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Light Up Madison Impacts Downtown

By Marianne Graves

Light Up Madison paraded into downtown Madison on Dec. 3 to find families crowded along SW Pinckney Street and Range Avenue for festive Courthouse dancing, the Lighting of the Trees ceremony and a holiday parade with Yogi Bear waving happily, Christmas floats, Jeeps decorated to the hilt and free hayrides circling around Four Freedoms Park.

The Light Up Madison celebration, hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Madison, is the sixth annual event this hard-working community of volunteers has organized with the goal of “improving the world, one child and one community at a time.”

During the Saturday evening celebration from 5 to 7:30 p.m., a coveted GMC Sierra Denali Blackout Edition Power Wheel was won by a family who received a chance-to-win ticket after they donated canned food items.

One Gainesville visitor and her brother from Tallahassee sat on a park bench watching the Light Up Madison parade, a sleeping child in the mother’s arms. “We’ll definitely be back,” she said.    

Four Freedoms Park Gazebo hosts festive music in downtown Madison. -Photo by Marianne Graves.

Visitors and residents are invited to enjoy walking through Four Freedoms Park this month to see this gem in downtown Madison. The historic Four Freedoms Park is dressed up as Winter Wonderland, offering a crèche celebrating the birth of Jesus in a manger, Santa’s reindeer and sleigh to climb inside to get holiday photos, electronic deer that move under the trees, angels joining hands, Snoopy the Christmas dog, a playful polar bear and a Gingerbread house with giant lollypops. Co-sponsors of the 2016 Light Up Madison event include Burns Funeral Home, City of Madison, Farm Bureau Insurance, Lake Park of Madison, Madison County Community Bank, Madison Woman’s Club, Madison County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and other community partners that donated resources and time.

Santa Claus was on hand Dec. 3 at the Main Street Playhouse and Event Center on SW Range Avenue to listen to tykes talk about their Christmas wishes. Downtown stores welcomed shoppers and offered many gift-giving ideas and special savings, which continue this month. Becky’s Dance Steps Studio students in Madison, from age three-to-adult, wowed the crowd with their ‘Tis the Season street performance in front of the Madison County Courthouse Annex.

Katie Fairless enjoying the Park deer. -Photo by Marianne Graves

“Over the years, this has become a community tradition,” said owner Becky Robinson, who has a long-time reputation as a superb dance teacher in the Madison County area.   

Across from the Courthouse Saturday night, a large crowd gathered at the Four Freedoms Park Gazebo to hear the Madison Church of God Children’s Bell Choir, James Madison Preparatory High School Music Program with guitar section, chorus and band, a new group called Hopewell Wind and Strings and Contemporary Christian artist Michael Keeler of Lee performing in the cool night air.

James Madison Prep High School guitar section, chorus and band performed at Light Up Madison. -Photo by Marianne GravesJ

Several weeks ago, Phyllis Williams, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce executive director, asked through Facebook for help to beautify the Four Freedoms Park Gazebo with new lights and batting to give the appearance of snowfall around the Gazebo.

One local woman donated the funds to purchase new lighting to frame the Gazebo. Another local couple donated the batting, which arrived in big boxes of rolled, white material, to make this snowy dream possible. The result: Four Freedoms Gazebo is now a “much brighter” entertainment center for the downtown Park.

Another note of interest, Light Up Madison Parade entries, as well as Activity, Game and Food Vendors were not required to pay a fee for their participation, which is common at festivals. Instead, they were asked to donate food, which is now packed in the Chamber’s downtown office. This week Kiwanis of Madison members are delivering these donated bags and boxes to a local food bank, a sure sign that cheerful givers are ready for the season.

Hopewell Wind and Strings entertains during Light Up Madison. -Photo by Marianne Graves