Oak lined Huey P. Long Avenue in our little town of Gretna is stunning! The Avenue between Heritage Square and 5th Street is lined with 49 beautifully lit majestic Live Oaks.

Limbs form a canopy of lights over the neutral ground where the huge decorated official City Christmas Tree stands. A life-size Nativity Set, a beautiful decorative sleigh, decorative light posts and golden reindeer add to the ambiance.

Photo Credit to Michael Wesley

The trees are such a part of the city, located on its most prestigious street that maybe we just take them for granted. Or maybe not, since locals were very upset by the loss of three Water Oaks, two in Heritage Square and one on 11th Street during Hurricane Zeta.

Huey P. Long Avenue has the distinction of having two impressive Live Oaks trees that are registered with the Live Oak Society (LOS) http://www.lgcfinc.org/live-oak-society.html. The Live Oaks are not far apart, both located near the end of the 700 block of the Avenue.   

One is Member #6102 called “Grand Old Samuel” with its 2009 girth of 12.06 ft. It was named for Albert Samuel who is believed to have planted the Live Oaks on the Avenue. Samuels also built his residence across the street from the two registered oaks, one of the grandest homes in the city, today the home of Mayor Belinda Constant.

The second Live Oak Society Member is #6103, “Copernicus,” the original name of Huey P. Long Avenue. At the time of registering in 2009, its girth was an impressive 14.04 ft.

In 2009 when Mayor Constant was Councilman Constant and Mayor Ronnie Harris was in office, she had the special trees registered with the LOC through Jefferson the Beautiful.   

To become a member of the Society, a live oak must have a girth, waistline, of eight ft. or greater. Girths over 16 ft. are classified as a centenarian. Getting the trees registered starts with an application to the Live Oak Society that was founded in 1934 to promote the culture, distribution, preservation and appreciation of the live oak tree, scientifically known as Quercus virginiana.

Members of the LOS are Live Oak trees, with, according to LOS by-laws, only one human is permitted in the society, a chairperson who is currently Coleen Perilloux Landry. She is responsible for registering and recording the Live Oak Society members, the trees. She can be reached by email at: CPL70600@aol.com.  

So, on to the exciting events happening this weekend in Gretna!

“Shop the Huey – Holiday Market” will be 1st-up on Sat., Dec. 5 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., inside and outside of the Gretna Cultural Center for the Arts at Huey P. Long Avenue and 4th Street.

Masks will be required, social distancing will be followed. There will be at least 25 vendors displaying their wares. There is no fee to enter the shopping experience, and complimentary bottomless Mimosas will be available!

“Drive the Huey” on Sun., Dec. 6 where locals will drive the Avenue beginning at 11th Street to enjoy the wonderful lit trees and the beautifully decorated Christmas Tree that will be lit at 6:00 p.m. Santa will, of course, be there for a wave only! 

“Drive the Huey and experience the charm of Historic Gretna. The oak trees are beautifully lit from 10th Street to the Mississippi River with the Christmas tree displayed prominently at the corner of 6th Street and Huey P. Long Avenue. While the Christmas experience may be different this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, we still want to invite everyone to experience the beauty by driving the Avenue!” Mayor Constant said. 

As a consequence of pandemic restrictions, everyone will miss the annual “Hallmark moment” of caroling, hot chocolate and a visit with Santa. This new experience of staying in the car and driving the Avenue is not what we want, but is a creative way that Mayor Constant, Police Chief Arthur Lawson and other city officials can offer Christmas spirit. 

Gretna Police will keep the traffic flowing, so the cars can circle the Avenue and drive back down the west lane. It’ll give all locals a chance to see the new, stunning Memorial Square in front of City Hall. Notice that stunning Live Oaks also enhance the historic German-American Cultural Center in the 500 block.    

The Huey will twinkle with lights all through December for all to drive by and enjoy. During the daytime hours, photo ops are permitted, with anyone outside complying with restrictions to socially distance and wear masks.

By appointment, on Sat., Dec. 12, pictures will be taken with Santa between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and again from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on the neutral ground between 6th and 7th Streets. To schedule a picture with Santa, call Summer Cook at 504.363.1505.

St. Joseph Church and Shrine is sponsoring a Living Nativity on the neutral ground between 6th and 7th Streets on Fri., Dec. 18 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Locals are encouraged to drive by for that event to witness the beautiful scenery along with real animals. 

St. Nicholas, aka Father Gary from St. Joseph’s will be at the Gretna Farmers’ Market on Dec. 12. Both St. Nicholas and Santa will be at the Market on Dec. 19 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  

This weekend, you can also start your collection of stamps in the “The Passport to Christmas” program that runs from Dec. 1-18. Collect 12 stamps in your Passport to be eligible to win one of three special prizes.

You start with a Passport that you can get from Shop the Huey, City Hall, the Gretna Farmers’ Market or participating businesses. You must then collect 12 different stamps from participating businesses.

Place your filled passport in the City Hall green dropbox, on Huey P. Long Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets on the east side of the avenue before Dec. 18 at 4:00 p.m.

Santa will pick the winners in a 10 a.m. drawing at the Dec. 19 Gretna Farmers’ Market. The three prizes include a Gretna Gift Basket worth over $1,000, a “Somewhere Collection Necklace” and a “Somewhere Collection Bracelet” from Rihner’s Jewelers.

There are really nice promotions going on all month long at the participating businesses that include: Amore Bakery & Café, Café 615, Classic Frame & Mat, Clear Vision Center, Common Grounds Café’, Creative Framing, El Gato Negro, Furrytails Pet Spa, Gattuso’s Restaurant, German-American Cultural Center, Gold’N Creations, Gretna Bingo Palace, Ground Pat’i Grill & Bar, Old Gretna Pharmacy, Rihner’s Jewelers, RiverShack Gretna, Roule’ Rolled Ice Cream, Smoothie King, Thai D Jing Thai Restaurant and Tony Mandina’s Restaurant. 

Children are invited to visit the Gretna Farmers’ Market where once again, Miss Cindy will lead the “Letters to Santa” activity starting on Dec. 5 at 9:30 a.m. Their letters will be placed in the Santa Mailbox.

The Mailbox, located right outside the Farmers Market Office door at 739 3rd St., near the wagon and Christmas tree will remain up until Dec. 23, just in time for Santa to get his mail before Christmas Eve!

Get those lights up and your decorations on display for the Gretna Christmas Home Decoration Contest on Dec. 19 and 20. The annual event is sponsored by GEDA. For details, call 504.361.7748.  

Any updates on Holiday related events through Dec. 25 will be posted at www.Facebook.com/CityofGretna.