Madison Consolidated High School students use the high school stage to practice the dance numbers they will perform around the various MCHS floats in the city of Madison Christmas parade on Dec. 1. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Madison Consolidated High School students use the high school stage to practice the dance numbers they will perform around the various MCHS floats in the city of Madison Christmas parade on Dec. 1. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
It's back. And you-know-who will be anchoring the downtown Christmas parade as its main attraction.

Jolly Ol' Saint Nick will ride down Main Street on Dec. 1 for Madison's traditional holiday parade.

After a year hiatus because of lack of participation, the parade has been reincarnated with fresh floats, fresh characters and a fresh name, The Very Merry Christmas Parade.

The parade is back to its original date, the first Saturday in December. It begins at 10 a.m. and will travel east to west on Main Street, starting at Jefferson Street and ending at Mill Street.

The rolling production boasts 42 entries including more than a dozen floats, said Aaron Kelsey, parade coordinator and Madison Consolidated High School art and theater teacher.

Not surprisingly, many of the floats and entries for this year's parade center around music and performance.

"I just didn't want to have vehicles and people walking," Kelsey said. "So I encouraged them to have some entertainment value."

Santa Claus, of course, will be the main event, but the parade also will feature a Mrs. Claus' kitchen float, equipped with a life-size gingerbread man.

In addition, local businesses and donors will sponsor a number of licensed characters such as Curious George and Garfield. The characters will be at the business or locations that sponsored them after the event.

In between floats, patrons can catch performances by the local high school choirs and marching bands.

The Christmas parade dates back to at least the mid-1960s. It was started by the downtown merchants as an incentive to get people inside their shops. The city of Madison took over the Christmas parade four years ago.

Last year when Andrew Forrester was appointed as newly elected Mayor Damon Welch's executive assistant for community relations, one of his first goals was to bring back the highly coveted event, which had seen dwindling interest in the years before last year's cancellation.

And not long after the administration change on Jan. 1, Forrester said Kelsey contacted the city and requested the role of parade coordinator.

With his artistic flair and knack for well-rounded productions, Kelsey quickly began working full-steam ahead on new concepts and ideas.

"Mr. Kelsey has been great," Forrester said.

"We wanted to make it a production of sorts. And he was perfect in helping do that."

Each of Kelsey's theater classes, including students from the Madison Fine Arts Academy, will perform on a mini-float of their own.

Since Kelsey and Forrester started working on the parade at the start of this year, the community has pitched-in in a big way, sponsoring characters and signing up to add a number of floats.

"The response we have gotten has been absolutely fantastic," Forrester said. "I think because it was canceled before, everybody kind of had some extra motivation to not take it for granted."

A list of parade rules are on the city's website, www.madison-in.gov.

After the parade, the Ohio Theatre will show a free screening of "The Polar Express." Santa will greet children after the movie.