A 200th anniversary calls for superlatives! And superlatives are absolutely what those who attend Natchez City Cemetery’s 200th Anniversary “A Gala Under the Oaks” will experience – the best, greatest, grandest of gatherings. On Saturday, March 26, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., gala-goers dressed “new” for this biggest of the city’s early spring events will arrive in a most auspicious atmosphere under the huge awning. century-old living oak trees in Parc du Mémorial.
Here, the history of the cemetery began when the Spaniards, who occupied Natchez from 1779 to 1798, established their first cemetery at the current location of Memorial Park and St. Mary’s Basilica. In 1822, most of the remains were moved to the current site in the now designated Cemetery Bluff Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This gathering, orchestrated by the Natchez City Cemetery Board and chaired by Annette Holder, promises to be a tantalizing evening of dinner and dancing, celebrating Natchez’s history and commemorating its more than 50,000 souls of African, American, Asian and European. Guests will enjoy reserved seating at the event’s 30 tables for 10, formally dressed and featuring decor by renowned Natchez floral designer John Grady Burns. Complementing its creative displays, hundreds of tulips, planted by members of the Garden Clubs of America, are expected to be in full bloom.
Festive and delicious food from a dozen local caterers, chefs and restaurateurs plus an open bar will delight all celebrants, as will Switchmaker’s seven-member band performing a wide range of multi-gender and multi-generational selections. , easy-to-listen tunes with more upbeat tempos. Other performers visiting the site will be characters from the Angels on the Bluff Cemetery Tour who will perform intriguing monologues during one of the band’s intermissions.
One of the most important elements of the gathering will be the city’s first mayor and its current mayor, both present to represent the official welcome of the city fathers. Samuel Brooks, mayor from 1803 to 1811, remains a resident of the town’s original cemetery; and his contemporary counterpart, Mayor Dan Gibson, in office since the summer of 2020, will offer warm greetings to all in attendance for this commemorative event.
Mayor Gibson says the Natchez City Auspicious Cemetery “has been a vital part of our history and attracts people from around the world; and if it weren’t for this cemetery, so much of our Natchez story would go untold. It really completes when you can hear so many stories about the people who made Natchez.
Commenting on the importance of the upcoming gala in furthering the preservation of the cemetery, he remarked, “People all the time brag about how beautiful and well-kept this cemetery is, and that says a lot about so many people who over the years, through volunteer efforts alone, have kept it going.”
Proceeds from “A Gala Under the Oaks” will fund the restoration of the cemetery’s Shelter House. This one-story stucco structure, built in 1914 by native and notable Natchez architect Samuel Marx, is nationally recognized for its unique status as a reflection of the Craftsman style characteristics of the century and its mid-century modernist influence.
Each of the $100 gala tickets, a portion of which is tax-deductible, can be purchased online at thenatchezcitycemetery or natchez.ms.us/150/cemetery. For questions or assistance, call 601-597-2195.
Celebrating Natchez City Cemetery’s 200th anniversary – its 200 years of our town’s heritage, 200 years of our families and ancestors, and 200 years of our eclectic cultures – equals hundreds of reasons to come dine and dance under the stars and the stately oaks of Memorial Park. The evening promises to be lively!
GALA SPONSORS—Platinum Level: Bazile Lanneau, Jr.; Brookhaven Monument Co., Inc.; Century 21 River Cities Realty; CR Tillman Medical Services, Ltd. ; Laird’s Funeral Home; Natchez Grand Hotel and Suites; Paul Green Real Estate; Terry and Spencer Stutzman; Stratton Bull and United Mississippi Bank. Gold Level: Allen Petroleum Services, Inc.; Bluffs & Bayous magazine; Carby & Carby Law Firm; Concordia Bank & Trust; Cook Lawn & Tractor, LLC; Delta Bank; JM Jones Lumber Co., Inc.; Kimbrell’s digital solutions; Mrs. Holder’s Antiques; Outdoor fireplace and peddler’s house; Riverview RV Park and Resort; Silas Simmons, LLP; and Terri and Barry Tillman. Silver level: Bergeron & Plauché, LLC; Byrne Insurance Agency, Inc.; Crye-Leike Stedman Realtors, Inc.; Eleanor and Bill Ernst; Guido Self Storage; Hallelujah Wine & Spirits, LLC; I Hicks Distributing Co.; Mary and Dr. Fred Emrick; Flowerland of Moreton, Inc.; Natchez Pathology Laboratory, Inc.; Natchez Veterinary Clinic, LLC; 601 Rescue; Stephens & Hobby Insurance; Stout & Company, LLC; and TG McCary Photography.
Jean Nosser Biglane is a board member of the Natchez City Cemetery Association.