 1864 Red River Campaign saw Union and Confederate troops marching into and out of Natchitoches in the spring of that year, Darby said.
And of course, World War II impacted us here because of the huge Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941, which involved many thousands of American soldiers training in central Louisiana, he said..
The 1920s and ’30s are always an interesting time to folks who like history, he said. “There were the flappers, jazz bands, gangsters. Who knows, Bonnie and Clyde could even make a surprise visit here. And you couldn’t buy a legal drink during the 1920s, but maybe one of our characters will have a hip flask of moonshine.”
Caddo Indians and the Cane River Creoles both have a rich cultural history to share, a history that a lot of visitors may not know much about, he said.
.The first Time Machine Weekend could perhaps feature Louisiana sports greats of the past. That could be in conjunction with the annual Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction weekend in June, he said. We might have actors portraying famous sports stars walking around, telling folks about their careers, Darby said.
The possibilities are many and if the program is successful, it could become another one of the many attractions for visitors to Natchitoches, he said.