ChillyFest ‘an incredible success,’ says Gates

Published 11:09 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

Linden’s Christmas festival sure lived up to its name. The first annual ChillyFest was held Friday and Saturday and deemed a success.

Several hundred people turned out for the two-day celebration, which included the Parade of Lights, carnival, chili cookoff, 5K run, car show and fireworks show.

“It was an incredible success, especially considering the fact that the idea to expand the Parade of Lights into a two-day celebration was first mentioned a mere five weeks prior to the actual event,” said Linden mayor Mitzi Gates.

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Over 25 lighted floats made their way through Linden’s downtown Friday night, flooded with lights, decorations and children throwing handfuls of candy.

“The whole city has been talking about what a great parade that was,” said Gates. “We had so many great entries this year. It was so much fun to watch.”

Festival organizer Bruce Ward said parade winners were selected in two categories: schools, churches and organizations (civic), and businesses.

Winning first place in the civic category was Thomaston Baptist and Methodist Churches with “The Christmas Story.” Second place went to Marengo Academy PTA for their float, “Treasure the Troops,” and Linden Elementary came in third.

In the business category, Pam’s Video placed first with “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Second place went to T.P. Young Logging for “Treasures of the Heart”, and third place went to the First Bank of Linden.

Before the parade started, the carnival opened in front of the Linden Elementary School. It will open again today at 10 a.m. Also, carolers from area churches provided sounds of the season at Gazebo Park. A professional fireworks show rounded out the night at 9 p.m.

Saturday opened up with the Chilly Chili Run, a 5K run, 2-mile walk and fun run.

“It was a great turnout for our first annual run,” said Carter Echols, one of the organizers of the run. “We had 72 runners — it was a great success.”

Winning the overall 5K male division was Ken Houlditch with a time of 22.02 minutes. Allison Tucker took the overall female division with a time of 23.04 minutes.

The winner of the 2-mile walk was Marti Breckinridge and Sara Tyson. Landon Houlditch won the fun run.

While the carnival cranked back up again, giving kids a turn on rides such as the Ferris wheel or tilt-a-whirl, visitors to the festival on Sat. also had the chance to sample of variety of chili concoctions at the annual chili cook-off.

“We had 14 teams compete for first place in taste and presentation,” said Ward.

Judges choose Charlie Reid, the Red Hot Chili Papa, as the overall winner. Best presentation awards went to Brett Ethridge, and Amanda Hender and Rhonda Walters (The Red Hot Chili Mammas).

Also during the festival, businesses were judges for best decorations. Nellie’s Flowers and Gifts placed first, followed by Melodies and Main Street Café.

“Five weeks ago, the Linden Christmas event now known as Chilly Fest didn’t even have a name, yet Chilly Fest banners, posters, storefront placards, and radio commercials covered Marengo County in short order once Carter Echols and Michael Smith were on board,” said Gates. “Carter’s and Michael’s enthusiasm was absolutely contagious, and it quickly spread to the Linden merchants whose financial contributions made the expanded event schedule possible. What Linden accomplished this past weekend, in my opinion, was nothing short of a Christmas miracle!”

Gates said Bruce Ward, Cheryl Hall, Ashley Drake, Wendy Lewis, Margie Vice, Terry Tyson and the City Crew, and Scott McClure and the police department worked tirelessly with the many Lindenites who volunteered in order to make the first ChillyFest one to remember!

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” she said. “I can hardly wait to see what Linden folks do to make it an even bigger and better Christmas celebration in 2009!”

Planning for ChillyFest 2009 will start right after the New Year, said Gates.