November is here, bringing with it cooler temperatures and excited anticipation for the arrival of the holiday season. Smells of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, evergreen and peppermint and the sounds of bells ringing around red kettles will soon fill the air as we reflect on the close of another year, give thanks and once again participate in traditions with those we love. Community helps to make each holiday season special and across Cenla, we will have ample opportunities to gather and celebrate all the things that make Central Louisiana such a special place to call home.
Downtown Alexandria will become a Magical Winter Wonderland with the return of AlexWinterFete. The event will feature Santa’s Village, where good boys and girls can meet St. Nick and provide their Christmas wish lists while getting a photograph. As always, there will be fun and entertainment for all ages. Indie Village and Multi-Cultural Village will each boast an eclectic mix of live music, art and more. Vendors, craftspeople and artisans will be on hand for exceptional shopping opportunities for those on your holiday gift list.
No Louisiana festival would be complete without a line-up of live music and entertainment. WinterFete will be no exception! In addition, Fete will also feature a spectacular fireworks display, snow flurries, an Ugly Sweater 5K Run, Horse and Buggy rides, Polar Express and, of course, the centerpiece, the Fulton Mini-Park’s transformation into a giant, outdoor skating rink. Skaters will be able to take to the ice for what has become one of the most popular traditions at AlexWinterFete. And this year, they’ve made it easier than ever to beat the crowds with a new Fast Pass option.
The Ice Rink Fast Pass wristband allows 30 Fast Pass skaters at a time access to the rink during each designated window and are available for $10.00 per day or $20.00 for the entire weekend. Once pre-purchased skaters will pick up wristbands at the ice skating rink will call during AlexWinterFete. There is a limited number of fast passes available for purchase; there are no refunds. To book your Fast Pass, visit https://www.cityofalexandriala.com/alexwinterfete.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival began 92 years ago as an act of charity and thankfulness. And in that manner it continues today. The Christmas Festival tradition began in 1927 when employees of the City of Natchitoches’ utility department decided to give their customers a Christmas present. They erected an 8-foot star made of white lights and placed it downtown so everyone could see and enjoy the wonders, not only of the season, but also of electricity. Over the years, new electrical displays were added. And in 1936, local businessmen added fireworks for the community to enjoy. This was the start of something big–the beginning of one of the nation’s oldest and most spectacular community based Christmas celebrations.
The themes for the displays are indicative of the season, and are also determined by world events. During World War II, a large “V” for victory was included. The giant American Flag, which anchors the northern end of the displays, was built as a tribute to the men and women of Desert Storm and all other veterans. In addition to the set pieces, the City is covered with more than 300,000 colored lights.
Professional pyrotechnic companies have long since replaced the businessmen who purchased and fired the first fireworks show, which originally cost only $300. Their small show has grown into the premier fireworks pyrotechnic event in Louisiana. The number of shows has also increased from the Festival weekend to including every Saturday from when the lights are turned on in mid-November through the first week in January.
Natchitoches will kick off its annual Festival of Lights with an Opening Ceremony and the annual lighting of the Christmas lights on Saturday, November 17th. Miss Merry Christmas and her Belles officially invite everyone to join in the beginning of the celebration of the season as they make their debut as hostesses for the Christmas season.
November 17th, also known as “Turn on the Holidays,” will signal the start of later hours for the historic district businesses. The shops will showcase their Christmas treasures, including books, clothing, Christmas decorations and ornaments, collectibles, and other various gifts. The store windows will also be decorated in festive displays and lights, and holiday refreshments will be available. Fireworks will be ignited off the riverbank following the opening ceremony. The fireworks show is free for the whole family.
The 92nd Annual Christmas Festival will take place on December 1st on the downtown riverbank in Natchitoches. Food and craft vendors will be in place, and the shops will stay open late. The 2-mile parade begins at 1:00pm festival day and winds through the streets of the downtown National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches. Entertainment will be available throughout the day, and fireworks will begin at 6:00pm.
The lights will remain on through January 6th, and every Saturday night, from November 17th through the month of December, will be lit with a grand fireworks show.
The Christmas by Candlelight Holiday Tour of Homes will take place during the 2nd and 3rd weeks in December. The Tour will feature several historic homes and buildings in Natchitoches, annually presented by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation. Visit www.NatchitochesHF.com for more details.
Other holiday events in and around Natchitoches include Christmas on the Cane at Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, Natchitoches/Northwestern Christmas Gala, choir cantatas, orchestra concerts, Holiday Kids Fest on the downtown riverbank, nightly visits with Santa, Christmas in the Park and so much more!
