Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Monday, December 3, 2012

Natchitoches' Festival of Lights

As promised, we went to Natchitoches for 86th annual Festival of Lights last Saturday. The weather was perfect, though maybe a bit too warm (close to 80 degrees) for December. Never quite sure this time of year, I wore corduroy pants and a long-sleeved holiday t-shirt. It was way too warm for that. And to boot, I was certain it would cool off after the sun went down, so I unnecessarily carried around a light-weight jacket all day. Imagine the band kids in those heavy uniforms, marching what I would guess to be around a 3-4 mile parade route. This is Andrew’s “Oh, Mom . . ." look.

I knew the place would be packed. Knowing I don’t deal well with crowds, I had mentally psyched myself ready several days in advance, but nothing could have prepared me for the masses that descend on Natchitoches for this daylong celebration – the parade, food, music, fireworks, and unveiling of the over 300,000 lights that adorn darling downtown Natchitoches. Out of curiosity, I called their Visitors Bureau and discovered they estimated the crowd to be around 75,000! Wow!

It was a good day overall. The parade was long, about two hours. Dance and cheer teams, floats carrying queens, politicians, and area business owners, high school marching bands, costumed characters, all tossing candy and beads to the throngs. I could do without the noisy vroom vroom of approximately 175 motorcycles. And the policemen on their bikes needn’t preen at quite so high a decibel level. But these funny Shriners made me smile.

I did a little Christmas shopping in the overcrowded shops along Front Street. The fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen in my life (and I've seen a lot), truly choreographed to Christmas music and with different unusual displays of explosives I’d never seen before.

They don’t flip the switch on the lights until after the fireworks, in a grand reveal. We’d grown weary of the crowds by then and wanted to head home after the fireworks (church and all the next morning) but in hindsight, I wish we had spent a bit more time looking at the lights. Traffic was an absolute nightmare. It took us an hour and a half to get out of the town. But it’s a worthwhile event to do at least once. It’s a Louisiana holiday tradition.

(In the name of full disclosure, I did not take these night shots. I found them on the internet.)

If you are curious what Natchitoches looks like on a normal day, read this post from my archives here. But Mighty Max is no longer there. And the lovely park has been expanded, improved, and is absolutely stunning.

Tell me about your fun holiday events or traditions.


Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Hi Angie, what fun! This is on my bucket list of things to do. When hubby retires, I want to spend a few days in Natchitoches during December. I've been there a couple of times, but never during the holidays. Great post--as usual!

Common Household Mom said...

Wow! That looks like quite a light show. I also like to avoid crowds. You are strong to have braved the 75,000. That's a LOT of people.

I would say that one holiday tradition we have here is making cookies. Not a whole truckload, just some. It's a stress reduction activity for me, making cookies while listening to music.