History of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival Exhibit at NSU

By Kevin Shannahan


Did you know that painting the windows of the then new Friedman Memorial Student Union and student-faculty Christmas caroling were once traditions at Northwestern State University? Monday, Nov. 28 marked the opening of an exhibit at NSU’s Cammie G. Henry Research Center chronicling the history of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. In addition to items from earlier festivals, the exhibit also highlights NSU Christmas traditions from the past as well as those from Melrose Plantation.

The exhibit’s display cases house paraphernalia from years past such as NSU yearbooks, cards, letters and keepsakes from the past. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival was first held in 1926, with 1929 being the first year in which archavists were able to document the festival’s signature light display. The evolution of the light display and fireworks show into today’s thousands of lights and massive fireworks show can be seen through historical photographs and items.

The Cammie G. Henry Research Center is on the third floor of NSU’s Watson Library. It is open from 8-5 Monday through Thursday and from 8-noon on Friday.  Admission is free. Come over and see a unique collection that shows our region’s history.


Natchitoches native holds “YOU BELONG” sign in front of a mosque

By Justin Normand


I have had the most extraordinary weekend.

Like most everyone I know, I have been in a malaise and at a loss since Election Day. What to do? With myself? With my time? To make things better, or even just to slog through?
I had had the urge for a week or so to do this. Friday, I had a couple of spare hours in the afternoon, so I did.

I made a sign, and I drove to a mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors. My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.
Someone took a picture and posted it, and it’s been viewed millions of times, and shared across various platforms many hundreds of thousands of times.

This is extraordinary and humbling; mainly because what I did isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all that extraordinary.

For me, this wasn’t about expressing agreement; I remain Presbyterian, not Muslim.
It wasn’t about demonstrating my outrage to right-wing drivers driving down Esters Road in front of the mosque. I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here.

This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us. Or, in some Christian traditions, this was about washing my brother’s feet.

This was about my religion, not theirs.

And, it was about what I think I must do as an American when our way of life is threatened. Targeting people for their religion not only threatens our way of life, it is the polar opposite of our way of life.

Find a group marginalized by the haters in this current era we find ourselves in. Then, find a way to express your acceptance to that group in a physically present way, as opposed to a digital one.
I can assure you, from their outpouring of smiles, hugs, tears, hospitality, messages extending God’s love, and a bouquet of flowers, it will mean a lot.
My own religious tradition ascribes these words to my deity:
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
It is also in this vein that the words on the Statue of Liberty embrace, with eagerness and mercy, all who come to join us:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words bespeak the America we all remember, know, love, and are still called upon to be. Especially now.

Lastly, it worked. I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors. They genuinely needed this encouragement. They need us.

They need all of us. They need you.

We ARE one America.

The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.

Goldonna recognizes its Students of the Week


Goldonna Elementary and Jr. High recognized its Students of the Week for Oct. 14. On front row is Tyler Wood. On middle row from left are Tucker Ivy, Charlie Cox and Heidi Winn. On back row are Principal Kendra Sanders, Miley Coker, Jacob Hawkins and Rachel Hollis.

Lions Club serves up slices of thanks


Natchitoches law enforcement, veterans and firemen ate pizza for lunch Nov. 28 thanks to the Natchitoches Lions Club, Psalm Shield 91 Ministry and Louie’s Pizza of Many. Michele and Louis Smith, owner of Louie’s Pizza, and family members served up 40 homemade pizzas. Police officers, veterans, paramedics and other first responders got a “Slice of Thanks” for their hard work in the community and their service on a daily basis.


The Neighborhood has spoken: Council denies rezoning property on Stephens



The City Council denied the application of Karen Arthur to rezone her property at 241 Stephens Avenue from R-1 to R-1 Special Exemption to provide a part-time grooming service. When the ordinance was first introduced at a Nov. 14 meeting, it caused a lot of passionate debate among neighborhood residents, who were both for and against the rezoning.

Mayor Lee Posey and the council members each explained why they voted in favor of the denial. The bottom line was that the rezoning would allow a business to operate in a primarily residential area. The question the council asked was if they approve one business, how could they tell the next one no?

“If a similar situation arises and we allow one and deny another, then we could possibly have the decision forced on us and that could open the floodgates,” said Councilman Eddie Harrington. “This is something we have to take into consideration.”

Councilwoman Sylvia Morrow said she’d heard so many people say they don’t want a business in their neighborhood.

“I try and align my vote with what the people want,” she said.

While Councilman Dale Nielsen said he was impressed by Arthur’s business, he said the neighborhood had spoken. He estimated that he probably received more calls concerning the dog grooming business than he had over the approval of the brewery on Mill Street.

