Mississippi Memorial Day celebration continues strong after 153 years

Published 9:52 pm Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Memorial Day Celebration in Southwest Mississippi may mark one of the traditions in the state.

Organizers estimate approximately 1,500 people will participate in Monday’s annual Memorial Day Parade in which people march from Vidalia, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River Bridge to Natchez and then on to the Natchez National Cemetery.

The tradition that dates back to 1867 will begin at 8 a.m. Monday at Zion Church at North Magnolia and Alabama streets in Vidalia.

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From there marchers will proceed to Carter Street and make their way across the Mississippi River bridge to the Natchez Visitor Reception Center where they will take a break until approximately 10 a.m.

Marchers will then travel North on Canal Street to Franklin Street, east on Franklin Street to Pearl Street, then north on Pearl Street to West Oak Street, proceeding north on Maple Street to Cemetery Road and on to the Natchez National Cemetery, 41 Cemetery Road.

The Memorial Day Celebration will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the cemetery and will include presentation of colors, the National anthem performed by Damira McGruder, prayers, the pledge of allegiance and a speech by Sonjagela Johnson, Natchez veteran service officer.

The Eleanora Riley Group will sing “God Bless America” and volunteers will place wreaths.

Memorial Day Celebration Committee Chairperson Laura Ann Jackson said volunteers will be following marchers in trucks during the walk and water stations will be available along the parade route at Visitor Receptions Center, 640 Canal St.; Natchez Little Theatre, 319 Linton Ave.; Natchez Community Center, 215 Franklin St.; former Charity Hospital building, 801 Maple Street; and at the cemetery.

Natchez Chief of Police Walter Armstrong said people will not be allowed to park on either side of Cemetery Road for safety reasons to keep the road clear for any necessary emergency vehicles.

Instead, Armstrong said, shuttle buses will be taking people to the National Cemetery throughout the day from the Visitor Reception Center, the Natchez Little Theatre and the former Charity Hospital building.

“We don’t need any parking on either side of Cemetery Road,” Armstrong said. “We are asking people only to park in designated parking spaces at the Little Theater and the old Charity Hospital.”

Armstrong also said four wheelers, side-by-side vehicles and other all-terrain-type vehicles will not be allowed at the cemetery or along Cemetery Road.

“People who get there early can park in the circle area of the parking area at the cemetery,” Armstrong said, “but that is limited parking on a first-come-first-serve basis. It is imperative not to park on either side of the road out there for safety purposes.”

Jackson said visitors come from as far away as California to take part in the annual Memorial Day Celebration at the Natchez National Cemetery.

“For 153 years, the Miss-Lou communities have marched together to commemorate our fallen heroes,” Jackson said. “The Miss-Lou celebration is one of the longest in the nation since 1867.”

Jackson said she has 20 relatives buried in the Natchez National Cemetery and has participated in the event since she was 3 years old and has been chairperson of the organizing committee for eight years.

This year’s Mississippi representative on the committee is Dorothy Sanders and the Louisiana representative is Robert Gardner, Jackson said.