Bigger Christmas at Beauvoir opens next week

Christmas at Beauvoir, the 41-day extravaganza, ushers in the holiday season with a gala on Nov. 7, when Mississippi’s First Lady, Deborah Bryant, will flip a switch to turn on the lights adorning 150 live oak trees on the grounds of the historic Jefferson Davis landmark in west Biloxi.

The 2013 Christmas at Beauvoir, the estate’s second annual celebration, will be bigger and brighter, organizers say. The number of majestic live oaks adorned with lights has grown from 100 last year to 150 this year.

Additional festive lighting displays have also been added, covering nearly half of Beauvoir’s 52 acres overlooking the Mississippi Sound, and two newly opened, year ’round Beauvoir attractions will be part of Christmas at Beauvoir: the Presidential Library and Varina’s Garden.

“This year, guests will be entering through the Presidential Library,” said Andi Rushton Oustalet, volunteer organizer of the affair. “From there, they will go out onto the crafts area, where children can decorate gingerbread cookies and do other period things. Then you’ll walk through Varina’s Garden, pass the main stage, and to the front of the mansion, where tours are available.”

Along the way you’ll also see a cottage that houses a tabletop snow village, with 80 snow-draped houses, and Father Klaus greeting children and families.

Christmas at Beauvoir welcomed 13,500 visitors from 12 states in its inaugural year, but Oustalet expects even more this year, with the fine-tuning and additional attractions. Each night, as visitors enjoy the lights, they will be entertained by choirs, musicians and other performers who will bring alive the sounds of the season. Professional and community entertainers, as well as high school choirs and bands, will perform holiday music each night.

“Last year, people walked in through a tent, and across grass fields,” Oustalet said. “This year, you’re walking into the stately Presidential Library, and then you’ll have concrete or oyster shell pathways, just like they had in the 1890s. While you’re on the grounds, you’ll smell the food cooking, you’ll see local choirs and entertainers on the outdoor stage and indoor settings, and you’ll have an idea of what it life was like back in the day.”

The opening gala on Thursday, Nov. 7 begins at 6 p.m. The event will feature a silent auction of tabletop Christmas trees decorated by organizations and businesses from across the coast. One of the most attractive: a tree adorned with $8,000 in jewelry from local jewelers Pav & Broome.

There will be a gingerbread house raffles, entertainment by The Messiah Chorus, St. James Catholic Elementary School’s Singing Angels, and The Coast Big Band.

Food for opening night will be provided by Naomi’s Catering, the Half Shell Oyster House, Gulf Coast Community College Culinary Program, the Shed Barbecue Joint, and Southern Flavors. The Half Shell, incidentally, will provide food for the entire 41-day event.

Tickets for the opening night are $50 each.

Christmas at Beauvoir will be open nightly from 4:30 to 8:30 each Thursday through Sunday, from Nov. 7 to Jan. 5. Admission is $20 for adults, or $12 for seniors, military and students. Children under age 4 are admitted for free, discount coupons are available on 12-pack Pepsi products.

Want to be involved?

On Monday, Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m., Christmas at Beauvoir will have a volunteer training meeting for those interested in working on this event. Those interested can call (228) 388-4400.

See the photos

Opening-night gala:To see dozens of images from the Festival of Trees Thursday evening at Beauvoir, click here.

Behind-the-scenes photos: Months of planning went into Christmas at Beavuoir. To see a collection of behind-the-scenes photos, click here.

Beauvoir site: To visit the Beauvoir web site, where you can find a detailed Christmas at Beauvoir schedule and other information about the national landmark, click here.