DOWNTOWN VANDALISM: Melted Christmas lights cling to a charred tree outside the Floating Cow and Sugar Creek Collections shops after vandals torched the tree during the overnight hours between Friday and Saturday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
DOWNTOWN VANDALISM: Melted Christmas lights cling to a charred tree outside the Floating Cow and Sugar Creek Collections shops after vandals torched the tree during the overnight hours between Friday and Saturday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
"Every day is a surprise. You never know what to expect, but it is never good," a frustrated Mabelle Lubrano said to Marni Todd on Saturday morning while standing near the cash register in Todd's Floating Cow gift shop.

Lubrano, co-owner of Franco's Restaurant, was reacting to the latest in what she said has been at least a year's worth of escalating vandalism along Main Street in Madison.

"Every time they get away with it, so they are getting more and more bold," she said about the vandals.

This weekend, late Friday night or early Saturday morning, the decorative garden in front of the Floating Cow and Sugar Creek Collections shops was set ablaze. The garden had a small tree decked with Christmas lights as well as two scarecrows and other fall decorations.

"Apparently it happened overnight," Floating Cow owner Marni Todd said. "It just makes me sick. And they didn't just get us, they got Little People's (Boutique) too. They broke out their front door."

"We were just about to decorate for Christmas. Now we have to clean all this up. The tree seems to be dead and...," Todd paused then said, "If that fire would have jumped, the whole building might have gone up."

The tree is about 10 feet from the storefronts, which also had decorative cornstalks, scarecrows and hay bales along the walls. Sugar Creek Collectibles owner Arnie Conaway took all of the decorations off and away from the building facade. "Forget the one building," he said. "It wouldn't take much to take the whole block."

"This is such a shame," Todd said after ringing up a couple of customers from Kentucky. "A few people can do so much to take away from the whole city. When visitors come to town for the weekend and see all of that (pointing to the charred tree) what are they going to go back and tell their friends about our town?"

Additionally, Todd said the vandals hurt the locals, who might see fewer and fewer decorations from the shop owners.

"We are thinking twice about what we will do for Christmas decorations," Lubrano said. "We can't afford to just keep having our things ruined."

Nathan Montoya, co-owner of Village Lights Bookstore and one of the organizers of the Main Street neighborhood watch, said that even with the watch program, the criminals are getting out of hand and are out of control. Now, with the Christmas shopping season fast approaching and the Main Street Open House this Friday, he wonders what can be done.

"They have gone too far with this," Montoya said. "They should be shamed for what they did."

Police Chief Dan Thurston said there are no suspects in the two cases, and there is no reason to believe the two incidents are related. Thurston said he plans to step up downtown patrolling in an effort to curb vandalism.

Lubrano said she looks not only back to what's been done, but she also looks forward and said she hopes more will be done by the city to fight the escalating vandalism. "This can't keep up, if the city wants a healthy downtown."