The 2021 Christmas season began in grand style at the “Turn on the Holidays” event Saturday, November 20 at downtown Natchitoches. The downtown riverbank the place to be as thousands of visitors enjoyed two free concerts. Visitors also enjoyed shopping and dining along the iconic bricks of Front Street. The NCHS Volleyball team and supporters manned the ticket booths.
The Paul and Pete Band kicked off the evening’s live entertainment with an eclectic variety of music in an energetic 3 hour concert. Veteran entertainer Amanda Shaw, no stranger to Natchitoches, came up next and kept the crowd on their feet with her incomparable singing and fiddle playing. After Amanda’s last set, Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams honored a special resident with ties to both Natchitoches and the Christmas Festival. Sadie Maggio Dark was brought on stage and presented a certificate of appreciation. Ms. Dark, aunt of former NSU President Chris Maggio, recently celebrated her 100th birthday and is related to the people who constructed the first Santa House. Ms. Dark is one of the few people who can say they have been around the Natchitoches Christmas Festival since its inception.
The evening culminated with Miss Merry Christmas and the Christmas Belles flipping the switch as the audience counted down to zero lighting up Cane River with a myriad of lights. The turning on of the lights was followed by one of Natchitoches’ signature fireworks shows. They were joined on the Riverbank Stage by several visiting queens. Current NSU dance major and 2018 Miss Merry Christmas, Kerrie Spillman, was also on hand. The fireworks have been an integral part of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival for 85 of the show’s 95 years and are a perennial crowd favorite.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is in its 95th year of delivering holiday fun and building family memories. It has grown over the years from a local event into an internationally recognized festival. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival won the 2018 Southeastern Tourism Society’s “Shining Example Award” as a top twenty festival of the year. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is the oldest, and in the Natchitoches Parish Journal’s opinion, far and away the finest, component of the multi-city “Trail of Lights”.
With thousands of lights, fireworks, concerts and the festival day’s events, there is nothing quite like the Christmas season in Natchitoches!