The 2021 Natchitoches Christmas Festival – 95 years of Holiday Magic

The streets of Natchitoches were filled with crowds December 4 for the 95th 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 led the parade followed by marching cadets. The Polar Express carried the Natchitoches Parish teacher and students of the year. Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor, Billy Nungesser, threw beads from a Louisiana “Feed Your Soul” tourism float promoting the many reasons to visit our state. There was plenty of fast paced entertainment as the area’s dance and cheer schools showed off the results of their hard work. NSU’s Army ROTC had the most unique float, a decorated 75mm pack howitzer.

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.

There were two notable units making their debut in the parade. The Butte Tribe of Bayou Bourbeaux had a large contingent of tribe members in regalia. 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 the standard for hard work, behavior, and citizenship.

Parade Grand Marshal and voice of Scooby Doo, Scott Innes, rode on a float followed by the Mystery Machine and people dressed as characters from the popular movie and classic cartoon 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, Zydeco, Creole and Cajun musicians Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie 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, the iconic “waterfall” from the Cane River Bridge 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 2021 Natchitoches Christmas Festival Day was a resounding success.

Santa Claus arrived in Natchitoches!

The Santa Claus house opened on Sunday for the first night of the season.

The first visitors for the opening night were the Carioca Family from Shreveport. Pictured from left are Christmas Belle Anna Catherine Coleman, Mrs. Carioca and her daughter Mya, Santa Claus, Max Miner and Belle Tinley Durr.

Also visiting Santa this year was our first visitor from last year Madelyn Flemings from Gonzales. She wasn’t the first one in line this year, but she was the second. Madelyn shared with Santa her wish list for this year and reminded him of her visit from last year. Santa also had visitors all the way from Haiti.

Come see Santa, Miss Merry Christmas and the Belles at the beautiful Santa Claus house on the riverbank. The Santa House will be open from Dec. 5 – 23 from 6-8:30 pm Sunday-Friday and 5-8:30 pm on Saturdays.


NATCHITOCHES-A Shreveport man escaped injury in a fiery single-vehicle rollover crash on I-49 north of Natchitoches early this morning, Dec. 4, according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

At 4:13am, Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies, Louisiana State Police and Natchitoches Parish Fire Protection District #6 responded to NATCOM 911 Center reports of a single-vehicle crash on I-49 near milepost #144 north of Natchitoches.

911 callers stated the vehicle was overturned and on fire in the median.

Deputies and LSP arrived on scene discovering the 2017 Ford F-250 fully engulfed in flames.

The operator of the vehicle, a 24-year-old Shreveport man escaped the vehicle uninjured before the fire.

The vehicle was a total loss.

Law enforcement, fire and towing services remained on scene for over an hour.

Trooper J. Axsom assigned to LSP Troop-E Alexandria investigated the crash.


Two women suffered non-life threatening injuries in a head-on collision on La. Hwy 6 East near Natchitoches on Dec. 5, according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

At approximately 5:25am, Deputy Collin Crow assigned to the NPSO Patrol Division was patrolling on La. Hwy 6 East near Payne Sub-Division when he rolled up on a 2-vehicle head-on crash involving injuries.

The road was was reportedly blocked.

Additional NPSO units, Louisiana State Police and Natchitoches Regional Medical Center EMS responed to the scene.

According to LSP, a 2015 Kia passenger car operated by 22-year-old Lauren Buchner of St. Maurice, La. was traveling eastbound on La. Hwy 6 when for reasons under investigation apparently drifted across the centerline causing a westbound 2017 Chrysler 300 operated by 40-year-old Melissa McClaine Donaway of Campti to take evasive action.

These actions resulted in the Kia striking the Chrysler head-on near the centerline.

Both women were transported from the scene to Natchitoches Regional Medical Center with moderate non-life threatening injuries.

Chemical Test results are pending.

S/T D. Morvant assigned to LSP Troop-E Alexandria investigated the crash.

Test Scores Across the State Drop Following the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Louisiana Superintendents Advisory Council met with the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Nov. 29 to discuss the annual letter grades given to school districts across the state. It was decided that each school district will be given unofficial “simulated” test scores for their schools’ performance for the 2020-2021 school year.

Due to high numbers of virtual enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year, test scores plummeted in virtually all 69 school districts. The Natchitoches Parish School District saw a 1.5 point drop in performance scores during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Natchitoches Parish Schools had 1,178 virtual students during the 2020-2021 school year, which totals to 21% of the district. This percentage of virtual students greatly impacted individual school performance results.

NPSB had five schools which saw growth. The schools that saw drops in performance scores averaged 8% more of their student body in virtual learning than those that improved. Two schools dropped less than one point and seven schools in Natchitoches Parish dropped more than one point.

School leaders across the state were given these performance scores as planning resources to utilize in the future. “These scores are an unofficial calculation,” said Thomas Lambert, assistant superintendent for the office of assessment, accountability, and analytics in the state Department of Education. “These results are really just for information and planning purposes rather than the traditional rollout.” Furthermore, LDOE went on to say, “While changes in performance might represent real changes in student results over time, they are also impacted by distortions in data that were particular to the 2020-2021 school year”

Despite the overall decline in performance scores, Natchitoches Parish weathered the storm well compared to other states grappling with pandemic-related upheaval. NPSB had 8 schools that were honored by the Louisiana Board of Education. Six schools in Natchitoches Parish received Top Gains Honoree and two schools received Equity Honoree.

