Demopolis preparing for bicentennial celebration

It could be said that Demopolis has been planning this party for 200 years.

“The People’s City” saw its start in 1817 when French exiles settled in the area. Visitors have been welcomed ever since, but not more so than on Sept. 14-17 when Demopolis greets visitors, past residents and those living here now for a homecoming.

Sponsored by the Marengo County Historical Society, the four-day event will feature tours of historic homes representing different eras of the city’s history, talks and demonstrations by artists and authors, receptions and a black-tie gala with fireworks to climax the event.

The weekend begins Thursday, Sept. 14, with a 7 p.m. reception on the front porch of Gaineswood, designated as a National Landmark. At 7:30 guests will adjourn to the drawing room for a short theatrical drama of the history of Marengo County, Demopolis, the Whitfield Family and Gaineswood presented by the Gaineswood Belles and Beaux.

Historian Betje Klier will speak on Friday, Sept. 15, at the Demopolis Public Library’s Lunch-N-Learn series. Her talk, “Bourbons before Bourbon,” will explain just who the French exiles were that settled the city.

To reserve a lunch, call the library at 289-1595. Guests can bring their own sack lunch.

Also on Friday, businesses around the Public Square will be getting into the homecoming spirit by hosting open houses and an art walk from 5-7 p.m., sponsored by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Just a block away at Lyon Hall, artist Julyan Davis will have an exhibit of his Demopolis works and present a talk about his art at 6 p.m.

From 7-11 p.m. Kenny Heard and his four-piece band will play in the Public Square from 7-11 p.m., sponsored by the City of Demopolis. Heard’s music is described as California funk meeting Alabama soul.

The two-day Bicentennial Pilgrimage of Homes opens Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. More than 16 houses will be open for viewing.

Pilgrimage tickets are $30 each. A VIP Pilgrimage ticket for $50 not only includes admittance to all the homes, but more events are included. A boxed lunch and tour of Rooster Hall with a talk on the Rooster Auction of 1919 will be at noon on Saturday, and 2 p.m. the VIP ticket holders will be treated to a guided tour of Lyon Hall, including the second floor and roof.

VIP tickets are available through Sept. 8. Regular tickets may be purchased through the day of the event.

At Lyon Hall, Davis will be painting scenes of Demopolis from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. His works will be on display in the home both Saturday and again on Sunday from 2-5 p.m.

Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burns, authors of “Visions of the Black Belt,” will be signing copies at Bluff Hall from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and offering the books for sale.

Saturday night Demopolis lets out all the stops with a formal dress Bicentennial Gala at the Demopolis Civic Center. The black-tie affair features the Lamont Landers Band of music, mixing Soul, Funk and R&B. The evening will end with fireworks over the Tombigbee River sponsored by the City of Demopolis. Gala tickets are $50 each.

The Pilgrimage of Homes continues Sunday from 2-5 p.m. VIP ticket holders have access to one additional house at 1 p.m.

At 3 p.m. in the Coplin Building, historian Klier will speak about Demopolis’ French roots and the Vine and Olive Colony wallpaper, which she spend years researching. Her talk is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Bicentennial, contact the MCHS at 289-9644, or email For Bicentennial tickets, visit <>.