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Clothed in antebellum dresses, the Madison Belles helped kick off the Madison Street Festival for many years, a tradition that ended in 2015.

History of the Madison Street Festival: The first festival was held in 1976 to help celebrate the nation’s 200th birthday

The Madison Street Festival will be held in downtown Madison this Saturday, Oct. 7, starting at 9 a.m. Check out our 2023 Madison Street Festival Guide by clicking here.

One of the entries in the 1980 Madison Street Festival parade and was also on display on Main Street.

MADISON – The Madison Street Festival has a rich history, spanning over four decades. This year the festival will celebrate its 41st anniversary.
The premiere of the Madison Street Festival (MSF) was in 1976. Area municipalities and Huntsville Museum of Art were looking for ways to celebrate the country’s bicentennial all across Madison County. The City of Madison partnered with the art museum, and the first Madison Street Festival was held on Saturday, Oct. 17, 1976.

“That first festival saw a juried art show and a tour of Madison’s historic homes. Chaired by Mrs. Gary (Joyce) Griffin, a tradition was born!” Debbie Overcash said. Overcash served as MSF President in 2012 and 2013. Griffin was honored to return as Grand Marshal of the MSF Parade in 2013.

“A group of people decided to create a fun, free festival to bring people together. Showcase some vendors, have arts and crafts, fun for the kiddos, and enjoy beautiful downtown Madison,” 2023 MSF President Crystal McBrayer said.

“The festival in the past also has been hosted in the spring, but we have landed in the fall for many years. Unfortunately, we have had a few years, like 2020 and 2021 with COVID-19, that we have not been able to host a festival,” McBrayer said.

In recent years, the festival’s footprint expanded to include streets and lots north of Main Street. Vendors and civic groups moved their booths along Church Street, northward to Maple Street. Both Madison United Methodist Church and Fellowship of Faith Church generously have allowed use on their parking lots and contributed in-kind in other outreach.

“And the best part of the festival – it’s free,” McBrayer said. Corporate sponsors and hometown businesses have contributed and kept the festival free from admission.

In affiliation with the street festival in 1986, volunteers used original drawings from the 19th century to build a replica of the Roundhouse on Front Street. The replica stands at the site of the railroad depot in Madison. The original Roundhouse was built in 1896 on the south side of the railroad tracks and just east of today’s Main Street Cafe.

“In early years, MSF became a 501(c)4 and became incorporated as the festival began to grow. The mission behind being a non-profit has always been to create a fun, free event to bring our community together. Then, take all profits after hosting the event and give back to our community’s educational programs through grants,” McBrayer said. “We are proud to say that 20 years later, we accomplished a major (feat) by being approved to move from a 501(c)4 to a full 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We’re looking forward to continuing the legacy of what so many before us wanted: host a great event that is essentially a fundraiser, and then give back to our community’s educational programs through grants,” McBrayer said.

“That is our mission. It takes so many amazing committee members planning all year long to make that happen. Our committee members are the heartbeat and the true hero’s continuing on the legacy of those that came before us,” McBrayer said.

“Every single year since the festival began, we have grown. We are proud of who we are in 2023, and we are passionate about securing our legacy to continue another 41 years,” McBrayer said.

For more, visit madisonstreetfestival.org.

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