“We have a lot of work to accomplish in Natchitoches Parish,” says NPSB Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi, “and while we understand the context of our drop in achievement, we are not satisfied. That said, we are excited to be able to start moving past Covid and start making gains in student achievement.”

For more information regarding academic standings in Natchitoches Parish Schools, call the school board office.

LaCour Chosen as NRMC’s Chief Nursing Officer

After a national search for a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and a lengthy interview process with highly
skilled and talented applicants, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center has selected NRMC Associate
Sarah LaCour, RN, MSN, as the next CNO for the organization.

“During the interview process, Sarah’s clinical knowledge, multifaceted skill set, leadership, and vision
for nursing distinguished her. She has been with NRMC since 2005, and through the years, she has
become an exceptional leader and mentor who challenges herself and others to live up to our mission of
Inspiring Excellence Everyday,” noted Kirk Soileau, Chief Executive Officer. “Goal oriented and
focused on patient safety and providing exceptional quality care, Sarah has the clinical expertise,
organizational acumen, and leadership capabilities needed to take our nursing team to the next level.
Central to Sarah’s vision of nursing is her absolute commitment to build, grow and support our nurses and create the ideal nursing culture and team,” Soileau said.

LaCour began her career at NRMC as a registered nurse in 2005. Through the years, she has held multiple
progressive clinical care positions and key leadership roles. Since 2016, she has served as the Director of
Quality and Assistant Chief Nursing Officer (ACNO). In May of 2019, she continued these
responsibilities and served as the Interim CNO while the health system completed a national search while
also serving as Vice President of Quality. LaCour was named the RN of the Year in 2011 and 2014, and
Leader of the Quarter in 2017 and 2019. She is nationally recognized as a Certified Professional
Healthcare Quality professional, holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is credentialed in ACLS,
MOAB and as a Master Trainer in TeamSTEPPS. She has become both the organization’s internal and
external resident expert on disease surveillance, testing, vaccinations, and community-wide education for

LaCour received her Associate of Science in Nursing degree from Northwestern State University; a
Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; and a Master of
Science in Nursing Leadership from Chamberlain University.

Recently celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, Sarah and Landon have two children, Mallory and

About Natchitoches Regional Medical Center
Natchitoches Regional Medical Center began as a community hospital in 1955 and has grown into a 216-
bed healthcare system with 750 Associates and more than 100 active and consulting physicians on its
medical staff. The system is comprised of the 96-bed acute care facility, a skilled nursing home, assisted
living complex, and an extensive network of clinics throughout the parish.

NCPTT Call for Papers and Posters: Natchitoches in the Red River Valley: A Confluence of Cultures

The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) will host the 42nd annual Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation (AHLP) meeting in Natchitoches on May 19-21, 2022.

The AHLP Program Committee invites proposals for papers and summaries of works in progress that will promote lively and thoughtful discussions regarding cultural landscape conservation and preservation. In particular, submissions that address the role and significance of transnational immigration, cultural exchange and adaptation (especially from French, Caddo Indian, Spanish, African and American cultures), landscapes of segregation, enslavement and the establishment of free communities, topics regarding political and religious landscapes, and examples of best practices regarding the conservation and preservation of historic and cultural landscapes are all actively encouraged.

These themes will be reinforced by organized visits to locations such as the Natchitoches Texas and Pacific train depot, one of the few surviving examples of architectural segregation in the city; the Melrose Plantation, founded by a free person of color and transformed into an early 20th century artist colony; the Magnolia Plantation where we will experience a bousillage demonstration; and downtown Natchitoches to tour the national historic landmark district including stops at the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile and the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

We also encourage a wide range of proposals concerning topics associated with the conference theme, such as, but not limited to:

Natchitoches in the Red River Valley: Confluence of Cultures.
The significance of rivers and roads as networks of exchange.
“Last Landscapes” – the role of cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds as places of mourning and grief, but also as celebrations of life and renewal.
Landscape conservation and preservation – current issues, best practices & innovative policies.
Topics concerning race, ethnicity, racial equality, social justice, civil rights, and the landscape.
Issues regarding landscapes of production and consumption.
Global climate change and the implications on landscape conservation and preservation.

While presentations that address these topics are especially welcome, this should not discourage those wishing to address any issue relating to the theory and practice of landscape preservation and conservation. Proposals are invited within three (3) categories of presentations, however because of time constraints, you may submit one proposal only regarding the first two categories.

Papers: 25-30 minute papers addressing issues in landscape preservation theory, practice, or education.
Summaries of Works-in-Progress: 10-15 minute discussions of on-going projects.
Posters: Graphic presentations of projects using appropriate illustrative techniques. (one panel 30″ by 40″ is recommended).


Please submit an abstract of 500 words or less outlining the topic of the paper, its context within theory, practice, or education, its timeliness, principal findings or conclusions, and questions for discussion.

Conference papers will be published in an online proceedings on NCPTT’s website. Instructions and deadlines will be provided to interested participants after the notification of accepted proposals

Summaries of Works-in-Progress

Please submit a proposal of 250 words or less outlining the work-in-progress, its context and potential significance, and questions for discussion.


Please submit a proposal of 250 words or less outlining the project, its context and significance, and questions for discussion.

The Alliance will provide poster boards the recommended poster size, but those presenting posters are responsible for the transportation of their posters to and from Natchitoches, Louisiana.


