Visitors celebrated an old-fashioned Christmas on Saturday in the heart of Donaldsonville’s Historic District during the annual Avenue Evening Stroll.

Crowds gathered in Louisiana Square for a night of music and entertainment and strolled along Railroad Avenue for shopping, eating and togetherness in “the most special small town in Louisiana,” said Lee Melancon, the director of the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District’s Mainstreet program.

Vendors worked in booths stocked with various goods including jewelry, decorative wreaths and holiday crafts while musicians livened the streets with song.

Santa Claus came riding in on a fire truck. The evening closed with a flash-mob dance to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

For locals, the Avenue Evening Stroll is a great way to celebrate the town’s history and community spirit.

Miss LSU-USA Ashley Barbier, a Donaldsonville native, and Miss Donaldsonville Teen Tamiko Stroud were both there to greet visitors.

“We are such a small, close-knit town, but we are able to keep it up. We are a melting pot of cultures here,” Barbier said.

“This event is another time of the year for the whole town to come together. It’s time for everybody to get together, eat some Louisiana food, and have some fun,” Stroud said.

The city’s history and architecture were on display as folks walked the avenue.

“One thing that makes us unique is this is an old city, founded in 1806,” Melancon said. “We look at the modern world, and it’s beautiful, but we forget the beautiful things of our past.”

The event was sponsored by the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission, Entergy and Captial One. Supporting partners included the River Road African-American Heritage Museum, CF Industries, and Kenny Frederic at Donaldsonville Glass and Body Works. “Collaboration is important to us,” Melancon said.

The goals of the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District’s Mainstreet program are “to promote the unique character of the historic downtown district, to transform the downtown district into a vibrant cultural and social center of the city of Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish, to energize economic growth, and to inspire community pride with a vision to restore historic Donaldsonville to once again make the city a desired place to work, live and retire,” said Brent Landry, a fifth-generation Donaldsonville native and Ascension Catholic High School graduate.

“Donaldsonville is absolutely a very special town, a very caring community, with warm hospitality. Any crisis, the town comes together. Not only do we have charming architecture and culture, but we have simplicity in our lives. My house is one block away from my mom’s refrigerator. I can walk everywhere from my house and tend to my business without traffic,” Landry said.

Jewelry vendor Annie Kalgin, from Missouri, was visiting relatives when she learned about the Avenue Evening Stroll and decided to participate in the event. “It looks like a pretty prosperous little community, where community is important and people care for their little town,” Kalgin said.

“Donaldsonville is special because it tries to bring people together,” said local vendor Myrt Acosta, of Creative Imaginations.