A Caroling Christmas
11/07/2017 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Gallery: 2017 Christmas Season [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
2017 Christmas SeasonBy Shanna P. Dickens | Photos by Jane Jane Braud And Iberia Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau
In the back of a horse drawn carriage, cuddled close to your loved ones, as the sounds of hooves clip and clop through a picturesque Main Street. Christmas lights dance and glisten off of historic downtown buildings. The songs of carolers fill the air as you glide past festively decorated storefronts.
In south Louisiana, this dreamscape only exists in seasonal snow globes. Until now. Presented by the Downtown Business Association, the Believe in the Berry Christmas season will kick off November 9, bringing two months full of merriment to Iberia Parish.
A Look Back
In 1977, Paul Schwing brought local merchants together to start a Christmas parade in downtown New Iberia. At that time, it was called the Downtown Merchants Parade. For 35 years, the parade was held on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, and only businesses on Main Street could participate.
Jenny Toups, treasurer of the Downtown Business Association, took over the parade 11 years ago, and while honoring the legacy created by Mr. Schwing, she began making changes in the best interest of the parade and of the community.
“It got to a point where the merchants couldn’t support the parade anymore because of the economy,” Toups explains. “I approached the merchants and explained that I believed we needed to go beyond Main Street, and everyone agreed that it was time to open it up to everyone.”
This positive and inclusive energy has continued to gain momentum, and this year an entire season of events and festivities have been planned for the community to celebrate the Christmas parade’s 40th anniversary. The theme will be A Caroling Christmas.
“Our mission is to help bring the community together and to bring people downtown,” explains Downtown Business Association member and Main Street merchant Jennifer Beslin. “We have a beautiful and award-winning downtown historic district that’s full of interesting buildings. It’s the perfect setting for a southern Christmas.”
In the Berry, Christmas season begins on November 9 at 6 p.m. with the Royalty Reception at Little River Inn. The event was previously only open to the current Queen and King, past royalty and downtown merchants, but now the entire community will be able to purchase a ticket to attend. November 16, from noon-7 p.m., will be the Believe in the Berry Shopping Experience. Main Street Merchants will host open houses. Additional vendors will be invited to set up in front of the beautifully and festively decorated storefronts. The Shop Small Shop Local campaign is yet another chance for shoppers to take advantage of unique holiday shopping options offered downtown. It will be held on November 25, the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
Southern Sleigh Ride
On December 8 from 5:30-9 p.m., downtown New Iberia will look as if a Thomas Kinkade painting has come to life. Families, couples and solo Christmas enthusiast alike will be able to tour downtown via horse drawn carriage. There will be two carriage options, one holds 12-15 people and the other fits 9 people. The price will be $10 for kids and $15 for adult, and advanced tickets can be purchased.
The carriages, which will be lit up for Christmas, will take off from the Shadows on the Teche and go all the way down Main Street. Tours of the historic district will be led by McGee Scott Realty. There will be carolers, a la A Caroling Christmas, strategically placed along the street to serenade the carriages as they pass by. Stops along the way will include entertainment and hot cocoa.
“We all worked really hard to make the sleigh rides a reality,” explains Beslin. “It’s nights like these that make us all come together so we can make them memorable for our community.”
And all of this before the Christmas parade. The parade, with throws, dancers, marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus, will take place downtown on December 9 from 6-8 p.m. The parade will start on Ann Street and end at Jefferson and Main Streets. The Saturday morning of the parade, families with children will once again get the chance to have breakfast with Santa Claus at Pancakes and Pajamas with Santa. The ticketed event, orchestrated by Toups, allows children to interact with their favorite Christmas character and to have their picture taken with Santa Claus. Pancakes and Pajamas with Santa will be held at the Sliman Theater. Also, on December 9 will be the Shadows Christmas Craft Fair from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
This year, the Downtown Business Association is donating new LED Christmas lights so that downtown will shine like never before. Countless organizations, government officials and citizens have come together to make sure that when the community comes together to celebrate the most magical time of year, it will be one they won’t soon forget.
“We’ve received so much support from the community that now we want to turn around and do something for them,” Toups reasons. “It’s important that our community sees what happens when we all come together. We’re all from different walks of life, but we all want this place that we love to thrive.”
For information on tickets to any of the ticketed events, contact Jenny Toups at 337-207-5670.