Jackson County

Gautier takes elf off the shelf, has Christmas hit

What happens when an elf goes off his shelf?

The Sun Herald tracks down a rogue elf spotted in Gautier. The elf, known as Elf on the Bayou, was seen visiting many local businesses and even Gautier Elementary School.
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The Sun Herald tracks down a rogue elf spotted in Gautier. The elf, known as Elf on the Bayou, was seen visiting many local businesses and even Gautier Elementary School.

The elf’s identity is a mystery. But the kids don’t care.

“Hi, Elf!” a high-pitched little voice calls out excitedly as she passes him in a hall at Gautier Elementary School.

When he enters the auditorium for an event, there is a roar as the kids realize it is the elf.

LaFreida Ray, head of the city’s Cultural Services, loves to watch reactions when the Elf on the Bayou pops up around town. The city posts his appearances on its Facebook page.

Ray was driving the elf to an appearance recently and said a 2-year-old in the car next to them had her face pressed against the window, eyes wide.

The word has gotten out, and businesses now request an appearance.

The Elf on the Bayou started as a city contest last month for anyone who wanted to portray an elf. They call him the Elf on the Bayou to promote the city’s nature connections.

He was a success helping ring in Lights and Lagniappe, Gautier’s new Christmas festival at City Hall. People were encouraged to keep up with where the elf had been spotted, and enter that into a contest at the Lights fest. The elf has continued to make appearances around town.

Christmas celebrity

“It’s just bringing in a little bit of Christmas joy and laughter,” said Constance Portas, a customer at Delo’s Heavenly House of Coffee, where the elf made an appearance Tuesday.

April Havens, grants writer for Gautier, said businesses have called to ask if the elf can keep popping up.

They want the elf at their business.

You don’t see his face clearly in pictures. He’s not supposed to have an identity other than the Elf on the Bayou — that’s part of the fun.

It’s just bringing in a little bit of Christmas joy and laughter.

Constance Portas, customer at Delo’s coffee shop

“He’s supposed to be kind of mysterious,” Havens said.

Because children are familiar with the Elf on the Shelf, they have naturally taken to this one.

People checking Facebook will see several more posts before he leaves Saturday for the North Pole.

“I know he’ll be back for more Christmases,” Havens said.

A good casting choice

They lucked up on the young person who got the part, Ray told the Sun Herald.

He gets into character, and he’s good at ad libbing. He even worked well with a skit Ray wrote for his meeting with the mayor at the Children’s Breakfast.

She noticed children in the audience came to the breakfast with their own Elf on the Shelf dolls, one wearing an Auburn outfit.

An Auburn Elf on the Shelf?” Ray asked. “I didn’t know they made those.”

“The goal was to create a buzz around our first festival,” Havens said.

It worked and is still working. People were asking, “What’s the deal with this elf around town?”

“I’d call that a success, and they’re still watching for him,” Havens said. “He’s a mischeivous elf. You don’t know where he’ll be.”

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