Where everybody knows your name
WRITTEN BY GREGG L. PARKER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
The first Saturday of October – the date Madison residents anticipate eagerly each year.
On this date, Madison Street Festival attracts children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens of Madison to downtown streets for the community’s largest signature event. In recent years, Madison Police Department has estimated the crowd at 25,000.
Madison Street Festival has claimed distinction as one of Alabama’s top 20 fall festivals. Hundreds of vendors, artisans, performers and community volunteers entertain and inform visitors. Original works of fine art, muscle cars, live music, handmade crafts, floats, marching bands and tasty orders from food trucks keep the crowd happy.
Madison Street Festival does not charge admission. Free shuttle buses run from CrossPointe Church, 78 Hughes Road, and Bob Jones High School, 650 Hughes Road, starting at 6:30 a.m. to two downtown drop-off points. Throughout the day, the shuttles return visitors to those parking sites until all attendees have cleared downtown, around 4 p.m.
The community parade opens the festival at 9 a.m. Chair Debbie Hoover has recruited bands – James Clemens and Bob Jones are perennial favorites – clubs, politicians, businesses, churches and hundreds of smiling Scouts, Indian Princesses, dancers and baton twirlers march the streets of Madison.
Grand marshals for this year’s parade will be Madison first responders. The parade snakes through downtown from Mill Road to Front Street.
“New for 2018 will be our Teen Zone, which will be a dedicated area for our older youth,” MSF President Kyle Mumaw said. “The Teen Zone will have activities such as a climbing wall, gladiator game, corn hole, golf simulator and a virtual-reality simulator for video games.”
Children will flock to “the Big Tent” for the Children’s Area, according to publicity co-chairs Debbie Overcash and Brian Mayfield. Boys and girls can enjoy in free arts, make-and-take crafts, games and entertainment. From magic and balloon animals to face painting and mini-projects, children find fun with chair Lynn Crumbly and Michelle Sheridan.
The arts in all their forms are an important feature of the festival. Shrail Heinrich is chairing the Community Showcase. “We have some cool exhibits and are looking at a full stage line-up,” Heinrich said. Crafters’ Cove offers one of the outstanding arts-and-crafts shows in the Tennessee Valley. Artisans travel from across the South to share their original art and beautifully handcrafted items. MSF intends for Crafter’s Cove to showcase unique handmade items that embody the creativity and skill of the craftsperson.
For Artist Alley, co-chairs Amber Keyes and Bonnie Birtch have scheduled an array of accomplished painters, sculptors, potters and photographers. A panel scrutinizes this juried art show to qualify these exhibitors.
A huge attraction at MSF, a smorgasbord of food is served from vendors and food trucks. Try a funnel cake for a traditional sweet treat or venture to ethnic tastes from Greek to Cajun.
Entertainment chair Chris Lund promises a lively bill from rock ‘n roll to folk ballads on the stages. Local entertainers – singers, instrumentalists and bands – show their talent to fairgoers, who can sit and listen or dance to the music.
Information Booths are a longtime festival favorite. Scores of for-profit and mom-and-pop businesses as well as non-profit organizations line Front Street to explain their products and services. From health and wellness to insurance, from pet services to chocolates, everyone will find a booth to pique their interest, according to chairs Kathy Morris, Brooke Berg and Renita Brannan.
As of July 2018, the festival’s Platinum Sponsors are North Alabama Gas, Madison Hospital, Durham Orthodontics and Madison Pediatric Dentistry. “We have many sponsors this year and have raised more money than ever before,” said grant co-chair Keegan Mumaw. “We’re so thankful to sponsors for their support. This support will be huge for grants this year. The more sponsorships, the more we can give back in grants.”
After the festival, the MSF Committee accepts applications for grants that divide any funds collected at the festival, minus expenses. “In 2017 we had a total of $7,500 in grants awarded to 15 groups, along with two scholarships for $1,000 each to a student at James Clemens and Bob Jones,” said grant chair Alicia Roberts.
It takes a small army of coordinators to put the festival together each year. In addition to all those mentioned, other MSF officers include secretary Alicia Winkle, treasurer co-chairs Kathy Morris and Stephanie Cravens, administrative director and food chair Gayle Milam, logistics co-directors Mike Gentle and John Roberts and chair and past president Brenda Parker, who has served the most years among MSF Committee members.