Grand dames of Christmas: Rusk pair honored at parade
Rusk residents Jan Hardy, left, and Nell McNatt were grand marshalls of the 2019 Rusk Christmas parade. The pair have been instrumental in making sure the lighting of the downtown square for Christmas has gone off without a hitch for 25 years.
Santa’s favorite little helpers were honored as the grand marshals of 2019 Rusk Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas parade.
Rusk resident Jan Hardy and Flowers N Things flower shop owner Nell McNatt rode in a brand new vehicle, provided by Pearman Motor Company in Alto and piloted by Rusk Chamber member Judy Faye Garner, and led the parade around downtown Rusk on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
“Jan and Nell have always worked hard on keeping our square beautiful for the holidays,” Rusk Chamber of Commerce Manager Tara Tatarski said. “Their efforts have kept it growing and expanding.”
For 25 years, the pair helped make sure the courthouse square in Rusk always looks magical for the holidays, with the help of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Hodge Community Work Squad members.
More than 100 strands of white icicle lights and regular lights adorn the store fronts around the square; outline the Cherokee County courthouse; and wrap the trees on the courthouse lawn. The lights, along with the hand-painted ‘Christmas card’ boards, and various other wooden cutouts of holiday icons, dress the downtown square up through the entire month of December.
“We got started on it in 1994,” Hardy remembers. “I started calling and collecting donations for the lights and things. Harry’s Building Materials, all our local banks, the county, the Rusk Main Street organization, the Chamber, the city – a lot of people went above and beyond with their support then and continue to do so now, especially Jenni Mantzeranis, who always steps in to help however we need it.”
McNatt and Hardy, who manages the flower shop, have been spearheading the lighting project by coordinating with the TDCJ work squad and city of Rusk officials each year; raising funds for the project from private citizens and local businesses; and purchasing lights and other equipment needed each year.
Area resident Tom McDonald, the volunteer who helped hang lights around the square for the first few years decorating began, remembers, “Jan and Nell were the ramrods of the project. They always made sure I had exactly what I needed to get the job done.
“It generally took me about two weeks to get the buildings done – and that was back when we hung lights on the old wires that used to span the street from the buildings around the square to the courthouse block.
“It takes a lot of guts to step up and ramrod a project from the ground up, but they always did a fantastic job.”
McNatt even donated the lighted, wire angel that rests atop the Courthouse gazebo every year.
The angel was unofficially dubbed ‘Ms. Nell,’ by Hardy and other former flower shop staff, in honor of McNatt’s contribution
“I’m always so pleased with the way our square looks every year,” McNatt said. “It’s so pretty and festive, with the lights, all the windows around the square looking so nice. It’s a wonderful tradition and I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of making it happen for such a long time.”
McNatt and Hardy also always go all out decorating the windows at Flowers N Things for Christmas, too.
“We have numerous people tell us every year they always make sure to get their holiday pictures in front of our windows,” McNatt said.
Please support the Cherokeean Herald by subscribing today!