Councilman Don Mims said the Council’s vote impacts the whole City.

“If we pass this rezoning, then every neighborhood in the City is opened to home businesses,” he said. “People move to an area because they’re residential, family oriented areas.”

Other business included:

Presentation of Christmas Angels including Addison Boudreaux, Pre-K; Brinley Smith, K; Brinlee Berry, 1St; Sadie Summerlin, 2nd; Ella Jones, 3rd; Ainsley Armstrong, 4th; Abbie Rodriguez, 5th; Avery Summerlin, 6th; Anna Catherine Coleman, 7th; and Morgan Fatheree, 8th

Denial of rezoning of property at 460 Stephens Ave. from R-1 to R-1 Special Exception to operate an art gallery

Ordinance amending Chapter 13 of the City Code of Ordinances (Sections 13-16, 13-16.1, 13-43, 13-44, and 13-45) providing for a uniform Fire Code and a Fire Prevention Bureau

Award bid for the Natchitoches Tennis Complex Expansion to Quality Court Industries of Baton Rouge for $173,042

Ordinance approving the acquisition of 100 acres located in Section 83, Township 9 North, Range 7 West, from Evans Family LLC, Sidney B. Evans Jr. and Sibley Lake Realty Corporation for $1 million and acceptance of a donation for the remaining market value of $500,000

Cooperative Endeavor Agreement With NSU for an Intern Program for students in the Industrial Engineering Technology Program for volunteer work in the Utility Department to earn work experience

Enter into a contract with Cunningham Agency, Inc. for the Airport Liability Insurance for the City

Execute Change Order No. 1 to the contract between the City and Sunstream, Inc., for Hancock and Watson Underground Electrical Service for an additional $11,655, bringing the total to $161,655

Execute a Certificate Of Substantial Completion to the contract between the City and Womack and Sons Construction Group, Inc., for the Rue Beauport Sewer Main Rehabilitation

Ordinances introduced at the meeting included:

Acquisition of 11.67 acres in sections 70 And 71, Township 9 North, Range 7 West, From Charles Patrick Johnson and Kim Kelly Townsend Johnson, for $87,500

Execution of an “Agreement to furnish Utility Consulting Services to the City” whereby the City will contract for utility consulting from James R. Whitten

Purchase of 0.35 Acres in section 74, Township 9 North, Range 7 West, from HKO Properties, LLC, et al, for $15,000

Award bid for the Hwy. 1 South and Hwy. 1 Bypass Substations Project to Dis-Tran Packaged Substations of Pineville for $362,005

Award bid for the Rue Beauport Riverfront Project to Pat Williams Construction of Leesville for $3.8 million




A vehicle backfiring in the Goldonna community on Friday evening has led to the arrest of a Bossier Parish man on several outstanding criminal arrest warrants, felony drug charges and the seizure of illegal narcotics according to Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones Jr.
On Friday evening November 25th at approximately 8:40pm, Deputies assigned to the NPSO Patrol Division responded to reports of a black Ford pickup truck with overhead lights allegedly firing rounds from the vehicle while traveling on the Goldonna Road in Goldonna, La.

Deputies arrived in the area and while speaking with concerned residents were told they allegedly heard what appeared to be thirty-two shots fired from the vehicle.
Deputies began patrolling the area and shortly thereafter observed and stopped the 1999 Ford F-350 truck on Rice Road in Goldonna.

Deputies say while speaking with the driver of the vehicle and informing him of the complaint he identified himself as D. Keeney, handing them a La. Identification Card.
The driver reportedly informed deputies that he had been working on the vehicle and it was constantly backfiring.

A computer check revealed that Keeney’s driver’s license was suspended.
Deputies obtained permission to search the vehicle and no weapons were found.
Deputies then had the driver reproduce the backfiring which confirmed his story of the vehicle malfunction.

Deputies then began to look at the identification card and noticed the ID photo and driver did not match which led them to believe criminal activity existed.
As the investigation progressed, deputies asked the driver what his real name was in which he then identified himself as M. Johnson, he stated he was sorry and wanted in Shreveport on warrants.

Deputies still didn’t think the subject was being truthful, and placed him under arrest for Resisting an Officer by giving false information.

Deputies say while transporting the subject to the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center he told them again that he had some things to tell them, and then identified himself as Chad Everett Johnson.

A local warrants check revealed outstanding warrants on Johnson in Natchitoches and Bossier Parishes .

After arriving at the Natchitoches Detention Center, deputies asked Johnson if he had any illegal items on his person? He responded, that he had approximately one-gram of methamphetamine concealed in his underwear which he removed and handed deputies for evidence.

