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Three Marengo festivals to take part in ‘Small Town’ celebration

More than 200 towns and cities will stage homecoming events and unveil historic markers in 2010 as part of the state’s tourism promotional campaign for 2010, the “Year of Small Towns and Downtowns.”

Marengo County will have three of its annual festivals highlighted as part of the “Year of the Small Town” celebration.

The first county celebration on the 2010 calendar will be the Pepper Jelly Festival in Thomaston on Saturday, April 24. The Christmas on the River festival will be Demopolis’ “Year of the Small Town” event on Dec. 2-5, while Linden’s third annual ChiLLy Fest on Dec. 10-12 will be the county’s third celebration event.

The Pepper Jelly Festival is a favorite for many people in Marengo County. For information about the Pepper Jelly Festival, call the Thomaston City Hall at (334) 627-3388.

“We started making pepper jelly down at the Rural Heritage Center,” said Thomaston city clerk Carolyn Finley. “That’s the main thing we feature in our gift shop. We decided to showcase that and call it the Pepper Jelly Festival. We serve it on the table when we have our restaurant open. Even the water tank between here and Dayton is painted green and says, ‘Eat more jelly.’

“Pepper jelly is not particularly easy to make, but it tastes good. It’s a good hors d’oeuvre. A lot of people think you eat it with peanut butter. I’ve never tried that, but I guess you could. It’s good on crackers, like Captain’s Wafers or Ritz crackers. We’ll have samples of that, and we’ll have good ol’ Thomaston barbecue that day. We always have that at the Pepper Jelly Festival. We’ll have crafts, quilting, things like that.”

Christmas on the River marks its 39th year as a fixture in Demopolis to herald the Christmas season.

The four-day festival features musical performances and Nativity re-enactments. Saturday is always the big day for the festival, which features a Jingle Bell 5K Run, Fair in the Square, the daytime children’s parade and the famous nighttime nautical parade. The state barbecue cookoff is also a prominent feature of the festival. For information about COTR, call the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at (334) 289-0270.

The City of Linden will follow suit the following week with its ChiLLy Fest. The chili cookoff opens the festival, which features a parade, fireworks, a carnival and many musical presentations. For information about ChiLLy Fest, contact city secretary Bruce Ward at (334) 295-5051.

Communities ranging in size from Mooresville, population 54, to Birmingham, population 300,000, have scheduled events as part of the Year of Small Towns and Downtowns.

“It’s going to be a great time to reflect on the importance of our small towns and downtowns, and I believe when it’s all over, people throughout the state will come away with a greater appreciation for the special place we all call home,” Gov. Bob Riley said.

The state tourism department has posted a list of towns and event dates on its homecoming Web site at www.alabamahomecoming.com.