DENHAM SPRINGS — Despite gray skies and a few drops of rain Nov. 28, shoppers and visitors found their way to the Historic Downtown District that includes the Antique Village for a Christmas Open House, one of the few events that will be held in the popular section of the city during the 2020 holiday season.

Continued concern about the spread of coronavirus has resulted in the cancellation of such traditional holiday treats as the lighting of the Old City Hall Museum, Chef’s Evening, lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree, the Kiwanis Christmas parade and the Nativity Pageant presented each year by members of Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Main Street Denham Springs and the Downtown Merchants’ Association chose to hold the Christmas Open House so that local residents and visitors from other communities could enjoy at least a taste of the holidays in the historic area as the traditional shopping season opened.

Visitors were greeted with Christmas decorations throughout the area with emphasis on the Train Station stage area and the small park on the west side of the Old City Hall Museum. Shops in the district offered refreshments for customers, mascots representing schools and other groups entertaining the youngsters, Santa Claus greeting children, youth dancing performances, and holiday music wafting from the open doors of retail venues.

“We decided to hold the Christmas Open House so that those who love the Historic Downtown District and the Antique Village could have at least one day of special sales and treats," said Donna Jennings, executive director of Main Street Denham Springs. "We worked hard decorating the area and we are almost finished … only a few details are left. We regret very much that we will not be able to hold our many holiday events that have drawn thousands of visitors in the past. However, our first concern is always the safety of our shop owners, their customers and our visitors. We have to follow the guidelines that come from the state.”

Jennings added, " We wanted to give something back to the community and our efforts are reflected in what we are offering today.”

Hunter Miller, manning the counter at the Antique Theater Mall, offered visitors cookie pops that, he said, have a reputation as one of the most appreciated refreshments in the district.

“We regret that we can’t have our usual events, but there’s nothing we can do about that," Miller said. "We had to cancel the Fall Festival which brings thousands of visitors to the Antique Village, and now we won’t be able to hold our other events; but we are still seeing customers come by and we are here waiting to welcome all of our visitors.” 

Down the street, a group representing the Abundant Life Church was dispensing hot cocoa, candy and cookies free to all who walked up to their sidewalk booth.

Christina Beatty said 

the group was enjoying the day greeting those passing by and exchanging Christmas greetings.

“This has been a really nice way to meet people and to help add something to the Christmas Open House in the Antique Village,” she said.

In addition to the bargains offered by the merchants, the refreshments and performing arts, several craftsmen set up on the district’s sidewalks to demonstrate their skills at crafts with historic backgrounds.

One such craftsman was Douglas Ennis, of Denham Springs, who described himself as a master crafter. Ennis was carving a large bowl out of a cypress bole on the sidewalk in front of his store, Bayous Best Restoration and Antiques.

Ennis was working with chisels and mallets and said that he carves cypress sculptures “the old-fashioned way.” He said he makes handmade rustic furniture, cypress art and décor; restores antique furniture; and makes custom pieces on request.

Ennis said he retrieves sinker cypress logs from a number of area streams and turns his reclaimed cypress into works of art. He shared his considerable knowledge about cypress with a group of visitors who gathered to watch his work. He explained that to finish the large piece he was carving would take several months.

At the Train Station Stage, the Serenity Academy of Performing Arts from Watson danced. Among those watching the dancers was Jessica Galloway, who said her sister was among the dancers. Standing beside the extensively decorated stage, Galloway described the decorations as “beautiful and very well done. The decorations make you think of Christmas.”

A middle school student, she said that the virus had made school a “little more difficult and harder to learn.” She added that even though she can’t get together with her friends as much as in the past, she is looking forward to Christmas with her family.

Petey the Pelican, mascot for Pelican State Credit Union, was in the Antique Village and Historic Downtown District throughout the morning greeting visitors. His message was “it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit.”