Natchitoches is a proud partner in Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights which is comprised of eight festive cities—Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches and Alexandria/Pineville—located along Interstates 20 and 49. The eight cities collaborate on efforts to bring awareness of the holiday events and happenings in the cities and to drive holiday visitation in the partner cities. In January 2018, the Holiday Trail of Lights was awarded a Louey Award for Festival/Event of the Year from the Louisiana Travel Association. The Trail of Lights celebrates its 25th year of festive holiday celebrations this year!
For more information, visit the Christmas Festival web page at www.natchitocheschristmas.com or call the Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 259-1714.
The Alexandria Zoo is lighting up the season with Holiday Light Safari each evening from 5:30pm to 8:30pm nightly, December 7th-8th and 14th-23rd. Create wonderful holiday memories with a casual stroll through the Zoo’s colorful environment sparkling with thousands of lights and whimsical lighted animal figures. Holiday Light Safari also features holiday train rides, Santa, kids’ activities, and much more!
Hop aboard the Holiday Express train ride, get into the holiday spirit with festive live entertainment on select evenings, and share your wish list with Santa. Stop by the Activities Building where kids can decorate an Atwood’s Bakery cookie and make a craft. The Palm Cafe will help keep you warm inside and out with tasty treats like hot chocolate, delicious meals and snacks for appetites of all sizes. Complete your holiday safari with a trek through the Zootique Gift Shop to pick the perfect stocking stuffer.
Admission to the Holiday Light Safari is $8.00 for General Admission, $6.00 for FOTAZ members and free for children ages 3 and under. FOTAZ Memberships and other Zoo Passes are not valid during Holiday Light Safari. In the event of inclement weather, the decision to cancel an evening of Holiday Light Safari will be announced via the Zoo’s Facebook page. Alexandria Zoo will close at 4:00pm and reopen at 5:30pm each evening of Holiday Light Safari.
Calvary Baptist Church will once again present its annual Christmas production, “A Calvary Christmas”. The show is sure to become one of the highlights of your Christmas season as a cast and crew of over 400 present a two-act visually stunning multimedia event including a cast and choir, live orchestra, flying angels and much more! Act One is complete with many of your traditional Christmas favorites as well as new numbers sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Act Two is the focal point, including the beautiful heart of this production, The Living Nativity. The story of the birth of Jesus will be told in all its wonder with angels, shepherds, live animals and the Christ-child in the manger. It will leave you celebrating the glorious hope we have in our Savior! Four performances are scheduled for November 30th through December 2nd with a Saturday night pre-show dinner buffet.
Tickets are available at calvarynet.net, by calling Calvary Baptist Church at (318) 445-1426 or in person by visiting the church office at 5011 Jackson Street in Alexandria.
Step back in time with an “Old Fashioned Christmas” at Kent Plantation House on Saturday, December 8th from 4:00pm to 8:00pm. Guests will enjoy watching children laughing and playing while sipping on delicious hot chocolate and tasty cookies. With toys, crafts and activities from years gone by, a sense of nostalgia is sure to soften even the hardest of Scrooge hearts. There will be vintage music, storytelling, face painting and much more all set against the backdrop of one of the oldest standing structures in Louisiana.
Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit quite like Christmas music. Musical opportunities abound throughout the season here in Cenla. The Rapides Symphony Orchestra will join with the Louisiana College Chorale in the beautifully renovated Guinn Auditorium on the LC campus to make a joyful noise at its annual holiday concert. The concert begins at 2:30pm and will feature works by Handel, local composer Robert MacGimsey, John Rutter and much more. And, of course, no RSO Christmas concert would be complete without some good old-fashioned caroling and maybe even a visit from the man in red himself, Santa Claus.
Advanced discount tickets for the concert are available for just $5.00 at RapidesSymphony.org or by calling (318) 442-9709. Tickets will be available at the door for $10.00 on the day of the show.
The Pentecostals of Alexandria will present their annual Christmas concert on Sunday, December 9th at 6:00pm, with doors opening at 5:00pm. This year’s headliner is Grammy award-winning singer Jason Crabb. In his career, Kentucky-born Crabb has won 21 Dove Awards—being named the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards Artist and Male Vocalist of the Year along with winning Song of the Year honors. Crabb’s electrifying stage presence, powerhouse vocals and magnetic personality have endeared him to millions across the world—through extensive personal appearances, media coverage, and social media including over 20 million views on YouTube. Since his first solo release in 2009, Jason Crabb has performed at many of the world’s most prestigious stages such as Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry, the Brooklyn Tabernacle and Billy Graham’s final crusade in NYC.
General seating tickets for the concert are $5.00 with VIP seating option available for $15.00. Tickets can be purchased online at POA.church.
This holiday season, take some extra time to give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy. Remember those less fortunate than you. Give as selflessly as you are able. Get out and enjoy the many events offered—both right down the street and across the region—because we are truly at our best when we are together. ‘Tis the season in Cenla…Happy Holidays!