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Arts, music, history and frog hops
- Chamber Hosts 3-Day Festival in Madison

By Marianne Graves

Down Home Days arrived last week with sunny skies and a breeze blowing through the historic Four Freedoms Park and Madison County Courthouse in downtown Madison. The three-day celebration of arts, music and history featured the annual Down Home Days Parade with local fire trucks, floats, Antique and Classic Cars rolling by and Jeep stacking at intersections.

This year’s theme was Let Freedom Ring to honor all veterans, such as Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr., who sacrificed his life for his crew’s safety a few days after Pearl Harbor. Kelly’s plane was struck in combat with Japanese aircraft in World War II.

Many veterans are memorialized in Madison’s Four Freedoms Park on U.S. Highway 90. The angelic Four Freedoms Monument is dedicated to Captain Kelly and based on a 1941 speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt in which he said Americans need these four freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. President Roosevelt commissioned the sculpture, which arrived in Madison in 1944.

Highlights of the three-day Down Home Days celebration included Thursday night’s Pet Contest, street dancing at the Courthouse Annex on Friday night and the return Saturday of BMX stunt cycling. As always, this springtime festival was all about great food, arts and crafts.

Sponsors of the 36th Annual Down Home Days were Nestle Waters, Tobacco Free Florida and the Department of Health in Madison County, Duke Energy, Madison County Community Bank, McDonald’s, Royal Restorations, A Main Street Realty, AmeriGas and Burns Funeral Home. Tri-County Electric Co-op was the Parade Sponsor.

On Thursday night, Jamie Andrews’ little white poodle named Finn won the small dog competition at the Down Home Days Pet Contest, and then stole the judges’ hearts by performing tricks to win Best in Show at the Four Freedoms Park Gazebo. This annual event was sponsored by the Madison Veterinary Clinic Grooming Department with Master of Ceremonies, Dr. John Lewis.

Frog Hop contestant takes off toward the Madison County Courthouse crowd. -Photo Dan Graves

Friday evening, Ashley Beggs was named 2017 Down Home Days Citizen of the Year for his community involvement and leadership over many years. His award was presented by NFCC’s Kim Scarboro, the 2016 Down Home Days Citizen of the Year and Phyllis Williams, Executive Director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Grandparent of the Year was also awarded Friday night: Marilyn Gallon won after her fourth-grade granddaughter, Jaidyn Wesley, wrote the winning essay at Madison County Central School.
“Jaidyn wrote that her grandmother ‘wants us to aim for success and pursue our dreams,’” said sponsor Jessica Webb of A Main Street Realty.

Another addition for 2017 was the Madison County Little Prince/Princess Photo Contest, sponsored by CEO Kelli de Sante` of Royal Restorations on NE Colin Kelly Highway. Watch for the winners’ names on the Down Home Days, Madison Florida Facebook this week.

Dr. Gary Cox and members of Grace Presbyterian Church welcomed folks to meet and greet at their Down Home Days booth. -Photo by Marianne Graves

Thursday night after the Pet Contest, everyone was invited to go to The Main Street Playhouse on SW Range Avenue for a rousing performance by the 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Choir from Madison Creative Arts Academy, under the direction of Jay Hicks.

The winner of the Down Home Days’ Cupcake Creations Bakeoff announced Thursday night was Oneida Metheny. “She (Oneida) made a yellow cupcake with butter. It was simple, but very moist and beautifully decorated,” said Liz King, owner of the Corner Grill and sponsor of the contest.

Friday night, top students from Becky’s Dance Steps Studio danced their street recital in spectacular outfits at the Courthouse Annex, followed by the 50s, 60s, 70s Street Dance with DJ David Lawton of First Class Services in downtown Madison.

Talking to owners was part of the fun at the Antique and Classic Car Show in Madison. -Photo by Marianne Graves

Saturday morning at the Four Freedoms Park Gazebo live music began with Everlasting Arms performing, followed by Bailey Barefoot and Mike Humphrey, LifeSong and Christian and Drew Schmoe in the afternoon.

Captain Tyrone Edwards of the Madison Police Department and his team provided security for Down Home Days. They met with City of Madison staff and provided the Madison County Chamber with logistics for Down Home Days vendor set-up. On April 22, the Madison Police Department invited families to their free Child ID Booth. Searching for a missing child requires an up-to-date, quality photo along with descriptive information.

The Freestyle Connection BMX stunt team performed April 22 in downtowm Madison. -Photo by Marianne Graves

BMX pro cyclists rode their bicycles up two ramps and sailed into the air Saturday for two free shows on SW Shelby Avenue. The Freestyle Connection BMX All-Age Cycling Event was sponsored by Tobacco Free Florida and the Department of Health in Madison County.

Cyclist Jon Dowker gave a bicycle safety message about wearing helmets and safety pads. He finished up with words of wisdom: “Stay away from tobacco and tobacco products,” he said, citing health concerns.

The 27th annual Frog Hop Contest at 1:30 on Saturday was a crowd-pleaser. A few big frogs jumped out of the contest arena and headed toward the Courthouse steps, causing simultaneous laughter and screams. The frogs were recaptured quickly. Dr. John Lewis and Tim Sanders sponsor this annual event at Down Home Days.

Most importantly, young Eli Smith won the Grand Champion Hop-Off. His frog named Percy jumped 3.04 feet to clinch the 2017 Frog Hop Contest.