Madison Christmas Parade

Second-year parade promises
to be another hit with spectators

Organizer Kelsey returns
to plan, direct the entries

(December 2013) – Two years ago, the Madison, Ind., Christmas Parade was cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants and perceived lack of interest. Andrew Forrester, the city’s Community Relations Director, was determined to make sure it didn’t happen again. Aaron Kelsey, an art teacher and student theatre director at Madison Consolidated High School, offered his services as a parade coordinator.
The result was a successful revival of the parade last year. Kelsey is busy preparing for his second parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, on Madison’s Main Street.
“After last year’s parade,” said Forrester, “Mayor (Damon) Welch and I hoped Aaron would agree to do it again, and we were very pleased when he did.”
The parade will begin at Jefferson and Main Streets and travel west to Mill Street. Featured entertainment will include appearances by beloved children’s book characters, such as Maurice Sendak’s Wild Thing, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George. Various dance groups, theatre groups and several marching bands from Madison area schools will perform, in addition to jugglers and stilt walkers from the Cincinnati Circus. Parade spectators can also expect a few antique cars, decorated floats, and, of course, Santa Claus.
Kelsey, an avid fan of both Christmas and parades, said he hopes to make the Christmas parade more of an event for Madison. Entertainment and floats do not come without a cost, however.
“I always have a vision of things I would like to do,” he said, “and then I have to be realistic.”
He begins planning the parade as early as March, soliciting financial sponsors to pay for character appearances, costumes, banners and floats. His duties extend to coordinating participant entries and the final parade lineup. From an artistic standpoint, Kelsey draws inspiration from the elaborate parades at Disney theme parks and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. “I try to include some professional elements for an overall high-entertainment value,” he said. 
Forrester praised Kelsey as a great coordinator for the parade. “He works out the bulk of the details. I am just here to help,” he said.
Forrester sends out fundraising letters, ensures that vendors receive pay and oversees city and state road closures the morning of the parade. His greatest challenges involve redirecting traffic and the possibility of adverse weather. “Our police department does a great job every year executing their plan to keep traffic moving that day,” he said. As for the weather, “We feel like the parade can go on no matter what. A few snowflakes might even help set the mood!”
The parade will keep a general Christmas theme to allow for the widest range of floats, Kelsey said. He does not want difficult requirements for a group’s entry, but he encourages professionalism in every aspect of the parade, including neat lettering on signage and coverings on the wheels and mechanics of the trailers pulling the floats.  Everything entered into the parade must be decorated.
Kelsey said that a parade’s success comes mostly from Madison area residents who volunteer to play their instruments, build a float or help organize the parade. “It is all for the joy of the season,” he said. “After that, I would say the more marching bands and decorated floats, the better.” 
Beyond the spectacle and fun, Forrester pointed out that the parade is important in other ways. People who attend the parade often take time to visit Madison’s downtown shops. Parade sponsors also have a superior opportunity to put the names of their businesses or organizations into public view. Beyond the commercial benefits, Forrester said, “I really think it is a time for our community to rally together. We have quite a few festivals and events throughout the year that fit that description, but it’s part of what makes our community unique.”
Kelsey agrees, saying, “This parade is a great way to get the city together to open the Christmas season with a celebration down Main Street.”
The collaboration between Forrester and Kelsey involves discussion of not only the current year’s Christmas parade, but future parades as well. “We talk about ways we can make it bigger and better,” said Forrester. Eventually they would like to make the day of the parade a full experience of various holiday events in downtown Madison, drawing both locals and residents. So far, additional attractions include Santa’s cottage on Broadway and a live nativity. “Hopefully we’ll just keep growing our events.”
This year’s parade sponsors include: Kings Daughters Health, Arvin Sango Inc., Madison Courier, VSG, Little Peoples Boutique, Madison Precision, Jefferson County Realtors, Dr. Roy Miner, Robby and Chricket King, Greves TV and Appliances,Farm Bureau Insurance agent Joe Torline, River Valley Financial Bank and the Madison Fine Arts Academy.

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