Rekindling Holiday Spirit

Madison schools’ drama teacher
revives city’s Christmas parade

Entries still being sought for
Dec. 1 parade on Main St.

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(November 2012) – This year the holiday season is looking a little brighter with the return of the Madison Christmas Parade. After being canceled in 2011, the traditional parade is back to ring in the holiday season in grand style.
Parade Coordinator Aaron Kelsey explains that “A Christmas parade offers the city a unified and focused event to celebrate the Christmas season. It also provides an outlet for area businesses and organizations to give back to the community by providing a little holiday cheer.”

Aaron Kelsey


This year’s parade will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. The route will run down Main Street from Jefferson to Mill streets. Those interested in taking part in the parade have until Nov. 9 to turn in registration forms, which can be found on Madison’s city website.
By mid-October the parade already had 23 entries, but organizers are still interested in adding more. Additional sponsorship is also being sought for the special float for Santa Claus. Madison Community Relations Director Andrew Forrester reflected on the tradition of a downtown parade saying, “I think it was always a way for us to kick off the holiday season in Madison.”
He continued, saying, “In a community that is so close, it is kind of good to have another opportunity to get together.”
This year, Kelsey is serving as Parade Coordinator in cooperation with Mayor Damon Welch’s office. Forrester explains that the parade had previously been hosted by the Madison Business and Professional Association, But for the past five years the organization of the parade had been “in limbo.”
While he said that in the past someone had always stepped up to make the parade happen, last year the city was focused on other business and unable to give the event the needed attention, so the parade was canceled due to a lack of participation. Kelsey believes that the late November date selected for last year’s parade was also an issue for many who were interested in taking part.
Forrester says that the reintroduction of the parade has been a priority for Welch. Forrester explains that “One of the goals that we had from the beginning when we took office was that we were going to have a Christmas parade.”
While the parade serves an important function as a beloved holiday event for many area residents, Kelsey said that “commercially, a parade can be a great crowd draw and advertising venture.”
After last year’s cancellation, Kelsey approached the mayor’s office about helping to organize a parade for this year. Kelsey, who teaches visual arts and directs the theater program at Madison Consolidated High School, is no stranger to putting together large productions as the school’s successful series of plays and musicals attest. The teacher also has first-hand experience as a Madison parade participant having twice had student groups take part.
Starting in January, Kelsey researched ap-proaches other towns have taken with parades and explored the variety of professional floats and balloons that are available. He made use of online videos to virtually attend holiday parades across the country and sat down with local businesses and citizens to see what was possible for Madison.
“My initial thought was to revamp the parade by adding some professional elements, such as floats, helium parade balloons and licensed characters – much like a Macy’s Thanksgiving parade,” Kelsey said.
However, the costs for such elements required significant financial support. Kelsey discovered that helium parade balloons can rent for $1,000 to $5,000 and recognizable licensed characters cost between $200 and $1,000 to rent. Happily, he reports, “We did end up getting enough interest and sponsorships to offer a few professional elements.”
Kelsey continued, saying, “I greatly appreciate the businesses and organizations who take the task to produce their own float. It is a lot of work. But it is these entries that give the parade it’s heart. The floats and marching bands are the backbone to a good parade.”
Forrester explains that the organizers have been working to make certain that the parade offers a variety of elements in order to give the parade a good rhythm and balance. He notes that while everyone loves marching bands or fire trucks, a parade made up of only one element would not give the look and feel that residents expect.
“I am trying to create a good production that is entertaining and an exciting celebration of the season,” Kelsey said. “There will be dancers, Garfield, Curious George, several themed floats and at least three marching bands.”
Sponsors and participants so far include River Valley Financial Bank, Centerstone, Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp., King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Service, Bridges for Animals, Girls Incorporated, Southwestern School Corp., Madison Consolidated Schools, Fine Threads, Village Lights Bookstore, and more.”
As Kelsey looks to the future of the parade, he reflects that “Madison has many special events, but I feel the Christmas offerings could really be ramped up, and the parade could be a central element of that.”

• For more information, contact Aaron Kelsey at pkelsey@madison.k12.in.us or Community Relations Director Andrew Forrester at community@madison-in.gov or (812) 265-8300. Entry forms and parade rules can also be found online at: www.madison-in.gov.

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