Annapolis residents plan for Madness and lights


BEFORE THE Christmas fuss settles down, there will be two very public and popular holiday events in downtown Annapolis -- Midnight Madness on Dec. 9 and the Christmas Lights Parade two nights later.

Midnight Madness, staged on Main Street, Maryland Avenue and inner West Street and in West Annapolis, has evolved over the years into an evening when residents try to see how many of their neighbors they can meet.

It is not necessarily a big occasion for commerce, although it largely takes place in the shopping district -- and the merchants are as much neighbor as business owner.

"The localness is what we encourage, sort of an open house for our neighbors," said Cynthia McBride, owner of an art gallery on Main Street. "It's really not the kind of a night to be carrying things around."

Larry Vincent, a clothier on Main Street, echoed that assessment. "It's a way of saying 'thank you' to local people for shopping downtown. It's one of the more heart-warming times we have in town, if you're a local."

Steve Samaras of Zachary's Jewelry figures a significant number of people return on a subsequent night for their serious shopping.

Nancy Johnson, events coordinator for the Rams Head Tavern on West Street and organizer of Midnight Madness, said there will be seven musical groups in the streets, plus Santa and "other surprises." Festivities start at 6: 30 p.m.

This being Annapolis and all, the Lights Parade takes place on the water. Two fleets totaling about 60 boats will parade along Spa Creek from the Naval Academy sea wall to an area above the Eastport Bridge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 11.

The two fleets rotate so that all boats can be seen.

The Eastport Yacht Club sponsors the parade and Tim Hause is its "chief elf."

"We start preparing in February with a committee of 60-plus volunteers," he said. The yacht club has gotten so thorough in staging its big show that it now conducts how-to classes for skippers.

"Some come in with really crazy ideas and we try to find ways to help make those ideas work in our decorator seminars," said Hause. "Contrary to some belief out there, no professional designers are hired. We just have a lot of brilliant people who do these things."

Hause recommends the Naval Academy sea wall and Eastport Bridge as vantage points. Parking for both events -- indeed, parking for any event in Annapolis -- will be a challenge.

Main Street will become clogged during Midnight Madness, with folks overflowing the sidewalks. And during the Lights Parade, the bridge over the parade grounds -- Spa Creek -- will be closed for long stretches, bollixing up traffic on the south side of town.

So it makes tremendous sense to park at the Navy Marine Corps Stadium and take shuttle buses into town for both events.

For kids of all ages

"As a kid," said Dick Sossi, "I suffered one of my great traumas when I put a cigar box full of toy soldiers on the trunk of a car. It drove away and I chased it for a couple of blocks. All gone."

Sossi, who is 56, is close to getting over that episode. He will be the general in charge of the 15th annual Annapolis Christmas Toy Soldier Show, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Loews Annapolis Hotel on West Street.

Admission will be $5 for adults, with no charge for children younger than 12.

"Most of the people there, 90 percent, will be adults," he said. "Some will be trying to recapture their childhood. And then there are those who are catching up, those who couldn't afford toy soldiers as kids."

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