By Junior Johnson
We are so Blessed to live in such a beautiful and historic City such as Natchitoches. Beauty and history abound and is second to none in our State. Being the Oldest City in the Original Louisiana Purchase, founded in 1714, there is more history in our City and Parish than I can list in this story.
I ❤️ Natchitoches. Sound familiar? Our beloved Mayor Joe Sampite, who served the City of Natchitoches from 1980 to 2000, gave out thousands of little stickers with this slogan on them during his years in office. It is rumored, and probably true, that on a goodwill tour of Washington, D. C. once he would place one of these in the palm of every politician’s hand that he shook.
I personally saw a picture of Mayor Joe and Ingrid Croce in San Diego once in Croce’s Restaurant, where he was presenting her with Keys to the City after a memorial dedication in Natchitoches for her late husband Jim Croce who was tragically killed in a plane crash after a concert at Northwestern State.
Many people through the years have had an impact on our City but none more so than Mayor Joe in my opinion. He was the driving force behind getting the movie Steel Magnolias filmed here in Natchitoches. Although John Wayne and William Holden starred in the movie Horse Soldiers here in 1959, which is still popular today, it is the mention of Steel Magnolias that brings the City of Natchitoches to mind on the national level.
There are various means available that provide visitors an insight into the history of our City. Both Trolly and Buggy rides are available for City Tours with remarkable stories to entertain their guests. There are also Bus Tours throughout the Parish to the many beautiful Plantation Homes. Bed and Breakfasts abound in the beautiful Historic District and outlying areas of the City.
We are fortunate to have the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame permanently housed in a state of the art building that brings sports celebrities from around the world and they always speak highly of the hospitality they receive here.
Just a short drive from town is the Grand Ecore Visitors Center that has a wealth of information about our area dating back to the 1700’s. This beautiful facility is located on a bluff overlooking Red River and is near the site of Fort Seldes, which was built to police the southwestern frontier and guard the Red River during the Civil War. The Center is open to the public and admission is free of charge.
During my 32 year career working in the Oil & Gas Industry I was asked many times if perhaps I worked for the Natchitoches Tourism Bureau during my days off. I would usually laugh and ask why such a question. Virtually every reply would be, “Well you are always talking about how great Natchitoches is”………My only response would be, “You need to visit my City and you will understand why.”
I would NEVER compare myself to the amazing Mayor Joe Sampite, but we did have one thing in common.
WE BOTH ❤️❤️NATCHITOCHES