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Natchitoches is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory and carries the name of a Native American tribe. Natchitoches Christmas Festival dates back to 1927, which makes it one the oldest in the whole country. Starting on a Saturday before Thanksgiving, it runs until Epiphany in early January. The festival usually takes place in Downtown Natchitoches, in the Historic District, and on the banks of Cane River Lake. Celebrations feature over 300,000 lights and over 100 set pieces on display every night at dusk.
The festive program in Natchitoches includes the Christmas Parade, a beauty contest, and weekend fireworks. Santa Claus House is located on the downtown riverbank. Built in 1965, it is open for children to take photos and tell Santa about their wishes. There is also a spectacular fireworks display and live music show every Saturday throughout the festival season.
Natchitoches Christmas Festival Parade dates back to the 1940s. Currently, the colourful procession takes off at the campus of Northwestern State University and winds through the streets of the Historic District. College and high school bands, dance groups, queens, themed floats, and lots of costumed characters make this parade a favourite with local families. Thousands come to watch Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus kicking off the holiday season. Other parade royalty includes the Miss City of Lights, the Christmas Belles, the Christmas Angels, Miss Natchitoches Teen, and Miss Merry Christmas.
The 2020 edition requires a purchase of pre-sold armbands ($10) to enter the Riverbank area on Saturdays. Lots of food vendors will welcome guests on the Riverbank all seven days of the week. The shops and restaurants on Front Street can be accessed without an armband even on Saturdays. Guests will be encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing throughout the season.