The streets of Natchitoches were packed with festivalgoers Saturday, December 3 for the 96th Annual Christmas Festival as thousands of visitors descended on the City of Lights for a day of parades, fireworks, and family fun.
The iconic Christmas Festival Parade featured an exciting lineup of over sixty floats, bands, and marching units. NCHS’ Army JROTC color guard and the Natchitoches Fire Department led the parade followed by marching cadets. One of Louisiana’s United States’ Senators, Bill Cassidy, took time from his duties in Washington to ride in the parade and hand out candy and throws. Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell also made an appearance with a truck full of goodies. There was plenty of fast-paced entertainment as the area’s dance and cheer schools showed off the results of their hard work.
Natchitoches’ own Northwestern State University had a full contingent in the parade. The Spirit of Northwestern Band was joined by the Demon cheerleaders, spirit, and dance groups as well as NSU President Marcus Jones. Natchitoches Central, Lakeview, LSMSA, St. Mary’s and other area schools were also represented. The NCHS “Pride of the Tribe” band joined their fellow musicians from NSU in providing quality live music. Bands from Houston’s Stephen F. Austin, as well as Shreveport’s Woodlawn and Green Oaks High Schools all brought holiday cheer to the parade. And of course, no holiday parade is complete without Shriners in their Fezzes and miniature vehicles.
There were two notable units making a return visit to the parade. The Butte Tribe of Bayou Bourbeaux had a large contingent of tribe members in regalia, including their Chief riding the parade’s only horse. The Weaver Elites also made an appearance in their signature white shirts and jackets, blue for Weaver and Gold for the Junior High. This group of exemplary young men and women set a high bar for hard work, behavior, and citizenship.
Former NSU baseball standouts, All-Americans, and professional baseball players, Parade Grand Marshals David Fry and Adam Oller, returned to their alma mater to headline the parade. And of course, let us not forget the Christmas Belles and Miss Merry Christmas who threw plenty of beads and candy. This accomplished and hard-working group of young ladies keep up a demanding schedule of appearances, school visits, and community service in addition to their schoolwork and extracurriculars. As is traditional, Santa and Mrs. Claus rode in the last float, marking the end of the parade.
After the parade, the Pete and Paul Band, followed by the legendary Wayne Toups, kept the fun going with an eclectic and energetic show that kept the capacity crowd filling the dance area in front of the stage. Of course, it would not be Christmas in Natchitoches without fireworks! This year’s fireworks show was no exception to its predecessors’ reputation for excellence. The show was superb, featuring colorful bursts and a finale that would do credit to an artillery barrage. This event is by far the finest fireworks show in the state.
Christmas in Natchitoches is simply wonderful. The 2022 Natchitoches Christmas Festival Day was a resounding success.