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Linden building up to ChillyFest 2008

Excitement is building in Linden as a massive Christmas festival planned for Dec. 12-13 continues to take shape. Organizers announced Monday that in addition to the parade, carnival, 5-K run, chili cookoff and marketplace, they are adding a professional fireworks show.

Carter Echols, one of the festival’s organizers, said Southeastern Fireworks Display Company will conduct the show on Friday, Dec. 12, at 9 p.m. Based in Charleston, S.C., Southeastern puts on shows throughout the Southern U.S. They also own the Wild Bill’s Fireworks stands in Alabama.

“This is not just someone shooting off a few fireworks. This is a professional premier pyrotechnic artistic display,” said Echols. “It promises to be an exciting show by one of the best companies in the business.”

Dubbed the ChillyFest, the festival will be Linden’s first stab at an event this large in several years.

So far, businesses in Linden love the expanding activities slated for ChillyFest, especially the chance to boost sales.

“It’s a great opportunity for Linden and businesses like ours,” said Nellie, who owns Nellie’s Flowers and Gifts in Linden. “Business has been off since July with the economy the way it is. Everything has been down this year. I think this is going to help out and brining people in the doors to businesses like ours in Linden.”

“We enjoy the parade every year because a lot of people ask us to help them with their floats,” said Wendy McClure, who works with Sullivan. “Everyone is talking about getting ready for it. It should bring a lot of people to Linden.”

ChillyFest will begin Friday at 3 p.m. with the opening of a two-day carnival by C&M Midways. It will be located on the front lawn of Linden Elementary School.

“This is so much more than a few kiddie rides,” said Linden mayor Mitzi Gates. “This is the real deal, with the type of rides you would expect to find at a fair.”

Some of the rides coming to Linden will be the ferris wheel, merry-go-round, Tilt-a-Whirl, Tempest, Sizzler and Zipper. They will also have a lot of kiddie rides, concessions and games.

At the same time, vendors will be set up downtown at Gazebo Park and start selling a variety of unique items, many homemade.

“There will be food, arts, crafts, jewelry and a ton of Christmas gift ideas on sale throughout the evening and next day,” said Bruce Ward, one of the main organizers for the event.

Caroling at the city’s Gazebo Park in the heart of downtown will begin at 4 p.m. with a tree-lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. This will be followed by what is expected to be one of the area’s largest nighttime Christmas parades, the Parade of Lights. It will leave Scott Park at 6:30 p.m. and make its way towards the gazebo, where it is expected to arrive around 7 p.m. The grand marshal will be Kay Ivey, Alabama’s state treasurer.

The night will be capped off by the fireworks show at 9 p.m.

Saturday morning will begin with the first annual Chilly Chili 5-K run and 2-mile walk at 9 a.m., followed by the kid’s fun run at 10 a.m. It will weave through the downtown area, beginning behind the fire station.

“Everyone is getting real excited about the run,” said Echols, who is also helping coordinate this part of the festival. “We’ve been to other runs throughout the Black Belt and have brought back some great ideas on how to make it fun and competitive. There is already a lot of interest from people in this area.”

The carnival cranks back up again at 10 a.m., along with a slate of local and regional entertainers providing music throughout the day.

While all this is happening, two other events will be taking place in anticipating of winning awards.

Area teams of amateur chili chefs will try their hand at developing their own chili concoctions – cooking them throughout the day. Judging will be held at 1 p.m.

“We have done this before, but usually on Friday night. Moving it to Saturday is already helping us draw a lot more interest and opens it up for more people to participate,” said Todd Stephens, who has been helping coordinate the cook-off. “So far, we even have representatives from local businesses like Alabama Power, and the paper mill interested in placing a team in the competition this year. It’s open to whoever wants to come out and cook a pot of chili and see what they can do.”

Papas Foods in Linden will take the lead in cooking a large quantity of chili for visitors to sample.

“We plan to feed around 500 people,” said Stephens. “It will be complimentary on a first come first served basis until it’s all gone.”

A car show will also be held throughout the day.

“There will be several antique and unique cars displayed in the parking lot at Papas Foods,” said Echols. “It promises to be very interested to see and participate in.”

Judging for the car show will be held at 2 p.m.

The festival will close with a residential Christmas decoration contest. Houses will be judged from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We are still looking for people to get involved and participate in anyone of these events. We also need volunteers to help,” said Ward. “It promises to be a lot of fun.”

For information on how to get involved in this year’s ChillyFest, the city has created a special website just for the festival. It ca be found at www.chillyfest.com or you can go to the city’s website at www.lindenalabama.net and find the link from there. You can also call Bruce Ward at 334-295-4121.