Signature event?

Published 1:34 am Saturday, January 2, 2016


Candyland could be just what community has searched for

“Dear City of Andalusia,

“Thank you for the field trip.

“My favorite part was the ice skating rink. I liked it because it was funny when me and my friends fell down …”


Whether it was the for the fun of falling down, seeing favorite characters on the Square, or taking a train ride, Candyland 2015 received rave reviews.


In just the second year that the City of Andalusia and Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce has staged Candyland in the month of December, more than 1,000 children ice skated at Springdale in the first two weekends alone.

The tags in the downtown parking completed the stories that the smiles on participants’ faces started. People drove from Montgomery, Dothan, Enterprise, Crestview and many other places in December to enjoy Christmas in Candyland.

Chamber of Commerce Exective Director Chrissie Duffy dreamed up the event in 2014, when she suggested having snow machines and cottages for children’s play on the Court Square. The project met with such enthusiasm that it was expanded in 2015 to include train rides on the Springdale Express and a simulated ice skating rink.

“This thing has turned into something really special,” Mayor Earl Johnson said. “For years and years, we have been searching for an event that could be our signature event. Opp has the Rattlesnake Rodeo; Brewton has the Blueberry Festival.

“Towns all over the country have something they’re known for,” he said. “The great thing about this is it’s not just one event on one day. Generally speaking, it occurs when the weather is better. And the events can be staged at different areas, with different groups of people involved.


“Our celebration started off with the parade, and the city’s first-ever half marathon,” he said. “I think we have stumbled upon our event for Andalusia, and what better one could it be than Christmas?”

Local businesses and individuals donated the funds to purchase the train, which made its debut in the Christmas parade, and will be used throughout the year. Similarly, local businesses and a church funded the playhouses children found so entertaining.

The City of Andalusia opened the event with a field trip for kindergarten students to the Square for Candyland play and a snow show. The same day, local fourth graders took a field trip to Springdale to try out the ice skating rink.

Later in the season, a special daytime event was held for the county’s special needs students.

While there was a fee to rent skates, all other activities were free.

The venue also drew a group of students from Crestview, who paid to have an extra snow show for their field trip.

Based on the 2014 success, Andalusia landed on the Top 10 list of Christmas cities in Alabama. And that was before the 2015 additions.

Duffy told city council members in December that out-of-town visitors – specifically two who help Santa and Mrs. Claus out with seasonal visits – had commented Andalusia is their favorite place to travel for work.

“They said they enjoy coming here more than anywhere else because it’s about Christmas, not about the financial part,” she said. “Children aren’t having to pay to come in to the snow. It’s the true spirit of Christmas.”

City employees worked many extra hours to ensure that the venues were open and safe for participants. Johnson said at times, it seemed they got more from the event than the children who visited.

“One man told me, ‘Mayor, I’d do this if I didn’t get paid for it,’ ” Johnson said.