As a result, Chad Everett Johnson, 42, of the 3500 block of Bellview Road, Haughton, La. was booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with Resisting an Officer by giving False Information, Expired Drivers License, Possession of CDS II Methamphetamines-2nd Offense, Failure to Appear in the Tenth Judicial District Court on 9-14-16 for Possession of CDS II, CDS IV, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia , along with Criminal Damage to Property, Theft of a Motor Vehicle, Theft, and Criminal Obstruction of Justice.

Johnson is also wanted in Bossier Parish for No Drivers License.

Johnson remains in the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center awaiting bond in Natchitoches Parish and transfer to Bossier Parish.

The vehicle was impounded.

Deputies R. Ross, Reserve Deputy R. Griffin and N. Brown made the arrest.

A father and son vacation

By Junior Johnson

juniorjohnson11-29-16-1In the summer of 1988 my son Kevin and I took a cross-country vacation.  We called it the “JUGS Trip” (Just Us Guys). He’d completed his school year with a 4.0 GPA and I thought this was a better way to reward his achievement than putting a “Terrific Kid” sticker on my car.

The ultimate destination was to be at my Aunt’s home in Huntington Beach, Cali.  Aunt Gayle had a son who was two months older than Kevin but they’d never met.  We loaded my little red Renault Alliance convertible and hit the road.

Our first stop was in Edmond, Okla. We experienced one of the first adventures: a tornado was spotted. We immediately headed to a storm shelter where we spent several anxious hours before an alarm sounded that all was clear. Kevin was impressed with the experience in the cave.  In Louisiana we had hurricanes to deal with but this was totally different.

The following day we toured the flight line at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. The Officers had Kevin spellbound with their stories.

The next leg of our journey was the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. We were in awe. The desert gave way to the forest. Our next stop was the Grand Canyon.

We took a mule ride down the canyon, a three-hour journey down a trail less than two feet wide, with almost 2,000 feet below us. The Colorado River looked liked a little blue ribbon below us.

Next stop…Las Vegas.

Kevin was excited about a 3-Ring Circus that performed INSIDE a hotel there.  The hotel was appropriately named Circus Circus. It was the most entertaining show we’d ever seen.

Arriving at our relatives home after the last leg of our journey, my Aunt and I prepared a picnic lunch and headed to Huntington Beach.  The boys had a great time boogie-boarding and flirting with the girls.  Kevin was very popular because they loved his accent.

We eventually said our goodbyes and began our journey back to Louisiana.

We stopped in El Paso, Texas and crossed into Juarez, Mexico. Border cities have a lot of poverty and Kevin saw this for the first time in his young life.

There were numerous children approaching our car wanting to sell their wares.  They were dressed in rags, with as much dirt on them as on the street. Kevin was almost speechless at the sight of these little kids.

I woke at some point during the night to the sound of sobbing.  Kevin couldn’t sleep thinking about those poor children.

To some, the expression, “God Works In Mysterious Ways” may seem redundant, but not for me.  Eight years after this amazing trip we lost our precious Kevin in a car accident.

I thank God constantly for giving us the opportunity to make this trip. There are many memories I cherish from the years Kevin was with me, but in my heart this trip was a reward for me to cherish through my life, however long that may be.



NSU ROTC will hold awards, commissioning ceremonies


Northwestern State University’s Department of Military Science will wrap up the Fall 2016 semester with a Dec. 1 awards program to recognize cadet accomplishments and a Dec. 16 commissioning ceremony for Cadet Gavin Bazer.

“NSU’s Army ROTC cadets are wrapping a very busy fall semester,” said Sid Hall, Military Affairs coordinator and ROTC program manager. “From field training exercises, to a commemoration ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans, to supporting student organizations and athletic events, they have certainly made a mark on campus.”

The awards program will begin at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 in the ballroom of the Sylvan Friedman Student Union. A reception will follow the ceremony.

Cadet Bazer will take the Oath of Commissioned Officers at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, also in the Student Union Ballroom. Guest speaker will be Colonel Nelson G. Kraft, commander, 6th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command. The commissioning will take place in conjunction with Fall Commencement. A reception will follow the ceremony.

For more information or to RSVP for the ceremonies, contact Ed Kelly at (318) 357-5157 or kellye@nsula.edu.



The 90th Annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival will take place Saturday, Dec. 3 in downtown Natchitoches.  The Natchitoches Historic District Business Association and the City of Natchitoches will usher in the holiday season with the Festival of Lights parade, live entertainment, food vendors, and fireworks.  New Orleans favorites, The 610 Stompers, will serve as parade grand marshals while Joe Stampley will headline entertainment for the day.

