Holiday festivities will look different this fall

Last year's Halloween event in Fort Payne was held at the VFW Fairgrounds as a drive-thru due to COVID-19; however, this year, businesses and organizations will set up booths and tables in the fairgrounds for a more traditional Block Party.

Halloween and Christmas festivities are just around the corner. Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer McCurdy told the Fort Payne City Council on Tuesday about new plans for these events.

The Chamber designed last year’s event so that a small group of officials along with Twin City Used Cars, and emergency personnel could hand out candy to kids as they remained in their cars dressed in their Halloween costumes. With COVID vaccinations continuing to roll out, participants will set up booths in the open air space to greet families as they park and walk on foot. The annual bicycle ride to benefit Family Services of North Alabama will also happen at the fairgrounds beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Chamber officials said the Block Party outgrew downtown, but any merchants who want to participate can set up a table and booth, promoting their organization with signs identifying their business.

“We can spread out more, and the VFW offers more space for local churches and businesses to offer activities for the children,” McCurdy said.

The logistics were also less than ideal for “Candy Cane Lane” inside the Alabama Walking Park, where Christmas trees displayed the last couple of years for local civic clubs to pay to decorate as a fundraiser for the DeKalb County Public Library. With a lack of electrical outlets to plug lights into, the displays relied upon battery packs or solar-power generation and could easily be overlooked if someone was not specifically looking for it.

Now the Library will place 30 Fraser Fir Christmas trees along Gault Avenue in the historic downtown district, uniformly spaced apart and illuminated in identical white LED lights for an elegant holiday display. The Chamber hopes people will want to park and shop in the stores while enjoying the enhanced atmosphere.

At the Sept. 21 Council meeting, Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine said organizers needed to know as soon as possible whether they would be permitted to set up the displays, prompting Council members to approve this.

McCurdy said the trees can line the edge of sidewalks without obstructing visibility.

“We can avoid the corner section of each block if that will make it easier,” McCurdy said. “We can also forgo the decorations. There are electrical plug-ins on poles, so there wouldn’t be an issue with tripping or anything like that. It’s a good fundraiser. It will be beautiful driving downtown.”

Librarian Cynthia Hancock said limited trees are available to sponsor by civic organizations, churches and businesses for $200. Trees will be delivered the week of Thanksgiving and placed beside streetlights, along with a custom sign with the sponsor’s logo. No decorating is needed, just the arranging of white lights.

The season’s biggest event is the Fort Payne Christmas Parade. McCurdy said pending approval by the Council so streets can be blocked off, the parade is planned for Friday, Dec. 10. It spans 21 blocks from start to finish with Grand Marshals leading dozens of floats constructed on flatbed trailers, as well as marching bands, emergency vehicles and private vehicles.

In response to a question from Council President Pro Tem Lynn Brewer, Baine said something will still happen in the Alabama Walking Park to commemorate the Christmas holidays despite Candy Cane Lane changing locations.

The discussion happened days following the 2021 Boom Days Heritage Celebration. Baine thanked the Boom Days Committee members, city workers, event sponsors and volunteers, calling it “a true community event. It’s great to watch us come together and work as a team to promote Fort Payne together. I appreciate all that our department heads and city workers did to make it a huge success. I thank God most of all for shining on us. We had sprinkles, but otherwise it was almost perfect and not too hot. Everybody seemed to be having a good time.”

Businesses may call (256) 845-2741 for information about the Halloween Block Party. Register for the Annual Witch’s Ride at https://www.familyservicesna.org/witch_ride-2021.html. To learn more about sponsoring a Christmas tree, speak to Hancock at the library at 504 Grand Ave NW or call (256) 845-2671.

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