By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
The Down Home Days Celebration that starts Thursday, April 14, and runs through Saturday, April 16, is bigger and better than ever this year.
The festival includes everything from golf tournaments to karaoke contests for the competitive soul, to two nights of rodeo performances for that little bit of cowboy in everybody around here, to dance performance and gospel music showcases, to a Family Fun Night with bounce houses, food booths, pinball and other games for the kids.
This year, Down Home Days is being sponsored by Tobacco Free Madison, said Tobacco Prevention Specialist Douglas Freer with the Madison County Health Department, who hopes to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle for Madison residents. SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco), an organization that teaches teenagers how to organize, speak up and get their message out to the public, will have about ten young people from Madison County and eight more from Levy County, promoting awareness of Big Tobacco’s marketing ploys aimed at snaring young people into a statistically shortened lifetime of addiction.
The marketing tactics both parents and kids should know about include: manipulating ingredients to make cigarettes more palatable, even adding flavors, such as strawberry, grape, pina colada and chocolate chip cookie dough; changing the levels of some chemicals so that the potential new user doesn’t feel as sick the first few times he or she lights up; and finally, using brightly colored, attractive packaging to grab the attention of the younger set.
These altered tobacco products have already been around for the last few years, and are currently in Madison stores. Although it is illegal for tobacco companies to market their products directly toward kids, they get around it by claiming that these products are for adult use.
However, “You won’t see grown men going into these stores asking for grape-flavored cigarettes,” said Freer.
Tobacco Free Madison is sponsoring the event to take advantage of an opportunity to get their message out to a large number of youth and parents. SWAT will have an information booth set up just inside the gate at the rodeo event, and individual SWAT members will be circulating through the crowds with petitions to restrict the sale of candy- and other sweet-flavored tobacco products in Madison County.
“We want to reduce youth initiation of tobacco use in Madison County and therefore reduce the impacts of tobacco use in Madison County,” said Freer.
Down Home Days also gives Tobacco Free Madison a chance to promote the free help that is available for anyone who wants to quit and needs help doing it. Resources include: the Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (822-6669), and the Area Heath Education Center’s Quit Smoking Now program, with quit-smoking classes at the Madison County Health Department on Monday evenings at 5:30 p.m. To register for these classes, please contact Preston Matthews at (850) 728-5479.
The schedule of events for Down Home Days include: Thursday – Dessert Bake Off Judging, Bali’s Base Street Florist, 321 SW Pinckney Street, entries due by 5 p.m., for more info call Bali Thigpen, 973-2525; the Pet Contest, Four Freedoms Gazebo, at 6 p.m. (Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.) For more info call Christy Killingsworth, 973-6936; and the Madison County High School Band Concert, at the MCHS Gym, at 7 p.m.
Friday – Begining at 5:30 p.m. Family Fun Night, Downtown, bounce houses, pin ball, food and more; at 6 p.m., the Citizen of the Year and Grandparent of the Year will be announced, followed by Becky’s Dance Steps Studio Showcase Perfomance; the Karaoke Contest will be held at the Gazebo, from 7 to 10 p.m., $20 entry fee. For more info call 973-2788.
Also being held on Friday at Lanier Field: PCA Rodeo; gates open at 5 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. features country and gospel music performances.
Saturday, all day: Classic Car Show, Bounce Houses, Dunk Tank and more. 7:30 a.m. Colin P. Kelly Fitness Runs. 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk, children up to 16, $6 fee registration 7:30 a.m., run at 8 a.m; 5K Run/Walk, all ages, $15 fee registration 8 a.m., run at 8:30 a.m; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Down Home Days Book Signings, Tracy Revels, T.H. Bear, booth on Range Avenue; 10 a.m., Down Home Days Parade.
Saturday at 11 a.m. – Marine Corps Band, Gazebo; Quilt and Flower Show, Wardlaw-Smith-Goza Mansion; Dessert Bake Off Tasting, Bali’s Base Street Florist, Firefighter’s Challenge, Range Avenue; 11:30 a.m., Watermelon seed spitting contest, Four Freedoms Park, more info, call Browning & Sons, 973-6896; Noon – 3 p.m. Karaoke Contest, Gazebo; 1:30 p.m., Frog Hopping Contest, East Courthouse Lawn, hosted by Tim Sanders and Dr. John Lewis; 3 p.m. Karaoke Finals, Gazebo, $100 first prize, $50 second prize and $25 third prize. 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. PCA Rodeo, Lanier Field. Gates open at 5 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m. 6:30 to 7;30 p.m. features country and gospel music performances.
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By Lynette Norris