Vile Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine is pictured here exclaiming “Merry Christmas” as she stands in cotton that acts as snow. She is also standing among reindeer and a tall Christmas tree in the middle of City Hall. The tree is one of 55 representing local churches and organizations that line the Winter Wonderland. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Dashing through the halls
For the past seven years, Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine has turned City Hall into a winter wonderland by decorating inside and out in celebration of Christmas.
“I just wanted to bring Christmas back to City Hall and to the City of Ville Platte for the people to come in and just get in the Christmas spirit,” Mayor Vidrine said. “A lot of the Christmas trees represent the different types of organizations and different churches and different schools.”
She continued, “We have a James Stephens tree, representing the first African-American school that was here. That school is represented. We have a breast cancer tree to represent breast cancer. The community college has a tree here. The churches have a tree, the Bulldogs have a tree, the Trojans have a tree, and my LSU tree is there. We wanted to make sure everybody was represented.”
There are over 55 trees spread throughout City Hall this year, and as an added bonus is snow on the floor that represents part of the local culture. “I wanted to turn City Hall into a winter wonderland,” she said. “That’s why we got the snow, and the reindeer, and the big tree in the front just to get people in the Christmas spirit. We wanted to bring Christmas back to Ville Platte.”
“The snow is cotton, so it’s staying with the culture,” she continued. “But, if you don’t know it’s cotton, it looks like snow. It’s really nice now especially since it snowed” two Fridays ago.
Mayor Vidrine explained the process involved of decorating the inside and out of City Hall. “All of these decorations are done by city workers,” she said. “The majority of the decorations are done by Dianna Johnson and Hilda Edwards. Those two ladies did all of this in here. The outside is done by city workers, and all the lights are all done by city workers.”
“A lot of people thought that we pay professionals to come and do that, but no,” she continued. “This is done by city workers. We have some really skillful people.”
According to the mayor, it takes two months to get all the work completed. “They start in October,” she said. “It takes all of October and all of November, and December 1 is when we light up. That’s two months night and day.”
What is special for the mayor is the people’s reactions. “What’s really good is when we have the kids from the school,” she said. “We had them in here the other day, and their little faces just lit up. You could see the twinkle in their eye when they saw all the decorations and the snow and the reindeer.”
“The elderly people come here and say ‘Oh cher, ça c’est joli,’” she continued. “They just smile. One lady was so happy that tears were falling down her face. That’s what we want. City Hall is the people’s City Hall, so we want to make sure that they all get in the Christmas spirit when they come here.”
The Christmas trees and decorations attract visitors from out of town that spur the local economy by buying gas and food in town. “We’ve had people from Opelousas drive to come see our decorations,” Mayor Vidrine said. “We’ve had people from Carencro, from Lafayette, from Scott, and they’ve come all the way from Livonia and Baton Rouge. They heard about City Hall, and they made a special trip just to see it.”
The mayor then expressed her plans for future years. “We’re not stopping at 55,” she said. “Next year is somebody wants to donate more trees, we’re going to get bigger and better. We’re going to put trees in here until you can’t see the floor. If you want to come decorate a tree, we welcome anybody to come decorate a tree.”
She concluded, “It just makes everybody really feel good. I just love Christmas, and I wish everybody could feel like this every day of the year spreading smiles and Christmas joy and happiness.”