All abstracts and proposals must be submitted electronically as e-mail attachments – these should be Microsoft Word documents and be arranged as follows:

Title page: this should note the type of presentation proposed, then give the title of the presentation, the author’s name and complete mailing address, institution/firm affiliation, phone number and email address.
Content pages: these should note the type of presentation and the title, and then provide an abstract or proposal within the word limits set out above – please do not include your name or any identifying personal information on content pages.

Questions and proposals should be sent to Kimball Erdman at

The deadline for all submissions is January 7, 2022.

Selection Process

A panel will evaluate all proposals using a blind, peer review process. The program selection will be based on the following criteria (listed in order of importance):

Originality of content and approach
Likelihood of the topic stimulating interdisciplinary discussion, and
Relevance to the theme of the meeting

Those submitting proposals will be notified of the panel decision by January 28, 2022.
Presenters must pre-register for the meeting and must take out a membership in the Alliance if they are not already members.

Student Scholarships

The Alliance welcomes proposals from students and some scholarships are available for those whose proposals are accepted. Students wishing to apply for a scholarship should send their proposal together with scholarship application materials to the AHLP Education Committee.

Questions and proposals should be sent to Kimball Erdman at

Cane River Chapter, NSDAR honors Veterans with commemorative event

The Cane River Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held its first Veterans Day celebration and recognition event to honor and recognize past and present American armed service members who served the nation honorably with great distinction during times of war and peace.

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” and occurs on Nov. 11 every year. This day is in honor of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that signaled the end of WWI in 1918. The name of the holiday was changed in 1954 to Veterans Day.

The Cane River Chapter was proud to hold the event and luncheon. Invited guests included Rev. Charles Ray and Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church and keynote speaker Lt. General Russell L Honore, US Army (Ret) and wife Beverly.

Gen. Honoree thanked the Veterans for their service and urged them to be vocal about their needs and to continue to honor the constitution and the flag.

Cane River Chapter Historian Frances (Laney) Sylvia set up a “Missing Man Table” and presided over the solemn ceremony. This special table is reserved to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers and those missing or imprisoned.

The event ended with Gen. Honore and Fr. Charlie presenting each Veteran with a certificate of appreciation and thanked each one individually for their service.

The DAR is the largest patriotic women’s organization in the world, surpassing one million members over the past 131 years with more than 3,000 chapters across the country and several forge in countries. DAR promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism via commemorative events, scholarships, education initiatives, citizenship programs, service to Veterans, community service and much more. For more information about becoming a member of DAR, contact the Cane River Chapter Regent Peggy Aycock at

Notice of Death – December 5, 2021

James Adam Basco
May 20, 1963 – December 01, 2021
Service: Monday, December 13 at 12 pm in the chapel of Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Gorum Cemetery

James Melvin LeBaron
November 30, 1954 – December 03, 2021
Service: Tuesday, December 7 at 10 am at Mars Hill Baptist Church in Verda

A girl named Sue

By Doug Ireland, Journal Sports

It really was about a girl named Sue.

Susan, actually — known to family and friends forever as Susu.

Susu Williamson, part of a cornerstone family of Natchitoches, caught the eye and then quickly captured the heart of an out-of-place Ohioan.

Greg Burke met his destiny. He certainly didn’t realize it at the time, 37 years ago, but falling for that pretty little blonde girl with the antebellum accent moved the center of his universe about 1,500 miles south.

He was an intern in the Northwestern State athletic department, nearing the end of his nine-month appointment, when his boss, Tynes Hildebrand, and the president of the Demon Booster Club, Layne Miller, agreed that the three-person athletic administrative staff should add a full-time fundraiser.

Greg had little experience in that mode. But in his multi-faceted capacity at NSU, he had shown a cordial connectivity that belied his Yankee roots. Besides, his work ethic and efficiency was remarkable.

“The interest in staying here had grown immensely,” he said. So he applied for the new position, was an easy choice for Hildebrand, and not long afterward, he was proposing to Susu. In 1986, they tied the knot.

He spent five years, from 1986-91, as assistant athletic director and fundraiser for Northwestern. The Burkes moved back near his hometown of Alliance, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland, when he got hired at the University of Akron to raise money for the Zips’ athletic department.

The couple became parents Dec. 8, 1993, when Catherine Jean arrived. Life was good, even if Bill Belichick and a young assistant coach named Nick Saban couldn’t turn Burke’s beloved Cleveland Browns into winners.

Life got better in the summer of 1996, when new NSU president Dr. Randy Webb tapped Burke to replace Hildebrand as the Demons’ athletic director. The chance to bring his wife home, to a place he adored, and to raise their daughter there was too appealing to pass up.

Now, a quarter-century later, it’s Burke who is being replaced as AD. After months of discussions, first with his friend Dr. Chris Maggio and this fall with Maggio’s successor as NSU president, Marcus Jones, Burke and his bosses have found the perfect next step.

His talents are shifting to a much more finite role, as a fundraiser for the NSU Foundation, which supports the overall mission of the university.

In a few weeks, Burke will no longer sweat out a mind-boggling array of athletic issues, although he’s still going to avidly cheer on the Demons and Lady Demons. Instead, he will assist Jones, NSU Foundation director Drake Owens and the Foundation staff in a major capital campaign in 2022 and beyond.

“Even though I will be transitioning out of athletics, I loved this university then, 30-some odd years ago, as much as I do today, and will continue to do as I take on this new role,” said Burke.

