NATCHITOCHES, La. — We haven't quite made it to Thanksgiving, but one ArkLaTex city is already thinking about Christmas.
It's one of the great holiday traditions — the Natchitoches Christmas Festival — and this is opening weekend.
"This is our third year coming and I just feel like it's important to be here because it marks the beginning of the Christmas season, and we're excited to be here. It’s such a precious little town," said Cecila Gauthreaux of Brusly.
"We're actually coming in from Orlando two months ago, we just moved here. We're making this home, so this is our first Christmas festival while we're here in our new home," said Jerry Witman.
This year is obviously going to be a little different with only 3,000 people allowed on the riverfront at one time on Saturday's because of COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the visitors KTBS spoke with didn't seem to mind. In fact, most of them were happy to avoid the crowds.
"We always come for the first weekend, the kickoff weekend. They have everything the offer for the Christmas festival itself, without the massive crowds. This is probably my 15th year," said Donna Authement of Houma.
"I think the festival is going to find a way to survive no matter what. Everyone will do what they need to do, wear their mask, keep their social distance. It's not something we fear, buy you do what you need to do to protect yourself. We'll still be able to see all of our friends and family that are here, you just might say ‘Hi’ six feet away this year. It's going to be great, it's going to be a good time," said Witman.
Local shops and restaurants in the area are hoping it's going to be great for business in this Covid era, including one on Front Street called Jimbos Bar and Grill. It just opened in July.
"It's all going to be new definitely. A limited amount of people, so we're going to go by the 75% capacity rule in our restaurant and hopefully it all brings a good turnout," said general manager Jacob Lodrigue.
Live music on the Riverbank Stage is at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. each night of the festival with fireworks over Cane River Lake at 7 p.m.