Monday, November 29, 2010
by Anne Butler
Nothing says Christmas to an excited child more than a parade, especially a safe small-town one like St. Francisville’s popular Christmas in the Country parade the first Saturday each December, complete with marching bands and decorated floats, Santa resplendent in his sleigh and important local officials in convertibles throwing lots and lots of candy. And right out there with all the excited children catching that candy, every year for the three decades this celebration has opened the holiday season in the Felicianas, is Ms. Fay Daniel, owner of one of St. Francisville’s iconic downtown shops.
It’s not that Ms. Fay is exactly a child, but she doesn’t know that, and no one has the heart to tell her. So she keeps anticipating Christmas and celebrating the season with that childlike exuberance and sense of wonder that make the holidays so magical, regardless of age. In her timeless shop, The Shanty Too, purveyor of “gifts and fancy goods” for those same three decades, she loves to share that excitement, with a holiday open house, spectacular decorations, and great shopping. She has also had a hand in planning and executing Christmas in the Country and its parade since the very beginning, many years as the overall chairperson and always the most enthusiastic supporter.
Of course, the parade has grown considerably in three decades (haven’t we all??). Highlight of a weekend designed to draw holiday shoppers into downtown St. Francisville, it started inauspiciously in the late 1970s with a few hay-filled flatbed trailers pulled by farm trucks or tractors, Scout groups trudging along on foot, a couple of costumed Historical Society stalwarts wobbling along on bicycles, and an earlier generation of politicians flinging tootsie rolls from pickups. Everybody who could beg, borrow or steal a horse rode in the parade, which turned out to be a bad idea and was halted in the interest of safety after a few hair-raising runaways. No one had any idea who would actually show up to participate, so the parade was always a surprise even to its organizers, at least until the Women’s Service League took over the project and set some tasteful guidelines.
But even in those early, simple years, St. Francisville’s holiday parade and its ever-expanding roster of wonderful little shops drew crowds. Because, you see, Christmas in St. Francisville, historically the commercial center of surrounding English Louisiana cotton plantations, has always been a magical time. In the 19th century, country folks from miles around would pile into wagons to do their weekly shopping in the little town’s dry-goods emporiums that offered everything from buggies to coffins, gents’ fine furnishings and ladies’ millinery. And at Christmas time, tiny tots would press their noses against frosted storefront windows like those at The Shanty Too to gaze with wistful longing at elegant china dolls and wooden rocking horses.
It’s still that way today, and the historic little rivertown’s Christmas in the Country celebration on December 3, 4, and 5, pays tribute to its heritage and showcases its continuing vitality as the center of culture and commerce for the entire surrounding region. As Fay Daniel says, “We have some really nice stores here, and the shop owners work hard to keep them fresh and up to date.”
Millions of tiny white lights trace soaring Victorian trimwork and grace gallery posts to transform the entire town into a veritable winter wonderland for Christmas in the Country, as special activities throughout the extensive National Register-listed downtown Historic District provide fun for the whole family at this celebration of the season, a joyful alternative to mall madness. The Saturday parade this year has the theme “SaintSational Christmas,” celebrating not only the championship WhoDat Nation but also the local West Feliciana High School teams, also called the Saints, and riding in the parade and reliving former glory will be several generations of sports heroes, cheerleaders, dancers and homecoming queens.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, Santa Claus comes to town to kick off the Lighting Ceremony of the Town Christmas Tree, followed by a public reception and fireworks display at Town Hall hosted by jovial longtime St. Francisville Mayor Billy D'Aquilla and featuring performances by the First Baptist Church Children’s Choir and West Feliciana Middle School Choir. From 6 to 8, visitors have the rare opportunity to glimpse beautifully decorated interiors of participating houses along Ferdinand and Royal Streets’ Peep Into Our Holiday Homes. The Baton Rouge Symphony presents its annual concert of seasonal selections and dessert reception beginning at 7 p.m. at Hemingbough; tickets are available at the Bank of St. Francisville.
Saturday, Dec. 4, begins with a 7:30 a.m. Community Prayer Breakfast at United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall just off Royal St., followed by Breakfast with St. Nick for children at Jackson Hall next to Grace Church at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m., sponsored by the Women’s Service League (reservations recommended; call 225-721-3563). The Women’s Service League also sells fresh wreaths and pre-wrapped Plantation Country Cookbooks all weekend on Ferdinand St. next to the library, with proceeds benefiting local civic and charitable activities.
Throughout the day Saturday there will be children’s activities--spacewalk and obstacle course, pictures with Santa—plus the Main Street Band (noon to 2), handmade crafts and food vendors in oak-shaded Parker Park. There will also be entertainment in various locations throughout the downtown historic district, featuring choirs, dancers, musicians, and other performers.