What the future holds is outlined in Etch-A-Sketch. What he’s done is indelible in his photographic memory. Burke can recall sequences from NSU games in every sport dating back to before he met Susu.

The passion he has for Northwestern, built around athletics but broadened since, is astonishing. So as news spread just before Thanksgiving about his move across campus, he felt, purely, thankful.

It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime. There’ve been a lot of great moments, and a lot of tough moments and stressful moments, but what I am taking with me are the treasured relationships with people on campus, in this community, around the state and around the nation,” he said.

“I appreciate everybody who’s been a part of the career I’ve had with NSU Athletics. Those people are still going to be a part of my life, a part of who I am. I encourage people, more than anything else, to support this university.

“Find a way to get behind these young people, these coaches. Maybe it’s giving $20 a month, or maybe it’s $2,000 a month, or anything in between. Come to ball games, like our posts on social media, encourage recruits to visit our campus, because when they do, they’ll love what they see and experience. They’re not coming just to score touchdowns or hit home runs, they’re coming to be students, and to become graduates of a great university that’s been producing successful alumni since 1884.”

Burke’s departure from athletics will leave a gaping hole that ought to be filled by several people. Since 2007, he’s been doing the work of two, at least. Budget concerns led Dr. Webb to not fill the vital slot of assistant AD for internal affairs that was vacated by the retiring, unsung hero Donnie Cox. Burke assumed all of those duties, and soldiered on.

Before, and after, he had offers elsewhere, at brand name programs and ambitious climbers, from friends who admired him and wanted him alongside them, but not because he applied any place. Each time, Burke weighed the added prestige and significant income jump, yet stayed put.

It was really all about a girl named Sue. And as time passed, a place he grew to love, NSU.

NPD offers safety tips for holiday season as thieves target parked vehicles

After a post was made on Facebook claiming that 12 cars were broken into on Nov. 27 during the Christmas festival fireworks show in the downtown Natchitoches area.

The NPJ decided to confirm this information with the Natchitoches Police Department. It was confirmed that a total of 10 vehicle burglaries were reported on Saturday evening. The vehicle burglaries were a combination of unlocked doors and glass being shattered to gain entry. In several of the burglaries the property was in plain view and the suspects were able to see inside of the vehicles to steal the items.

The NPD would like to share a few tips with the holiday season approaching. During this special time of year we can all become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. Below are a few tips on how to stay safe while enjoying the 95th Natchitoches Christmas Festival.

  • Avoid driving alone or at night.
  • If you must shop at night try to park in a well-lit area.
  • Try to park as close as you can to your destination.
  • Never leave your vehicle unoccupied with the motor running or with children and pets inside.
  • Notify your credit card issuer or bank immediately if your card is lost or stolen to prevent any unwanted charges.
  • Never leave packages or valuables in the seat of your vehicle.  If you must leave any items in your vehicle try to lock them in the trunk or put them out of sight to prevent a potential burglary.
  • If you pay to park in a private lot make sure they are providing security.
  • Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your vehicle.
  • Let your child know prior to attending the Natchitoches Christmas Festival that if they get lost to locate the nearest police officer so they can be returned to you safely.
  • Do not approach your vehicle alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
  • Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbags or items.  You can also use this technique to secure your purse or handbag to a shopping basket.

The Natchitoches Police Department wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.

If you would like to report suspicious activity please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.

How to report an anonymous tip via Natchitoches Crime Stoppers:

You can also report a tip anonymously by calling Natchitoches Crime Stoppers at (318) 238-2388. All tips remain confidential and the caller can receive a cash reward up to $2,000 for the arrest of an offender.

Photos: Theresa McLaren

Lady Demons win thriller at Arkansas State

JONESBORO, Ark. – A game that was a week in the making came to fruition for Northwestern State on Thursday night in an 80-76 win at Arkansas State to close a week-long road trip.

“What’s fun to see is how we were able to put four quarters together tonight,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “It was exciting to see that, it was exciting to see the maturity on the court and it’s really great having a grad transfer that understands the game and the feel of it sometimes.

“But every single kid, whether they played or didn’t play impacted the game. The genuine growth in these past three games is really exciting and not just in the win-loss category but the contribution of different players when we needed it.”

The Lady Demons (4-3) had four players score 13 or more points in the game with several more finding hot streaks to contribute to the best shooting performance of the year from the floor and from beyond the arc.

After two tremendous starts for NSU in the previous two games, it was Arkansas State (4-5) that came out on fire in the first quarter making six of the first nine shots to take a 15-6 lead. The Lady Demons weathered the early storm and after a timeout at the 3:53 mark, turned the tables on the Red Wolves.

One of the hottest shooters for the Lady Demons, Jiselle Woodson, drilled a 3-pointer from the wing out of the break and immediately took one of her five charges in the game on the ensuing defensive possession to spark a run.

NSU ended the first with an 8-0 run and after just one more field goal from the home team, held ASU scoreless across the final three minutes, forcing a pair of turnovers along the way, to make it a 26-21 game, erasing the 13-point lead ASU right before the timeout.

NSU carried its hot shooting into the second quarter staring the period 4-for-9 from the field, but ASU was equal to the task converting the exact same rate. JaMiya Braxton drained a pair of 3s in just over a minute to officially erase the ASU lead and tie the game at 32 with 5:25 to go.

Both teams finished the half with a flurry and each time ASU made a couple of shots in a row, NSU answered. Woodson, Monette Bolden and Karmelah Dean all had game-tying shots in the final three minutes of the half for the Lady Demons. Dean capped the exciting first 20 minutes with a left-handed driving layup as the buzzer sounded to knot the game at 45 going into the break.

