During Friday night’s annual Holiday Walk, Madison Street could very well have been the scene of a classic holiday movie. Families were strewn across the street peering into the creative and festive holiday displays, while enjoying horse-driven sleigh rides and a visit from Santa’s reindeer. Christmas lights illuminated the snow-covered sidewalks. The cold weather could not halt the warmth of Madison Street’s atmosphere.
Despite the sudden frigid temperatures and archetypical winter snow, the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Walk ended up a successful and well-attended event. Many of Madison Street’s businesses participated with live holiday displays of carolers, musicians, and even comedic performances, creating a communion between the merchants of Madison Street and local residents.
“The Holiday Walk brings the community together,” Laurie Kokenes, Chamber of Commerce executive director, said. “It’s a holiday good will event, not a revenue producing event.”
But the Madison Street Holiday Walk has not always been as “lively” as it has the last two years.
Since 2005, Madison Street merchants began using live displays in their windows, making it interactive for folks on both sides of the glass. There is even a competition among the merchants for the best window display.
A committee is still tallying votes for this year’s winner; final results should be determined in the next week.
“We look forward to doing this,” Wayne Schauer of Schauer’s Ace Hardware and the reigning display champion, said. “We always see this as a fun thing to do because the walk brings a lot of people to the street and a lot of cheering and smiling. It makes me proud to be a part of Madison Street.”
The display competition was arguably the most popular feature of the event, captivating some Madison Street pedestrians even before Friday night. Schauer’s Ace Hardware went so far as to board up its front windows to keep their display a secret.
“The most exciting addition has been the live window displays,” Kokenes said.
The smiles were clearly visible on the faces of the walkers, especially on the Grzelak family, 10-year residents of Forest Park.
“I’m from a small town,” Kathy Grzelak said, as her two sons devoured self-made ginger bread cookies with an avalanche of whipped cream. “And, the Holiday Walk definitely has that same small town feel to it. It’s just nice to see an event like this bring the village and businesses together not competitively, but so that they can enjoy the holiday season.”
Strolling the main strip, people enjoyed free cookies and hot cocoa or coffee at certain stores as they admired performances like Ebenezer Scrooge at the Forest Park National Bank or a comical and cheesy Home Shopping Network-like character at Ace Hardware. Random participants received early holiday gifts as some local businesses slipped gift certificates into a schedule of events.
“The Holiday Walk is all out of good spirit,” Tonya Hart, of Two Fish Art Glass, said. “We’re celebrating this holiday season just as much as the walkers.”