The next event we are involved in is the Downtown Christmas festival, Saturday December 7th in Dothan, Alabama.
December can be a child’s favorite month, not only because of the gifts and presents associated with the holidays, but also because of the winter wonderland accompanying the season. Playing in the crisp white snow, throwing snowballs, making snowmen and zipping down a hill on a sled are some of the more fun past times that children in our northern states enjoy. But what about the kids in Dothan, Alabama? How could they possibly enjoy all the fun that snow has to offer in our temperate climate?
Enter The Downtown Group and their 9th annual Downtown Christmas Festival on December 7, 2013. The event is located in the heart of the renovated downtown core district, on North Foster, Troy and North Saint Andrews streets. The festival, which has grown and added events throughout the years, offers one of the most popular venues at any area festival— snow. The CenturyLink SnowZone has been one of the most fun free venues in the history of Dothan youth, and offers two distinct areas for children of all ages. One fenced in area is for the smaller children aged 6 and under.
Executive Director of The Downtown Group, Jill Williams explains why, “The little ones enjoy touching the snow, and tend to be more docile in their area of snow. However, older children want to throw snowballs, and slide and play on the snow so we separate it by age groups so the smaller children have a safer environment in which to play.”
The CenturyLink Snow Zone is created by the Adel Ice Company from Adel, Georgia. They found a way to pulverize block ice and blow it out through a huge sprayer mounted on the bed of a trailer. The entire operation involves several tons of block ice carried in with the help of two refrigerated semi-truck trailers as well as their slower/sprayer machine. The ice company carries an eight-man team who does the spraying, and refreshed the snow a few times throughout the day. The CenturyLink Snow Zone is open from approximately 9:00 AM until the festival closes at 3:00 PM.
This same team also created a sledding area for smaller children in front of the Dothan Police Department on North Saint Andrews Street. Sleds have to be special ordered, as the local stores don’t carry any type of sled riding equipment in South Alabama! Children can pay a small fee to get an armband that allows unlimited rides throughout the day. All profits raised go to The Downtown Group’s ongoing effort to promote renovating downtown space and to hold events, festivals, car shows and other community gatherings in the newly renovated spaces.
The Downtown Christmas Festival is much more than snow, and provides numerous opportunities for everyone to get into the holiday spirit. Several of the downtown streets are lined with artists, artisans and merchants who have hand-made and unique items for sale. The festival is a great time to do some Christmas shopping, especially for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list. Many of the hand made items come from regional craftsmen, and showcase a variety of disciplines including pottery, painting, knitting and hand-made purses, soaps and candles.
Of course, any Christmas event wouldn’t be complete without a visit from Santa Claus. As is the holiday tradition, Santa will make an appearance at The Downtown Christmas at 9:00 in the morning and will stay in Porter Park hearing children’s Christmas wishes until 3:00 pm. There is no charge to visit with Santa, so bring your camera and take lots of photos for your holiday memories. Other activities surround Porter Park and include holiday performances on the stage sponsored by LBA Hospitality, Christmas caroling from local children’s and school groups, and a variety of entertainment.
Further down North Foster Street and past the CenturyLink Snow Zone will be the Dothan Pediatric Clinic Marshmallow Roasting area. With thousands of marshmallows, plus s’more making extras like chocolate and graham crackers, the marshmallow roasting is a popular venue. Dothan Pediatric Clinic has generously sponsored this venue so that kids can roast marshmallows for free and parents visit with staff to ask any questions they may have on their mind. Volunteers help keep an eye on the fire to ensure a safe environment, but children under 10 years of age should have direct parent supervision at this venue.
Five Star Credit Union will again offer free train rides for children on the “Trusty R. Fivestar Express”, a miniature train professionally operated for these leisure rides downtown. The train is scheduled to leave from the intersection of North Foster Street and Adams, and make a loop past several of the famous murals downtown. Children under 6 should have parent supervision on the train, which accommodates adult passengers as well.
Five Star Credit Union marketing director, Steve Brown remarked, “Five Star Credit Union is pleased to be a part of a great community event such as The Downtown Christmas Festival. Our corporate office is just two blocks away from where the train rides are, so we are definitely a part of the downtown revitalization effort.”
Though still in the works, The Downtown Group is still actively seeking corporate sponsors who may be interested in creating additional venues at the Downtown Christmas Festival. Some examples of activities still needing a sponsor include ornament making, cookie decorating, hot chocolate area, an art project for the kids to take home with them, and possibly a booth creating garland or wreaths. If you know of a business who would like to not only get involved in a great community project but receive event marketing benefits at the same time, please contact Jill Williams at The Downtown Group, (334) 793-3097.
A festival wouldn’t be a festival without some great foods and treats for sale. Through a variety of vendors, there will be corndogs, funnel cakes, barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheese steaks, snow cones and home made candies for sale. Food vendors are typically concentrated in the center of the festival on or near Troy Street. Food vendors set their own prices and menu, and offerings are subject to change.
B&B Inflatables will again bring their portable zip line and a few other fun and challenging rides. In past years they brought The Wrecking Ball mechanical swing, a mechanical bull, and a bungee jump. All of the inflatables brought by B&B are offered for a fee, as are the pony rides and petting zoo. Most of these items are on Saint Andrews Street, near the Opera House.
Parking for the Downtown Christmas festival can be found at the Dothan Civic Center, at Five Star Credit Union, at the Houston County Courthouse, and in the various parking lots around the downtown area. At press time, space was still available for vendors interested in getting a space to sell or promote their products, goods or services. Booth space rental is $75 for a 10’ x 10’ space. Forms can be obtained by calling The Main Event at (334) 699-1475 of going online to www.TheDowntownGroup.com Vendors who have never participated are required to submit at least three photos of their work, as original and hand made items are in a separate area from merchandise that is to be resold. Organizations, non-profits and companies distributing information are also permitted to apply for a booth space.
“The Downtown Christmas Festival is one of the most wonderful downtown events of the year,” stated Williams. “The excitement that the children bring to the festival is unmatched, and they really enjoy all of the free venues that our sponsors provide them. But at the same time, through all the excitement there’s a beautiful calmness all around. Maybe it’s in the decorated storefronts of the downtown merchants, or maybe it’s in the carolers’ songs, but our Christmas festival definitely lends to a special feeling in the air.”
Workers from the City of Dothan also help get the crowd into the spirit by placing decorations on the streetlights and in the public spaces downtown. The City is a fantastic partner of the event, providing the City Stage for use to the larger performing groups. Currently there are several local schools participating in the entertainment, as well as the students form the Vaughn-Bloomberg Center.
The Downtown Christmas festival is open on Saturday December 7th from 9:00 AM- 3:00 PM and there is no charge for admission and many venues are also free. More information, entertainment and venue information can be found at www.TheDowntownGroup.com