MAD holiday attraction still in the works

For the first time since 2019, MAD will not present an ice-skating rink for the holidays.

Neither will the group have time to implement an idea for a new holiday attraction: tubing hills.

However, MAD does have something up its sleeve to help draw visitors downtown and complement other activities for the holiday season.

What the attraction will look like is still in the works, said Pam Griffin, president and CEO of MAD.

The event does not even have a name and plans have not been announced to the public, Griffin said, adding that MAD doesn't even know many of the details at this point.

"What I can tell you is that it's going to open a little later than normal," she said, noting that the MAD on Ice skating rink typically opened the Friday prior to Thanksgiving.

"But given the timeline that we have been put under, we've been kind of scrambling to get it put together," she offered. "We've ordered a lot of stuff and we've got to put it together and we're working on figuring all of that out."

Griffin also revealed that the event will be free and open to the public, thanks to presenting sponsor Murphy USA.

Griffin, Benji Brown, MAD IT manager, Joanna Benson, MAD marketing coordinator for MAD, discussed the project during an El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission meeting on Nov. 1.

The pair shared that with the new attraction, organizers are hoping to transform the MAD entertainment complex into a holiday, winter wonderland.

MAD and the A&P commission spent much of the year trying to come up with ideas to reinvigorate MAD on Ice, which is presented each year in the MAD Amphitheater.

Stagnant attendance and rising costs were among the contributing factors that stalled efforts to open the rink this year.

The groups were unable to shore up details before the deadline to book the rink at a lower rate for the holiday season.

All parties involved agreed that the event needed a refresh and dubbed the effort "MAD on Ice: 2.0."

MAD subsequently presented the idea for tubing hills/tracks, initially as a standalone attraction or as an addition to the ice-skating rink.

After determining in late September that this year's MAD holiday attraction will not include the ice-skating rink, which is largely funded with A&P commission dollars, the commission approved nearly $150,000 to purchase equipment for a "fake-ice tubing hill" that could be used year-round.

Brown expressed doubt that the materials would arrive by the start of the holiday season and he confirmed those doubts on Nov. 1 when he told A&P commissioners that MAD will not be able to pull off the tubing hills this year.

He also said plans had changed and MAD was focusing on another option.

MAD officials discussed some of the potential features for the attraction during the A&P meeting, but on Friday, Griffin said the ideas had not yet been fleshed out enough to speak definitively on the matter.

"Some of the items we've ordered are already secured and we hope to get the other items in, programmed and up in time," Griffin said, adding that MAD is purchasing the equipment.

MAD has not committed to a date for the opening of attraction, though Griffin said it could open during the first week of December.

"We haven't said anything to the public so we don't want to commit. We're trying to make it happen but with the time crunch we don't want to set a date yet," she said. "We don't know exactly what it's going to look like, so we're asking folks to bear with us until we get all of the pieces together."

Griffin said idea for the attraction has been a part of the long-range vision of "what MAD on Ice could be."

"We did not have money in the budget to put all of that up in the amphitheater because the rink was so expensive," she explained.

"But with us not being able to do the rink this year or the tubing hills and talking to MUSA and them willing to be sponsors, we're taking the opportunity to develop that piece of the pie," she continued.

A future possibility is that the new feature, tubing hills and ice-skating rink could all work as companion pieces for the MAD holiday attraction and other local events, Griffin said.

She also MAD is looking for other sponsors to help out with the holiday attraction.

To offer a sponsorship or for more information, call the MAD office at 870-863-4547.

Holidays in El Dorado

There will be no shortage of holiday activities in El Dorado this year -- all presented under the city-wide theme of "Oh, What Fun it Is To ...!"

MSE recently announced its yuletide schedule, which kicks off this week with the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in downtown El Dorado.

The ceremony is free and open to the public.

The event will feature local dance groups, singers and other performers.

Emceeing the event will be Cindy Langston, of MyArk-LaMiss (KTVE/KARD), and Karen Hicks, vice president of membership and events for the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce.

The Salvation Army of El Dorado will kick off its annual Red Kettle holiday fundraising campaign while serving hot chocolate and cookies to the crowd.

The SouthArk Stars athletic teams will flip the switch to illuminate the holiday lights.

Attendees will also get their first look at two new holiday characters during the lighting ceremony.

Holiday Evergreen and Jasper Jolly, Santa's Elves, are expected to make an appearance during the event.

In September, the Diamond Agency, the ad agency of record for the A&P commission, issued a call for auditions for a new holiday mascot to spread holiday cheer and "ignite the magic of Christmas" throughout the city.

Auditions were held Sept. 23 at the South Arkansas Arts Center and instead of one mascot, organizers selected two mascots for the paid positions.

The elves will make their public debut Thursday and will pop up at other events through Dec. 23.

Little Rock TV station KARK will air the lighting ceremony and broadcast live during its newscasts at 5 and 6 p.m., said Don Hale, president of the Diamond Agency.

KTBS, a Shreveport, Louisiana, TV station, will also be in town for the ceremony.

The crew will shoot other local footage and conduct interviews for the next El Dorado installment of its "Spirit of Christmas" annual holiday special.

Each year, the "Spirit of Christmas" showcases the holiday season in five communities throughout the ArkLaTex region.

El Dorado has previously been featured in the series and will be among the communities that will be profiled this year.

The special will air on KTBS on Nov. 21 as part of an ongoing partnership with KTBS and efforts to market and promote El Dorado in the region during the holiday season.

For the past few years, the Diamond Agency and A&P commission have worked with MSE, MAD and the Downtown Business on a holiday promotional campaign to market the holidays in El Dorado to Central Arkansas and North Louisiana and its broadcast reach in East Texas.

MSE and the DBA have reported seeing more downtown foot traffic from visitors in the northwest Louisiana area as a result of the campaign.

For more information or to request an appearance by Evergreen or Jolly, call the Diamond Agency at 870-862-1010.

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