As Ellicott City marks its 250th anniversary, the community will welcome visitors to its 44th annual “Midnight Madness” on Friday to celebrate the holiday season and spotlight more than 90 small businesses that call the historic district home.
“The tree lighting and carolers and music just takes you back to, I think, the basics of what a community really means,” said Maria Martinez, board president of Ellicott City Partnership, the nonprofit that organizes Midnight Madness.
A tree-lighting ceremony, which kicks off festivities at 5:30 p.m., is back at its original location at the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum Plaza, toward the bottom of Main Street. Ellicott City’s historic red railroad bridge and tinsel-decked granite facades accentuate the scene.
“This event has really grown throughout the years and [so has] the potential that it’s brought to the economic development of the town,” said Chris Pineda, senior advisor to the Ellicott City Partnership.
In addition to the tree-lighting ceremony that will be attended by state and county officials (and Santa Claus), Main Street will host a variety of holiday-themed activities from festive cocktails and food to musical performances by local high school groups. Participating stores will remain open for shoppers until midnight.
The holiday train garden at the B&O Museum will be open and visitors can vote in a friendly window-decorating contest among businesses. Free shuttle rides will be offered from outer parking lots beginning at 6 p.m.
Midnight Madness is one of several events put on by the Ellicott City Partnership, which strives to preserve the heritage of historic Ellicott City while enhancing economic growth for the district’s shops and restaurants.
“Our whole job is to bring people to town,” said executive director Jillian Joseph. “So we do have a lot of annual events that have been going on that are traditions for a long time.”
The Ellicott City Partnership distributed more than $221,000 worth of COVID-19 relief funds in 2021 and close to $1.9 million to business owners following the devastating floods of 2016 and 2018, according to Joseph. At Midnight Madness, the organization will also distribute OEC (“Old Ellicott City”) Bucks, $10 vouchers that can be used at participating businesses through Dec. 31.
“Hopefully, it entices everybody who has the buck to spend a little bit more money,” Pineda said.
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Midnight Madness is just as much a celebration of Old Ellicott City’s resilience as it is the holiday spirit, according to organizers.
“You have a community that has been there since the Civil War that has been embedded and has been through trials and tribulations – through floods, through COVID, through you name it,” Ellicott City Partnership board president Maria Martinez reflected. “It’s standing and standing proud.”
Midnight Madness attendees can purchase a commemorative 250th Ellicott City ornament, featuring the town’s iconic railroad bridge, with all proceeds benefiting the partnership.
While the city and Howard County have grown rapidly in recent years, the community still resembles a Hallmark holiday movie in many ways, according to Pineda.
“We really celebrate on Midnight Madness that joy and that warmth that comes from the town, and you get to see people interacting with each other as they walk by in different stores,” he said. “It goes back to that sense of community and home that you can’t find in every other big city or location.”
To learn more about Midnight Madness, visit: https://visitoldellicottcity.com/events/midnight-madness/.