The angelic voices of the Bains Lower Elementary children's choir—Voices in Motion-- are raised at the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum on Ferdinand St. at 9:30. The Bain Elementary Chorus sings at the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall at 9:15, followed by West Feliciana High School's very popular Latin and Spanish Clubs (10:30 a.m.) and the high school choir (11). At 11:30 on Ferdinand St. the Junior Jazzercise group puts on a lively show, followed by a Shin Sun Korean Martial Arts demonstration. From 10 to 2 the Sweet Adelines’ Lyrical Quartet strolls and sings along Ferdinand and Royal Sts., while the Angola Inmate Traveling Band from Louisiana State Penitentiary performs across from Garden Symposium Park from noon to 4. The children’s musical program called A Joyful Noise performs at 12:15 at Town Hall.
Saturday’s highlight, of course, is the colorful 2 p.m. Christmas parade sponsored by the Women’s Service League. The parade features several grand marshalls, including Jimmy Heidel of the original 1967 New Orleans Saints team, and Darren Coates, local high school grad who went on to be named MVP of the infamous Bayou Classic as a member of the Southern University football team. Dozens of gaily decorated parade floats vie for coveted prizes, accompanied by cheerleaders, bands, bagpipes, vintage cars, marching ROTC units and dancers. Santa rides resplendent in a magnificent sleigh pulled by Louisiana State Penitentiary's immense prized Percheron draft horses, groomed and gleaming in the sunlight with their sleigh bells jingling.
The parade lines up on Royal St. and traverses Ferdinand and Commerce Streets, so don’t plan on driving through downtown St. Francisville mid-afternoon. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the United Methodist Church on Royal St. hosts a Community Sing-a-long, while the First Baptist Church on US 61 at LA 10 sponsors its very popular Live Nativity from 6 to 8 p.m., reminding of the reason for the season.
In addition, Saturday evening from 6 to 8, visitors are welcomed for candlelight tours, period music and wassail at Audubon State Historic Site on LA Hwy. 965, where artist-naturalist John James Audubon tutored the daughter of plantation owners and painted many of his famous bird studies in the early 1820's. This historic home never looks lovelier than in the soft romantic glow of the candles that were its only illumination for its early years. During the day from 10 to 4, the historic site observes its annual holiday festival.
Christmas in the Country activities continue on Sunday, December 5, with in-town activities augmented by a Christmas Tour of Homes presented from noon to 5 by the Friends of the Library, showcasing carefully selected contemporary homes; tickets are available at the West Feliciana Historical Society museum and at the library both before and on the day of the tour.
The enthusiastic sponsors of Christmas in the Country are the downtown merchants, and the real focus of the weekend remains the St. Francisville area's marvelous little shops, which go all out, hosting Open Houses with refreshments and entertainment for shoppers while offering spectacular seasonal decorations and great gift items. A variety of quaint little shops occupy historic structures throughout the downtown area and spread into the outlying district, each unique in its own way, and visitors should not miss a single one.
From the rich Victoriana of The Shanty Too, for thirty years the anchor of the downtown business community and always noted for eyecatching Christmas decorations, to the jewelry beautifully crafted from vintage buttons at Grandmother's Buttons, and the incredibly extensive selections of carefully chosen gift and decorative items at Hillcrest Gardens and Sage Hill Gifts, downtown St. Francisville is filled with fine shopping opportunities. Potter Michael Miller, photographer Toni Ladnier and artists Herschel Harrington and Joe Savell (Backwoods Gallery) have studios displaying their own works, while the St. Francisville Art & Antiques, Avondale Antiques, Bohemianville Antiques, and the newly opened A Few of My Favorite Things shop feature vintage collectibles and fine furnishings. The Wine Parlor in the St. Francisville Inn has a sale on gift bottles of fine wines, Birdman Books & Coffee has an eclectic selection of books, and Belle Glen Traditions stocks children’s toys plus sports memorabilia and gift items. Ins-N-Outs and Coyote Creek nurseries carry live seasonal plants to complement any decorating scheme. The tourist information center/museum in the West Feliciana Historical Society headquarters on Ferdinand St. has a great selection of books, notecards and prints, plus free maps showing locations of all of the other retail outlets, local plantations, restaurants and accommodations.
On the outskirts of town, intrepid shoppers won't want to miss the exquisite creations at Patrick’s Fine Jewelry, the fleur-de-lis decorative pieces at Elliott’s Pharmacy and an extensive collection of the latest in electronics at Radio Shack in Spring Creek Shopping Center, as well as Border Imports with huge selections of Mexican pottery, ironwork and concrete statuary on US 61 north. Most of the plantations in the St. Francisville area have gift shops, and a visit to those would permit enjoyment of spectacular seasonal decorations as well. Restaurants and B&Bs in the area offer gift certificates to extend the giving throughout the year.
Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination, but visitors find it especially enjoyable in the winter when the glorious 19th-century gardens are filled with blooming camellias. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours daily: the Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, the Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer fascinating living-history demonstrations most weekends to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.
The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from soul food to Chinese and Mexican cuisine, seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.
For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at225-635-4224; online visit www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the lively monthly third Saturday morning Community Market Day in Parker Park) or www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
The Holidays are right around the corner. We will all be busy this week cooking, watching football and for some buying our Christmas tree, stringing Christmas lights and decorating for Christmas in the Country.
