NATCHITOCHES, La. (KSLA) - The 94th annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival carries on this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, after the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Department of Health approved a proposed plan.
The popular festival begins Saturday, November 21, and lasts until Sunday, January 6.
Among the most major differences this year is a limit on crowd sizes along the Riverbank, which runs parallel to historic Front Street in downtown Natchitoches. Three thousand people will be allowed to gather there during the six Saturdays the festival is occurring.
“We’ve worked hard and diligently submitting various plans to try and move forward,” said Jill Leo, director of festivals and events for the Historic District Businesses Association. “The best part of the festival is just creating memories for the families, the phone calls that I get from people who are coming back after 20 years...is so rewarding.”
Normally, according to Kelli West, marketing and communications director for the Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, between five and ten thousand people gather in the Riverbank to watch fireworks, enjoy live music and eat.
To limit crowd sizes, armbands are being pre-sold for $10 on the Natchitoches Christmas Festival website. Organizers report half of the bands have already been sold, and will not be for sale in-person.
“It is really a huge economic boost for our area, a lot of tax dollars come into the area during this time, which is why we really fought hard to make sure Christmas Festival happened,” added West. “It is a limited number [of people], but it provides the opportunity to socially distance...you can bring your tarp or blanket to sit on.”
Front Street, which is packed with stores and restaurants, will be closed to vehicular traffic to make space for people to walk and distance from one another. Tickets are not required to explore this part of the city.
The dazzling and spectacular lights, which line city buildings, the Cane River and sidewalks, will be shining bright, too.
Of course, masks and social distancing are encouraged.