“I think everybody was on fire tonight,” Woodson said who finished the game with a team-leading 18 points off the bench on a 4-for-6 effort from beyond the arc. “Everybody contributed and played a huge role in the win tonight and that’s really important. We had some hot shooters in the paint, made some big layups and the 3-pointers from everyone, it was really well played.”

It was Candice Parramore’s turn in the third quarter to come up with clutch shots for the Lady Demons. In the span of a minute, the senior transfer knocked down three straight 3-pointers that gave NSU its first lead and a four-point lead (54-50) four minutes into the second half.

The Red Wolves answered with a 6-0 run to move back ahead, but Bolden tied the game at 56 to end the small run and Woodson hit a jumper a minute later to answer another ASU score. A late bucket and free throw for the Wolves gave them the slim 61-60 lead going into the final frame.

Eight straight points from Dean in the fourth quarter were some of the most needed and clutch of the night for the Lady Demons. Her 3-pointer with 6:06 left, the only make of her three attempts of the game, cut the ASU lead down to one and an and-1 play 90 seconds later put NSU up 70-68. Each of her eight points in the run answered ASU points from the possession before.

Up by one (73-72) with 1:41 left in the game, Woodson took her final charge of the night to get the ball back into the hands of Bolden and the offense. With the shooter’s bounce, Bolden got the bucket as the shot clock expired that put the Demons ahead by three and forced ASU into the foul game to extend the time.

NSU made 5-of-6 from the stripe in the final 26 seconds while ASU missed both shots from the line that would have tied the game with just over a second to go.

“We wanted it more,” Woodson said. “You could tell that the pressure was getting to them and defense is what we’re about, it’s what we thrive on and really work on and put a lot of effort into in practice. It really paid off tonight.”

The Lady Demons shot 46 percent from the field in the game and went 11-for-22 from beyond the arc, their best numbers this season.

Bolden matched a career high with 17 points, adding eight rebounds and a pair of assists in her second straight 40-minute effort. Dean had career high points (17) and rebounds (5) and Parramore finished with 13 behind her 3-for-4 effort from deep in the third quarter. Jordan Todd reached double figures with 10 rebounds.

“I think this is the catalyst and just the beginning,” Nimz said. “They’re buying in to one another and we still have some tools that haven’t had their “ah-ha” moment yet. We have some players that may still be playing a little bit reserved, but when everybody breaks out, this group is special.”

The Lady Demons return to action next Saturday, Dec. 11 at Mississippi Valley State.


Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

NCHS basketball splits doubleheader at Zwolle

The always powerful Natchitoches Central High School basketball teams rode into the hotbed of high school hoops in Louisiana, Sabine Parish, on Thursday night. The NCHS girls lost a tight battle while the NCHS boys won a hard-fought contest.

FINAL SCORE: Zwolle Lady Hawks 54, NCHS Lady Chiefs 48


RECORDS: NCHS Lady Chiefs (5-2), Zwolle Lady Hawks (8-3)

NOTES: The NCHS girls went on the road and lost to Zwolle to drop to 5-2 on the year. The Lady Chiefs have beaten Delhi, Marshall (TX), Woodlawn, Bossier and Bolton. They have fallen to Mansfield and Zwolle.

NEXT: The Lady Chiefs will travel to Northwood-Lena on Monday

FINAL SCORE: NCHS Chiefs 61, Zwolle Hawks 55


RECORDS: NCHS (2-1), Zwolle (8-4)

NOTES: The Chiefs held a 33-28 lead at halftime, scoring 19 points in the second quarter. The Chiefs were led by Justin Aaron with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals, and Devin Helaire with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Caylin Demars also had 10 points and 6 rebounds. The Chiefs outrebounded the Hawks 20-17 and forced 17 turnovers, collecting 9 steals.

The Chiefs have only played three games, beating Pineville and Zwolle, and falling to the defending 5A state champion Zachary Broncos.

COACH KOLTON SEPULVADO’S COMMENTS: “We’ve played three tough games that we have the opportunity to learn from each night and use to get better. We have been placed in different scenarios in each of the three games that it’s very difficult to simulate in practice because the game environment makes it so much different. This is why we do our best to schedule games that will put us in those situations for us to benefit and get better. That will prepare us for our district season and the playoffs.”

NEXT: The Chiefs will travel to North Central on Monday.

The New Born Tree

Today is December 3rd and a memorable day in my house. Twenty-three years ago on this day the Lord thought it would be quite an adventure to have my daughter born three and a half weeks earlier that expected. Meredith was supposed to be a Christmas Eve baby and all of our family members with December birthdays warned us about the pitfalls that came along with it. Everyone said that she would never have a regular birthday. All of her presents would most likely be wrapped in Christmas paper if she even received a birthday gift.

Just like any new mother, I wanted to truly commemorate the birth of my daughter. There were several different things that I mulled over but for some reason it just seemed fitting to plant a tree the same year she was born and watch it grow. After much research we settled on planting a Yoshino Flowering Cherry Tree. The blooms would a delicate pink just like my precious daughter. The tree was nurtured and fertilized. We did everything that you would do to a tree to build a healthy foundation for future growth and maximum bloom potential.

