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The unique tradition of Madison Christmas Capers will be observed in virtual format this year. The vintage photo shows the crowd gathered on Main Street to catch the free chickens with gift certificates attached. CONTRIBUTED

Chickens to fly virtually for Christmas Capers 2020

MADISON – A re-enactment of one of Madison’s most charming traditions will have another reprisal in 2020 … but in virtual format.

The custom of Christmas Capers originated in 1925 when George Walton ‘Doc’ Hughes rented the Humphrey-Hughes property at 200 Main St. in downtown Madison. Doc Hughes opened his drug store business at that location, which he operated until 1972.

During years of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, Hughes started a holiday tradition dubbed the “Christmas Chicken Capers,” according to “Madison Station, Historic Downtown Madison, 1856-2015” by Madison Station Historical Preservation Society.

On Christmas Eve, ‘Doc’ Hughes threw live chickens from the roof of his business. The chickens had tags attached to their legs, and people could redeem the tags for prizes in Hughes’ store. Anyone who caught the chickens (sometimes turkeys, some people say) received the prizes and kept the chicken for Christmas dinner.

In recent years, the Christmas Chicken Capers evolved from live chickens to rubber chickens with gift cards from local retail stores.

“Due to COVID-19, 2020 will see the Madison Christmas Capers in a virtual version,” historical society president Debbie Overcash said. The capers will be held in December 2020.

“For prizes, we are accepting one registration person and per household.” Individuals should email the completed forms for registration to MSHPSociety@gmail.com.

The historical society will announce prize winners via Facebook Live. Prize winners can pick up their gifts at Madison City Hall during regular business hours. Winners must present a valid photo identification to claim prizes.

Madison Station Historical Preservation Society strives to promote the preservation of architecturally and historically significant buildings and sites located within the City of Madison. For more information, email MSHPSociety@gmail.com or visit historicmadisonstation.com.

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