City officials: Tenth annual Candyland another success for Andalusia

Published 1:00 pm Friday, January 5, 2024

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The Andalusia City Council received a positive report on the tenth annual Christmas in Candyland activities during a meeting on Tuesday.

Michele Gerlach, communications director for the City of Andalusia, said this year’s Candyland brought new publicity to the city, including being named among “The Most Magical Christmas Towns in the United States” by Country Living Magazine, It’s a Southern Thing website named Andalusia one of the nine “Southern Cities that are Magical at Christmas,” Alabama Association of Realtors also recognized Andalusia as one of “Five Must-Visit Christmas Towns in Alabama,” and listed the city among the five “Alabama Christmas Towns that Look Like the Movies.”

Among the visitors noted during the report was a couple from Long Island, New York who made the 2,240-mile round-trip journey to Candyland.

“Their goal is to visit every state in the nation and when they Googled the best things about Alabama they found Candyland and spent the weekend here,” Gerlach said.

On another weekend a travel club consisting of 16 motor coaches arrived at Cypress Landing to visit Candyland.

Officials credited city employees who they said went above and beyond to ensure everything went smoothly for visitors and thanked the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteers for their efforts in making Candyland a success each year.

“We are appreciative of all of the volunteers who help us produce Candyland each year. The chamber of commerce has done a great job through the years of coordinating businesses and organizations who have built and maintained the approximately 50 cottages for imaginative play that make Candyland a picture perfect venue for many to enjoy. The Chamber also sells sponsorships for many of the events that occur with Candyland, and we appreciate all of the support received from the business community. The chamber also has a number of volunteers who logged many chilly hours keeping the information booth open,” Gerlach said.

For the past two years, the city and chamber have partnered with Meredith’s Miracles to provide entertainment at Candyland.

“That amazing organization also has countless volunteers who assist with characters and who man the toy shop. The city and chamber are intentional in only allowing food vendors at Candyland, with the exception of the Meredith’s Miracles Toy Shop. As a result, Candyland is a huge part of their fundraising effort. We are pleased that Candyland helps them raise funds for their very worthy cause of providing financial support for the families of children who have to travel out of market for specialized medical care,” Gerlach added.

Andy Wiggins, director of planning and development for the city, said everyone involved in bringing Candyland to life did a great job setting up and then continuing their work throughout the event.

“We are very grateful for the many hours city employees put into the construction, management of, and storage of all things Candyland. Our maintenance crew begins building the Polar Bear slide in October and works a minimum of six days a week until Candyland opens. The Utilities Department also is instrumental in getting all of our Christmas decorations installed,” Wiggins said. “Maintenance and grounds crews arrive early every day that we’re open to make sure the venue is in tip-top shape for visitors. From the ticket booth to the Springdale Express train to the Polar Bear Slide to the Skate Shack, we cannot say enough about the employees who do all they can to make visiting Candyland a pleasant experience. We appreciate their efforts very much.”

The efforts of everyone involved paid off according to the feedback received.

“It was amazing! We are here visiting from Northeast Alabama and can’t believe how awesome it was. Already planning to return next year!,” said Kim Rice Holman.

“So much fun! Thank you to all the people, businesses, and volunteers that make this happen!,” said Candice Knowles Blackburn who traveled from Molino, Florida.

Many visitors to Candyland are coming from the Florida panhandle. “At one point, in two parking lots, we counted over 100 Florida license plates,” Wiggins said.

“We see a lot of people from the Gulf Coast. We had a lot of people from Mobile, Pensacola and points between to Tallahassee,” Gerlach added.

Mayor Earl Johnson expressed his appreciation to all of the city employees who make Candyland a special event for local residents and visitors from across the area.

“I’m very proud of the hard work that our employees put into Candyland every year,” Johnson said. “It truly takes a village to make Candyland happen, and we want to express our gratitude to all in that village for helping to put Andalusia on the map. The local, regional and national media attention this event has received has generated lots of positive publicity for Andalusia. That publicity has in turn driven attendance, which has helped drive local retail sales. We could not be more grateful.”

The council did handle two action items on its agenda, which included:

  • approving an update for the Rebuild Alabama Act. The city is required to report any funds used for Rebuild Alabama. At this time, the city has not utilized those funds.
  • approving a contract to begin drainage work on River Falls Street at a cost of $87,000.

The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16, 6 p.m., at city hall. A work session precedes the meeting at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend both the work session and regular meeting.