We want to give you the Thanksgiving Holiday openings:
Open Thanksgiving Night will be Barrow House, Magnuson Hotel, The Lodge at the Bluffs, Butler Greenwood Plantation, Hemingbough, Lake Rosemound Inn, Lamplighter Inn, Magnolia 3V Tourist Court, St. Francisville Inn.
Open Thanksgiving will be the Oxbow Restaurant with two seatings 11:30am and 1:30pm. Please call to make a reservation 635-6276
All closed on Thanksgiving day but remember to SHOP LOCAL no traffic, no lines no hassles a great experience on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Open Thursday – Butler Greenwood Plantation.
Christmas in the Country December 3, 4, & 5, 2010
We have a full schedule on www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com
Just to touch on a few things. Friday night the Mayors Reception with music, food and fireworks and that special someone will make an appearance. The Baton Rouge Symphony will play at Hemingbough tickets available at the Bank of St Francisville and Peep into our Holiday Homes.
Saturday – Breakfast with St. Nick – three seatings contact Heidi Pittman 721-3563. Prayer Breakfast, Music from Bains Elementary, Voices in Motion, and WFHS Choir and Latin & Spanish Clubs will all be in the morning. Parker Park will be alive with vendors, music, spacewalk and food during the day. The Women's Service League parade will roll along Ferdinand and Commerce Sts at 2pm for info. Call Chanel Lemelle 505 6600. The evening will have Community Singing, The Live Nativity, Peep into our Holiday Homes and Candlelight Tours, period music and wassail at Audubon State Historic Site/Oakley Plantation.
Sunday- The Friends of Library will host their annual Christmas Tour of Homes tickets can be purchased at the library or the Historical Society Museum.
All weekend please check out our Local Shops they will be offering Specials with tasting, samplings, free gift wrap and more. The Women's Service League will be selling their fresh wreaths on Ferdinand St as well.
Mark your calendar for SHOP THE NIGHT AWAY two nights of evening shopping at some of our local stores. Thursday December 9 and 16th the following stores will stay open from 5:30pm until 8:30pm with specials, you can shop, sample, taste, and buy your Christmas tree. What a great way to do your Christmas shopping. Here's the list, share with your friends.
Hillcrest, Patricks Fine Jewelry, Ins N Outs, St. Francisville Inn's Wine Parlor, Sage Hill, Birdman, A Few of My Favorite Things, Bohemianville Antiques, Backwoods Gallery, St. Francis Arts & Antiques, The Shanty Too, Museum Gift Shop, Harrington Gallery and Grandmothers Buttons.
Christmas at Rosedown December 18 & 19, 2010 the main house will be dressed in period decorations and hear stories of Christmas traditions from the Turnbull and Bowman families. Demonstrations, period music, dancing, candlemaking, and more.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
We are going to be on TV starting in November. Look for our new commercial we are sharing with St. Francisville Main Street on Channel 33, Fox and the CW. I think we will all be singing our new song by the end of the month, hope you can guess who is singing she is one of our own.
Haunted Hayride starting at 6pm Klein Farms on highway 865 sponsored by the Grace Episcopal Youth Group.
Halloween Experience at The Myrtles Experience the true meaning of Halloween at America's most . Starting at 6:00pm. For more information call .
Haunted Hayrides - starting at 6:00pm at Klein Farms on highway 965 sponsored by Grace Episcopal Youth Group.
Friends of the Library Book Sale - Annual Book Sale at the St. Francisville 8:30am til 2:30pm.
West Feliciana Parish Hospital Health Fair 9am to 2pm "On the Path to a Healthy Tomorrow" come to the hosptial for Screenings, Education, Testing and Door Prizes. Over 25 booths. Lipid Panel (fasting tests) Chem 8 & PSA $10.00. Occult Blood Kits Available - Free Vital Signs. Screenings: Blood Glucose, Blood Pressures and more. Radiology exams: Carotid and Abdominal Aortic Ultrasounds Free For more information call 635-3811.
Sunday-October 31, 2010
Angola Rodeo - Gates open at 9am. Rodeo starts at 2:00pm
Yellow Leaf Arts Festival - Parker Park from 10am until. This year's festival looks to be the best yet! With over 50 unique and creative artists, great live music- the Voices in Motion and artist in residence – naturalist painter specializing in landscapes and birds- MURRELL BUTLER , will be demonstrating on the gazebo and displaying some of his wildlife paintings. All art and music lovers should be sure to come up to St. Francisville! The festival will be from 10 until 5
Trick or Treat Down Main Street The Town of St. Francisville will host trick or treat from 5:30pm until 7:30pm. Walk along Commerce, Ferdinand and Royal Sts. We will have great candy and treats.
Halloween Experience at The Myrtles - Experience the true meaning of Halloween at America's most Haunted House. Starting at 6:00pm. For more information call .
Katie Munson Smith