What goes in to planning the Natchitoches Christmas Festival?


Valentina Herazo-Alvarez

The Natchitoches Christmas Tree stands tall and undecorated as its community prepares to bring magic they’ve prepared for this year’s Christmas celebration.

Christmas is a very big time of year for the city of Natchitoches. Many events occur in such a little amount of time to celebrate the holiday, which only means it takes that much more planning than imagined.

The annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival this year takes place from Nov. 19 to Jan. 6.

In order to prepare for this month of Christmas festivities, the Main Street Office of Natchitoches takes the entire rest of the year to plan.

Jill Leo, Natchitoches Main Street Office Manager and Christmas Festival Director, directs all things to do with Christmas in Natchitoches.

“Our mission is obviously to bring people to Natchitoches, but not only that, it’s really just to spread the joy,” Leo said.

Leo is the only full-time employee in charge of the Christmas festival. The rest of the planning is done by volunteers.

“Most people think it’s an official office of the city that runs the Christmas festival. However, it’s actually a non-profit run by the Natchitoches historic offices. We actually have a volunteer committee that is responsible for it all,” Leo said.

All the work done to plan the Christmas festival is done throughout the year.

“The committee meets year round, each person is in charge of their own different areas, whether it be the booths, logistics, advertising, fireworks, the parade and so on,” Leo said.

Though a lot of the planning is done by the volunteer committee, there is much more to do all around Natchitoches.

Meshelle Morgan, travel counselor at the Natchitoches Convention & Visitors Bureau, explains all they do to prepare for the busiest time of year.

“We start prep about a month or two before,” Morgan said. “We start calling hotels to get their availability so we can let people know what’s open since most people book a year in advance and we update our brochures to distribute and see what’s happening from Jill Leo.”

Morgan explains that the Natchitoches Convention & Visitors Bureau is heavily involved in the planning process of the Christmas festival through their director.

“Our director actually sits on the board for planning the festival, it is mostly Jill Leo with the Christmas festival itself but our director is in charge of their budget,” Morgan said.

Morgan believes the Christmas festival is important for people to see because of the town.

“I think people and tourists really come for the small-town feel. It’s like an actual Hallmark movie, but I really like the light show on the 4th,” Morgan said.

Leo believes the most important event is at the beginning of the Christmas festival.

“The most important event is probably the fireworks that everyone comes out for, that and the festival weekend of the Christmas parade on the first weekend of December,” Leo said.

According to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival website, the first firework show will be held on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. and the Festival of lights parade will be on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. with fireworks at 6 p.m.

All the work to bring Leo’s plans to life comes through during the Christmas festival. She most enjoys seeing all the people that come just for the experience.

“The Christmas festival is not only bringing to the experience of Natchitoches, but experiencing a Natchitoches Christmas with your family,” Leo said. “We see grandparents bringing their grandkids out and people from all over just to have this experience.”