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Annapolis’ Midnight Madness starts 31st year off strong with carolers and cocoa

It was clear and cold — just 39 degrees — on Thursday night in downtown Annapolis as hundreds of bundled-up shoppers came out for 2019’s first Midnight Madness event.

Storefronts were decked out with lights and almost every door was open for the 31st anniversary of the event, a staple of holiday spirit in Anne Arundel County that draws thousands of people every year. Kids in oversized coats and moms snapping smart-phone photos lined the sidewalks, as neighbors met for food, drinks and shopping.

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Harwood resident Linda Mears deliberately came out for Midnight Madness’ opening night with her Labradoodle, Callie. Seeing all the people celebrating gets her in the Christmas spirit, she said, and she loves the music. She brings Callie along because, “she’s not a stay-at-home dog.”

Jackie Drew came out to Midnight Madness to support her 13-year-old daughter who is a part of the Wiley H. Bates Middle School choir. It’s their third year singing at the event, but Drew said they’ve been coming off and on for her daughter’s whole life.

Drew has lived in the area for 20 years, and although she does much of her shopping online, she loves Midnight Madness.

“It kind of gets you in the holiday spirit,” Drew said. “You run into your neighbors and it gives you the small town feel.”

Outside Preserve, small business owner Avery Newman was selling hand-poured soy candles from her shop Like-Minded Collective. She said it was the first time she partnered with Preserve — they set up shop in one of her friend’s homes, and poured the candles themselves.

Just a few doors down, over shouts of “free hot cocoa” the Old Mill Steel Drum Band performed Christmas carols to cheering and a crowd of people that spilled off the sidewalk and into the road.

Groups of teenage members of local Key Clubs milled about Main Street with trays full of chocolate chip cookies — an effort to raise money to treat maternal and neonatal tetanus, a disease that kills mothers and babies during childbirth.

Local high school Key Clubs are working with the Kiwanis, which is partnering with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, to provide vaccines, and other medical supplies required to treat the disease, according to Arianna Smith, 16, a sophomore at Annapolis High School. They will be at every Midnight Madness event selling packets of two chocolate chip cookies for $3.

Outside Alpaca International on Main Street, Warrenton, Virginia’s El Chalan Peruvian Paso Horse farm had three patient alpacas posing for photos — a popular stop for families with kids.

Two more Midnight Madness events will take place on the second and third Thursdays of December. Shops will be open Dec. 12 until midnight, and Dec. 19 until 11 p.m.

Parking

Anne Arundel County is offering free parking at Whitmore Parking Garage, located at 25 Clay St., across from the Arundel Center. Free parking will be available from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the last two Midnight Madness events.

Whitmore Parking Garage is also free every Sunday year-round from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If the Whitmore garage fills up, there are other opportunities for free and reduced-price parking downtown during the holidays.

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The county’s free parking program will run alongside the city of Annapolis’ holiday parking program, which offers three free hours of parking in metered spots downtown every day from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve.

The city of Annapolis also does not enforce parking on Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Community members can take advantage of the three hours of free parking anywhere on Main Street, Francis Street, West Street, Maryland Avenue, Prince George Street, City Dock, Calvert Street, or Market Space.

In addition to the three free hours, drivers can purchase an additional hour using the ParkMobile app with code ‘ParkDTA’ or by calling 877-727-5758.

During all three Midnight Madness events, the city is also offering $5 parking at Knighton and Park Place garages, and a free circulator bus service to and from downtown Annapolis.

The city’s four garages will continue to offer the first two hours for free, and the city’s Park Shop & Dine program, which offers up to four hours of free parking vouchers from local businesses, will remain in place as well, officials said.

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