The Christmas Festival of Lights parade will begin at 1 p.m. at the corner of Jefferson Street and University Parkway.  The parade will feature floats of reigning queens such as Miss Merry Christmas and the Christmas Belles as well as commemorative floats celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Miss Merry Christmas and Belles program.  Also featured in the parade are marching bands, dance lines, Santa Claus and parade Grand Marshals, the 610 Stompers.  The 610 Stompers are “Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Moves.” Hailing from New Orleans, they strive to return the ordinary man to the glory of dance. The parade will travel along Jefferson Street to Front Street, turning left onto Lafayette Street and Second Street, and ending at University Parkway.

Musical entertainment begins at 3 p.m. with a performance by Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, followed by headliner Joe Stampley.  Stampley is a Nashville recording artist and member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.  For over four decades he has performed at Country Music Award shows, concert halls, casinos, clubs and festivals, and his musical career includes over 60 charted records. Stampley will perform from 4:45-6 p.m.

At 6:00 p.m., the festivities will be capped off by a spectacular fireworks display over beautiful Cane River Lake and the lighting of thousands of Christmas lights.

Admission to the festival is $10 for adults 12 years and older.  Children under 12 are admitted free to the festival. Armbands may be purchased day of the festival from ticket booths located throughout the Downtown Historic District beginning at 6:30 a.m.  Discount armbands may be purchased in advance online at http://www.NatchitochesChristmas.com and select Natchitoches businesses.

All festival vendors inside the gated area will require tickets to purchase food and/or merchandise.  Tickets may be purchased from all ticket booth locations as well as at automated ticket machines on festival day.  Tickets may be purchased in advance at any pre-sale armband locations.

For more information on the 90th Annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival, please visit http://www.NatchitochesChristmas.com.

Fleur De Lis Christmas Craft Market

By Kevin Shannahan


The Fleur De Lis Christmas Craft Market, an annual tradition in Natchitoches since 2005, was held Saturday, Nov. 26 at the Natchitoches Events Center. A capacity crowd filled the venue and enjoyed the day shopping at 113 vendors from throughout Louisiana and Texas. The vendors sold a variety of handmade items with no commercial items allowed. Natchitoches Hope for Paws returned for a third year as a vendor, selling pet related crafts and raising awarness of animal adoption.

Grant will help City make healthy choices easy ones


The City executed a grant agreement with The Rapides Foundation for the 2016 Healthy Behaviors Program Grant Award. The Rapides Foundation offers grants to non-profits and local governments promoting healthy behavior by creating or improving opportunities for adults and youth in Central Louisiana to engage in safe, accessible activity and by increasing accessibility of healthy foods.

“I think this will be a great benefit for the Natchitoches community,” said Main Street Director Samantha Bonnette.

The $300,000 grant award will be dispersed over a three year grant term, ending Oct. 31, 2019.

Shawna Straub, assistant finance director wrote the grant.
According to Dallas Russell, Community Programs and Outreach Manager for the City,  the grant and the City’s involvement illustrates the many components that are coming together.

A $25,000 Healthy Behaviors Mini Grant from The Rapides Foundation went toward upgrades at the Ross Williams Park on Dean Street. The City is upgrading several parks in an effort to encourage healthy living among its residents.

“There’s tremendous potential in Natchitoches,” said Mayor Lee Posey. “The City is happy to be a part of anything involving healthy behavior. We’re trying to fit this theme into our parks by incorporating walking tracks.”

The City applied for the grant to accomplish the following goals:

Grow the Cane River Green Market by implementing a new mobile market which involves hiring someone full-time to organize the Green Market under the direction of the Main Street Office. It will also provide funds for the Kids Club at the market, which ran out of funds from its original grant. The city will purchase a vehicle for the mobile market.

New portable playground, will promote increased outdoor recreational opportunities by providing games for residents of all ages: jump rope, football toss, horseshoes, sack races, obstacles courses, volleyball, etc. The City will purchase a vehicle and the grant will provide funds for hiring someone part-time under the direction of Dallas Russell.

Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council comprised of community leaders who will address legislation and healthy initiatives. A part time staff will also be hired to help run the coalition and will be managed by Russell.

The implementation of these goals will help provide access to fresh, local produce to encourage healthy eating and access to play spaces to encourage physical activity.
“It’s about making healthy choices more accessible,” said Russell.

Bank sponsors Christmas Festival 


Sabine State Bank is a  $500 Festival Partner for the Christmas Festival that will be held Saturday, Dec. 3.

From left are Marilyn Brungart, Lacy Merrill, Jill Leo ,Meagan Bonnette, Kathy Jones and Felecia Bell.