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Polar Express Christmas Tree Trail lighting and Wassail Fest being held Friday in downtown Madison

MADISON – Christmas in downtown Madison kicks off this week with the annual Polar Express Christmas Tree Trail lighting and Wassail Fest. Lighting this year is on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m., followed by the Wassail Fest.

“The Polar Express Christmas Tree Trail is a wonderful example of organizations working together,” said Debbie Overcash, acting president of the Madison Station Historic Preservation Society. “The society coordinates with Madison Parks and Recreation Department and City Clerk’s Office to deliver the trees along Main Street. Councilman Greg Shaw helps secure the Christmas trees every year. The trail would not be possible without his help.”

Businesses and organizations sponsor the trees and decorate them for the annual Christmas season display.

Prior to the tree lighting, Madison Arts Council will coordinate the Children’s Lantern Parade at 5:30 p.m. on Main Street’s eastern end. Then, Madison Public Library’s Children’s librarian will energetically read “Polar Express’ at 14 Main St.

Throughout that evening, Rotary Club of Madison will serve tasty hot chocolate and cookies at Main Street’s western end. Madison City Community Orchestra will impress everyone with beautiful Christmas music.

“Mayor Paul Finley flips the switch, and Main Street is brightly lit for December,” Overcash said. Rounding out the evening, the Downtown Madison Merchants will sponsor the Wassail Trail. Downtown merchants will be open for shoppers.

Wassail Fest

After tree lighting on Dec. 2, Madison’s downtown merchants will present the second annual Wassail Fest. Main Street Cafe owner, Tammy Hall, launched the idea as an added way for those attending the tree lightings to visit all the downtown businesses. For the event, many downtown businesses will have samples of their own wassail recipes.
Guests can pick up a downtown map to see participating businesses to sample different recipes and vote for their favorite. Completed forms can be returned for door prize drawings. This is also a great time to do some holiday shopping and support the downtown Madison businesses.

Roundhouse Open House and MCCO Concert

On Dec. 4, the Madison Station Historic Preservation Society will host the Christmas Roundhouse Open House from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Roundhouse in the village green on Front Street. Enjoy hearing about the history of Madison from historian John Rankin and stay for the Madison City Community Orchestra Christmas concert.
The concert will be held at the Madison United Methodist Church, 127 Church Street in downtown Madison, starting at 4 p.m.

Christmas Parade

The 2022 Madison Christmas Parade, coordinated by Madison Parks and Recreation Department, will fill the streets on Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. along Hughes Drive between Plaza Drive and Portal Drive.

Christmas Card Lane

Enjoying all downtown Madison has to offer for the holiday season is not complete without a visit to Christmas Card Lane. Hosted by the Madison Arts Council, historic homes on Front and Church Street are lined with more than 15 larger-than-life Christmas cards designed by local artists.

The trail is illuminated each night till 9 pm and is worth viewing both during the day and night. Fortunately, these two streets are not high-traffic areas, so on a warmer day, take a stroll and enjoy the cards in the daylight. Then, make plans on an evening to drive through to see them lit up with all the historic homes illuminated as a backdrop.

Christmas Capers

In other activities, the city and historical society will present the fourth annual Madison Christmas Capers on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 4 to 5 p.m.

The event is a reenactment of the 1920s’ Christmas Capers from the roof of the former Hughes Drug Store on Main Street. During years of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, ‘Doc’ Hughes threw live chickens from the roof of his business on Christmas Eve. 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.

For the reenactment, area businesses, including Huntsville International Airport (for a flight voucher), donate thousands of dollars in prizes by catching one of 20 rubber chickens thrown from atop the store by Doc Hughes’ grandsons, Larry and Walt Anderson.

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