Of course the first year that it was in the ground there were no blooms. Zero. We researched it and it appeared to be somewhat normal. Much to our surprise after one year it had one bloom and boy was it the most beautiful bud you have ever seen in your entire life. We were so proud. Year two rolled around and we knew it would be the year that wowed us. It had two blooms the entire year but they were breathtaking.

Year three was upon us and our bouncing baby girl was turning three as well. We felt confident that this would be our year to wow the entire town with the loads of blooms. The tree mesmerized us with three healthy flowers. I truly wish that I could tell you that I was exaggerating for literary purposes but I cannot. What I can tell you is that year four, five, six and seven did not disappoint us. Each year it respectively gained one bloom. As humor would have it, when we moved from Winnfield to Natchitoches it had record setting blooms.

I am assuming the pressure to perform and helicopter tree-parenting really took its toll on the precious tree that was planted for the precious baby. The new owner of our old home is very gracious and does mind that I stalk the tree in the springtime just to take a gander at it.

When Meredith’s birthday was approaching I could not help but think about the delicate pink blooms on the special tree that was planted in her honor. As I do every year. But this year was different.

I began to ponder on the infinite wisdom of our loving Heavenly Father and how he picks the day of our birth, ordains our days, orders our steps and even knows the date of our return to him. To take it a little further, I couldn’t help but being wowed knowing that when he created the heavens and earth, he also knew that one day he would create his son and that his son would die for our sins. He knew his son would hang on a cross even though he had committed no wrongs.

Please understand that I dare not compare my daughter’s birth to the birth of Jesus.


When I thought about God watching the new born tree grow that would eventually become a cross that his son would hang on, it literally flooded my soul. Our all knowing, all seeing and all encompassing God knew that one day this tree would be utilized in the most gruesome and painful way. But would eventually give life to all of his children. Did it sadden him to know this tree was growing? Did he watch it grow and check back on its progress or did purposefully pick one that would take thirty-three years to mature?

Some mysteries of the Bible we may never know the answer to but I do know that God gives purpose to every soul that is born and every life that is lived. He chose us to live in such a time as this. My prayer is that you will spend the month of December reflecting on God’s goodness and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

“For thou didst form my inner parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me. When as yet there was not one of them.”
Psalm 139:13- 16


By Tommy Rush

I have a dear pastor friend that I’ve known for almost 25 years named Boaz Omugah. Pastor Boaz is from Kisumu, Kenya. He and his wife, Helen are very special people and their love and faithfulness to Jesus has impacted my life and faith in a great way.

Almost ten years ago, Boaz came to the United States for the very first time. He actually came to Natchitoches during the Christmas Season and was beyond amazed at the City decorations and fireworks downtown. I will never forget how he waited each day for the sun to go down in order to walk downtown and see the lights. He simply could not get over the downtown decorations, the lights and the fireworks.

Every Christmas since his visit, Boaz contacts me between Thanksgiving and Christmas to catch up by phone or text. Even though it’s been almost ten years, he still asks about the lights and wants me to send pictures of our city decorations. He loves to tell people in Kenya that he’s been to our city and experienced the lights in person.

This past Sunday evening we talked by phone again. Again he wanted to know about the “lights and asked if I could send him a new video of the fireworks. In our phone visit he said it again, “Bro. Tommy, I will always treasure my visit to America and my stay in your home. Thank you for the blessing of preaching before your wonderful church family. I will forever remember your beautiful city and the way your city celebrates our Lord’s birthday!”

In the conversation he also shared with me that his month long visit to the United States was a major highlight of his life but he struggled a bit when he returned home. He was not angry or jealous, but struggled to understand why his country and community had so little when others have so much. Then Boaz made a statement that I hope I will never forget. He said to me, “You have so much in America and I know you are grateful. Your blessings are many, but I’m afraid that many blessings would cause me to lose my grip on my day-to-day dependence on Jesus.”

Many people, myself included, can miss the greatest blessings of life when we live in abundance. The greatest blessings of life are godliness with contentment. The Apostle Paul said in I Timothy 6:6 that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Sometimes our material blessings hinder us from drawing close to Jesus and depending on Him for the peace and joy that gives us life. My prayer for me and my family this Christmas season is to not lose our grip on our day-to-day dependence on the One whose birthday we are celebrating!


A Cloutierville man currently on parole is in jail after he led Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputies and Louisiana State Police on a 22-mile pursuit early this morning according to Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Stuart Wright.

This morning at approximately 1:35am, Deputy B. Keyser assigned to the NPSO Patrol Bureau was patrolling on La. Hwy 1 South near Montrose when he observed a gold 2003 Mercury Sable traveling approximately 80 miles per hour in a posted 55 mph speed zone and being operated in a reckless manner as it turned on La. Hwy 493.

Deputies attempted to stop the vehicle with emergency lights on due to the traffic violations.

The violator refused to stop leading the deputy on a pursuit on La. Hwy 493 then left on La. Hwy 484 (Cane River area) then right onto La. Hwy 494 reaching speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour.

Deputies observed objects being thrown out of the vehicle.

The pursuit then continued across Shell Beach Bridge on La. Hwy 119 down to Melrose and back out on to La. Hwy 1 turning left traveling south on La. Hwy 1.

Additional NPSO Units and LSP Units were deployed to the area to assist.

The pursuit continued southbound on La. Hwy 1 near Derry where deputies and LSP were stationed with tire deflation devices.

As the pursuit neared, deputies successfully deployed the tire deflation devices causing the vehicle to slow down finally coming to a stop just north of Cloutierville.

The suspect was taken into custody without incident.

