Welcoming the holiday season to Natchitoches has been a highlight of the college experience for generations of Pi Kappa Phi. Each December for more than a half-century, attending the Christmas Festival is one of the oldest Beta Omicron Chapter traditions.
Each year, the Natchitoches Festival of Lights draws more than a visitors to the city. With steady growth in recent years, the length of the festival has expanded to nearly a month and a half and has seen the addition of laser lights during the weekly fireworks show and even a synthetic snow hill. While they’re a sign of the changing times, some mainstays have weathered the course of time. Nearly any festival go-er, Pi Kapps included, would say no “Christmas Fest” is complete without fireworks, hundreds of thousands of lights, and the Christmas parade.
Giving a look into the past, the following is an article from the February 1959 issue of Pi Kappa Phi’s Star and Lamp Magazine.
The 32nd annual Christmas Festival was staged December 6 in downtown Natchitoches, the report from Beta Omicron continues. “The festival, which annually draws some 50,000 people from several of the surrounding states, was climaxed with the turning on of 125,000 multi-colored lights which are valued at some $75,000. The turning on of the lights was immediately followed by a gala display of fireworks which added greatly to the already rising Christmas spirit. On the bank of the Cane River, approximately $2,000 worth of fireworks were exploded in patterns depicting Christmas scenes. Beginning 32 years ago as a small community program to usher in the Yule season, the festival has grown into a major tourist attraction for the Nation and is termed the most colorful festival in the South. “A mile long parade was held in downtown Natchitoches preceding the first Christmas Bowl football game between the ‘Demons’ of Northwestern State and Sam Houston State of Huntsville, Texas. Thirty-nine marching units and bands from high schools and colleges throughout the state took part in the parade. Approximately 65,000 spectators attended the 1957 Christmas Festival, and it has been estimated that nearer 75,000 enjoyed the colorful event of 1958.
For the second straight year Beta Omicron has operated a concession booth during the annual Christmas Festival held in Natchitoches. Both years this has been a very successful venture for the chapter. Pi Kapp received a monopoly on selling peanuts, popcorn, and cotton candy, which added greatly to the success of the activities. This is not only a great help in the financial department of the chapter but also it gives the men another common goal for which to strive.
Each Christmas for the past few years, Pi Kappa Phi has played Santa Claus for the children of Natchitoches. Hundreds of children flock to a small red and green house located on the bank of the Cane River to see Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas. As each child leaves, Santa presents him or her a few pieces of candy. These children leave the house very happy that they have seen Santa and their hopes reassured that they will have a very Merry Christmas. This gives each of us at Beta Omicron a sincere feeling of satisfaction and each of the Pi Kapps is glad that he could have a part in so many children’s Christmas, adding a little joy to their hearts. As we catch the smiles on their faces, we see the spirit of Christmas ourselves: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts, 20:35.”
For more information, including a schedule of events and lodging information, visit ChristmasFestival.com .