DENHAM SPRINGS — A sellout crowd of early holiday revelers crowded the streets and shops of the city’s Antique Village on Nov. 30 for the annual Holiday Chef’s Evening and Wine Tasting Event.
A long line of patrons formed on Mattie Street as the sale of tickets for the evening’s event commenced. Tickets were sold at the Historic Old City Hall. Co-Chairwomen Pat Genre and Lynn Deville stood on the steps of the restored city landmark greeting visitors who came to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the event.
“This is shaping up to be another great night for our Chef’s Evening. We only sell 300 tickets, and once again, we are sold out. This has become a real treat for the people of Denham Springs, and tonight promises to be yet another great event. The weather is perfect and the crowd is just great,” Genre said.
For a donation of $25, patrons were given a listing of all the participating shops and the foods or wines offered at each stop.
She explained the Chef’s Evening is a way to bring the community together to usher in the Christmas season and to raise funds for the Downtown Denham Springs Historic District. “We came up with this idea many years ago, and over the years, the Chef’s Evening has grown and become the success it is today. We sell out every year,” she said.
Patrons attending the Chef’s Evening could sample foods from 20 restaurants and wines from eight different vendors. The food and wine offerings were located inside the stores and shops in the Antique Village.
The Christmas Choir from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church entertained the crowds with Christmas carols. The choir drifted throughout the Antique Village pausing at different locations along the way to sing.
“It’s great to see the wonderful crowd we have here tonight, “ Deville said. “Last year, because of the flood, we almost canceled the Chef’s Evening. But after we reconsidered, we decided to go ahead with it. We thought that the people of Denham Springs and the area needed something to lift their spirits, and our great citizens came out to support us even though many were out of their homes and businesses.”
Deville said the Chef’s Evening is one of the earliest of other Christmas activities in the Antique District and it “sets the mood for the holidays to come.”
Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, in line for his ticket, said of the event, “This is just one of the great things we do in the Historic Downtown District. I always enjoy this night, and I am looking forward to visiting with friends and enjoying some good food.”
Deville said Landry has been attending the event since “long before he was mayor … and we always welcome him.”
Warren Guidry, who was showing fine furniture pieces in his Chateau Charms collection, called the event "an outstanding night for small businesses. Merchants have the opportunity to show their products and the crowds seem interested. I’ve noticed that a lot of people tonight are ‘looking,’ but they will be back later to purchase what they are seeing tonight.”
Vikki Bourgeois, proprietor of Creole Collections, said, “This is very festive … very exciting … lots of people are coming through, and I absolutely think that this will help with sales. People are scouting for the fine things they want to acquire or to buy as gifts. I’ll be seeing some of them coming back later to claim their selections.”
Denham Springs Police Chief J. Shannon Womack and his wife, Dee, sampling sushi prepared by Geisha, Sushi With a Flair, said he was enjoying the evening, especially the food. “This is a really nice event, and it’s good to see the people come out to support the Antique Village and Historic Downtown Denham Springs.”
Deville said the food is generously provided by restaurants from throughout the area.
“We are blessed to have many great restaurants and caterers in the area, and they, along with the wine vendors, make Chef’s Evening possible. Don’s, Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill and Sombrero’s have been with us since the first year of the event,” she said. “We certainly thank all the merchants and the chefs for their participation. They make this night possible.”
Deville said funds raised through the Chef’s Evening have been used to purchase decorations, benches and trash containers for the Historic Downtown District and also to fund general improvements to the area.
Al Bye, president of the Antique Village Merchant’s Association said he was “most impressed with Chef’s Evening.” He continued, “This night is what I call the ‘most fun’ night of the year. The great food, the Christmas caroling, the wonderful people who come by to visit … . It’s all just great.”
Bye, proprietor of the Theater Antique Mall, said the Antique Village is flourishing. “We are doing better than before the flood of 2016. All 30 shops are now occupied, and all the buildings have been refurbished and improved. I think that tonight’s event will show the people that we are back in business better than ever. I am just really enjoying the night. … It’s always nice to see familiar faces, and new ones. This is one of the best things that we do in Downtown Denham Springs.”