Kevin Raphiel Jr., 36, of the 900 block of La. Hwy 491, Cloutierville was transported and booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with Aggravated Flight from an Officer, and Reckless Operation of a Vehicle.

State Probation and Parole-Natchitoches District Agents have been notified of the arrest with a parole violation hold pending.

Raphiel remains in the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center.

Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Agents are also assisting as the investigation continues into Raphiel’s activities.

The vehicle was impounded.

Deputy B. Keyser, Sgt. M. Robertson, Deputy B. Remo, Lt. M. Wilson and LSP Sgt. J. Jett were involved in the arrest.

NPSO Release

Chris Grant Named New Southland Conference Commissioner

Chris Grant, a dynamic leader whose broad experience as a college athletics executive runs the spectrum from small conferences to running tournaments for a Power Five conference, has been named the new Commissioner of the Southland Conference.

Grant, who is currently the Conference’s deputy commissioner, will fully take on his new responsibilities when Commissioner Tom Burnett – who is also currently serving as chair of the NCAA’s Division I Men’s Basketball Committee – will move into a role as full-time senior consultant to the commissioner and the Board of Directors after the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament concludes.

“As we look ahead, we are truly excited that Chris will be leading us at a time of unprecedented change, and opportunity, in college athletics,” said Jay Clune, president of Nichols State University and the chair of the conference’s governing board. “A former student-athlete who has served at nearly every level of college sports and succeeded everywhere he’s gone, he has the right mix of innovative spirit, determination, and openness to collaborate that a strong commissioner needs.”

Clune continued, “I particularly want to thank Tom Burnett for his many years of devoted service and extraordinary accomplishments. I know that he and Chris will effect a smooth transition, and we will all continue to benefit from Tom’s wisdom in his new role.”

Broad Experience

Grant, who came to the Southland Conference as deputy commissioner in August, will become the conference’s first African-American commissioner. Before coming to Southland, he served as Associate Commissioner of Sports Management and Championships at the Pac-12 Conference, where among his many accomplishments he played a key role in successfully establishing the women’s basketball championship in Las Vegas and spearheading negotiations for the inaugural 2022 conference baseball tournament in Scottsdale.

Prior to that, he was Director of Sports Services at Conference USA, and Assistant Athletics Director at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

As a student-athlete, Grant was a four-year football letter winner at Kentucky State University, from which he graduated cum laude and on the AD’s honor roll.

“Chris has the perfect mix of experience as a leader – both as a student-athlete and as a conference administrator – that will make him a superb commissioner,” said Steve Moniaci, athletic director at Houston Baptist University. “When you put that together with his personal commitment to innovation and his ability to work with others, it really is a recipe for success. I know all of the Athletic Directors are looking forward to working with Chris as we continue striving to make this one of the premier athletic conferences in the country.”

Grant expressed his appreciation for the opportunity and also his admiration for Burnett, “Tom has been an exceptional leader and the face of this conference for 20 years. I am so appreciative that Tom will remain on staff in a full-time senior consulting role as we address the ever-changing developments in college athletics.

“I am humbled by the responsibility being entrusted to me by our conference presidents, and I am determined to live up to their expectations,” Grant added. “This is a time of great upheaval in college sports, but also one that, if we work together and navigate it successfully, is a time of great opportunity for our schools and, most importantly, for our student athletes.”

Burnett, who will remain as commissioner during a transition period until the spring, said, “I couldn’t be more pleased than to be leaving the conference in Chris’s hands. He brings a student-athlete’s competitiveness and dynamism, along with an infectious innovative spirit that I’ve had the privilege to experience first-hand. I think the conference will have an exciting future, and I look forward to working with him in our new roles.”

Grant and his wife, Marie-Therese, a former standout volleyball student-athlete at the University of Texas at El Paso and currently the Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Thrive Global, reside in Plano, Texas, with their goldendoodle, Bash.

Commissioner Tom Burnett, who is also the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Chair, will become a senior consultant to Grant and the Board of Directors.

Grant, a former student-athlete, brings broad conference leadership experience and a commitment to innovation at a time of widespread change; will take over in spring 2022.

About the Southland Conference

Founded in Dallas in 1963 and now in its 59th competitive season, the Southland Conference celebrates the academic and competitive achievements of its member institutions and their student-athletes. Based in Frisco, Texas, the league now includes eight members in Louisiana and Texas and sponsors 19 NCAA Division I sports, with NCAA Championships automatic berths in 12 applicable team sports. The Southland Conference has won numerous national championships, including the 2021 NCAA Division I FCS title, and wins regularly in other sports in NCAA postseason play, including the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. The Conference also features a newly-expanded agreement with ESPN Networks, broadcasting hundreds of competitions each year, and is represented in the national corporate sales marketplace by Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment. The Southland has also served as the host conference for the successful NCAA Division I FCS Championship Game in Frisco since 2011.

NSU Calendar for Dec. 5 – 11

Here is a look at the week of Dec. 5-11 at Northwestern State University.

Dec. 5 – January 9, 2022 – Registration for Spring 2022 semester

Dec. 5 -9 – Final examination period for fall semester

Dec. 7 – Multicultural Christmas Concert, Treen Auditorium, Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, 6 p.m.

Dec. 7 — Candlelight service of “Lessons and Carols,” Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 145 Church St., Natchitoches, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 – Department of Fine and Graphic Arts Maker’s Faire, Orville Hanchey Gallery, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Dec. 9-10 — Dec. 8 – Department of Fine and Graphic Arts Maker’s Faire, Orville Hanchey Gallery, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 11 – ACT testing, Kyser Hall, check in at 7:30 a.m. Testing begins at 8 a.m.

Dec. 11 – Men’s basketball vs. Dallas Christian. Prather Coliseum, 3 p.m.

“Lessons and Carols” service to be presented Dec. 7

By Robert Torok

The Northwestern State University Chamber Choir will present a candlelight service of “Lessons and Carols” Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at 145 Church St. in Natchitoches. Admission is free and open to the public. Dr. Nicholaus B. Cummins will conduct the Chamber Choir. This is the 31st consecutive year the NSU Chamber Choir has presented this service.

The “Lessons and Carols” is a service based upon a century-old tradition established at Kings College, Cambridge, in England, where it is performed every Christmas Eve to standing room only crowds and broadcast worldwide on the BBC. “Lessons and Carols” consists of nine lessons, readings for both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, all related to the Advent and birth of Christ. Following each lesson, the choir singing a text that relates to each of the readings. During the carols, altar servers light a variety of candles, which remain lit throughout the service. Gradually, the church is transformed from darkness into light as the Service concludes in a festive recessional.

The Northwestern Chamber Choir, founded in 1987, is the flagship choral ensemble at Northwestern State. The Northwestern Chamber Choir is comprised of 34 undergraduates encompassing a variety of different majors throughout the university. The choir frequently collaborates with composers and conductors for projects including “For a Breath of Ecstasy,” commissioned from Michael Trotta and “The Falling Stars” commissioned from Richard Burchard. The Northwestern Chamber Choir was the featured choir at the 2017 Louisiana Music Educators Association conference and was selected to perform at the 2019 Eighth National Collegiate Choral Conference National Conference in Maryland. Earlier this year, they placed in the top four of the Leonardo da Vinci Choral Competition in Florence, Italy. The Chamber Choir has also placed second in the Laurea Mundi Budapest in Budapest, Hungary and Second and Best Interpretation in the AVE VERUM ICC in Baden, Austria. Cummins and the Northwestern Chamber Choir have been invited to premiere the “Stabat Mater” by composer Richard Burchard in London, England at the Southwark Cathedral in June 2023.

NSU, EAP team up to prepare students to be entrepreneurs in Louisiana

Hot ideas just won students some cool cash in this year’s Inferno Pitch Business Model Competition. The competition was presented by Northwestern State University’s School of Business, College of Business and Technology and BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP), which provides services to innovative startups and works to stimulate entrepreneurship opportunities in North Louisiana.

NSU and EAP have partnered for a fourth year to continue their work to help prepare students for entrepreneurship.

Four finalist teams competed for $4,500 in cash and additional prizes during an online business pitch event held by NSU and EAP. To prepare for the final event, student competitors first participated in a speed consulting and business development workshop online last month. They then submitted pitch presentations for evaluation to determine the finalists who would be eligible to compete for prize money.

The top cash prize of $3,000 was awarded to Kylie Morgan, Zoie Gillespie, Savannah Hall and Rebecca Santos. Their winning idea is for a device called “Expitemp,” which is intended to help busy families track food in their fridge, cut down on food waste and save time at the grocery store.

“I feel like this competition is a great way to push yourself, be independent and better our society with new ideas in a way that you never would have thought or tried before,” said Gillespie, a junior business administration major.

“This also helps students boost their confidence – it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Morgan, a senior business administration major.

Jackson McCann, Alex Trotter, Kirstin Sonnier and Tabitha Schmidt won second place and a cash prize of $1,000 for their business idea, “Float Your Boat,” which would provide boat preparation and other services for boat owners to allow more time for relaxation and recreation on the water. Derek Fields, Shana LaCroix, Allie Soudelier and Carmen Varnell placed third for their business idea, “Cane River Coffee” — a coffee truck utilizing local Louisiana coffee and cane sugar straws.

All four finalist teams also won professional services from EAP for six months and will receive scholarships to the 2022 Louisiana Startup Prize to compete with other entrepreneurs for a $25,000 grand prize.

“Learning to think critically is the main benefit to students,” said Dr. Carmella Parker, associate professor and coordinator of outreach and special projects at NSU’s School of Business, College of Business and Technology. “They have to critically think about every aspect of this competition, and that is going to help them become more agile. We want them to be confident so they can navigate any professional business landscape.”

NSU faculty and community business professionals who served as judges during the online final pitch competition were Dave Smith, executive director of the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program; Dr. Darlene Williams, vice president for Technology, Innovation and Economic Development at NSU, and Joanna Washington, branch administrator at City Bank & Trust.

“When I’m asked why these student business pitch competitions are so important, I say that more than 50 percent of businesses in Louisiana are small or family-owned businesses,” Smith said. “We need to help train our students to think like business owners and leaders because chances are they will be one, so they’d better be ready.”

BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program serves as the region’s startup accelerator and small business resource, analyzing the viability of ideas and products, matching entrepreneurs with informed investors and other funding opportunities and nurturing them through the critical steps toward market. EAP provides a suite of services to build sustainable and profitable companies in North Louisiana.

According to an economic impact study by Dr. Loren Scott and Associates, in 2019 the firms supported by EAP generated in the Shreveport-Bossier MSA over 353 new jobs, $21 million in new business sales, $15 million in new household earnings and nearly $1 million in new tax and fee collections for local governments.