The holiday season is shining brighter in El Dorado with the announcement of the first-ever Holiday Trail of Lights at MAD.
Presented by Murphy USA, the new holiday attraction will open at 5 p.m. on Dec. 5 in the MAD Amphitheater, 105 E. Locust, and will run each night through Dec. 31.
Earlier this month, MAD officials and members of the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission said the groups were not able to come up with solid plans to refresh MAD on Ice, a seasonal ice-skating rink that opened in 2019, before the deadline passed to book the mobile rink at a lower rate for the 2023 holiday season.
The groups had formed a subcommittee to explore ideas to reinvigorate MAD on Ice to help combat stagnant attendance and rising costs, both of which were among the contributing factors that stalled efforts to open the rink this year.
MAD officials also told A&P commissioners on Nov. 1 that they would not have time to implement an idea for a new holiday attraction -- tubing hills -- this year.
However, MAD officials said they were working to develop another idea but they initially expressed doubt they could get the new attraction up and running before year's end.
At the time, they said they were still hammering out details for the attraction but did know yet know what the project would entail, including a name.
"What I can tell you is that it's going to open a little later than normal," Pamela Griffin, MAD president and CEO said on Nov. 10, noting that the MAD on Ice skating rink typically opens 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 continued. "We've ordered a lot of stuff and we've got to put it together, see what works and what doesn't and we're working on figuring all of that out."
Things began looking more hopeful as the days wore on, and on Monday, with the help of a few more sponsors, MAD shared details about the Holiday Trail of Lights. According to a press release, the Trail will feature giant inflatables (a bounce house and slide); a holiday train; a Santa chair that may be used for family photos; live and talking Christmas trees; traditional Christmas lights on decorated trees; and LED lights with pixel mapping throughout the amphitheater.
Pixel mapping uses special techniques to create an interactive lighting experience, MAD officials explained in the press release.
The LED lights will greet visitors in an arch at the entryway and in multiple designs throughout the amphitheater, including the talking Christmas trees.
An array of live Christmas trees will serve as the centerpiece of the amphitheater and surround the Santa chair, MAD officials said.
Sponsors for the archway and live trees are Ken's Discount Tru Value Home Center and Diversified Services Lawn and Garden Care Center, respectively.
The holiday train will hold up to five children at a time for a trip along a lighted path in the amphitheater.
Griffin told Main Street El Dorado board members last week that the MAD crew had built the train and taken it out for a few test drives.
"Our team has constructed a DIY (do it yourself) train out of plastic barrels and dollies. I am so impressed with how cute it is, so I know the little kids will love it!" said Joanna Benson, MAD marketing manager.
"We are adding some finishing touches on the train this coming week and then it will be ready for action. The train, along with the bounce house and slide, will be available on the weekends and when the kids are out of school," Benson continued.
Added Griffin, ""We are thrilled to light the amphitheater up with Christmas cheer and lots of lights this December. Thanks to support from Murphy USA, we can provide the community and visitors with a great attraction and another reason to travel to El Dorado this holiday season."
The Holiday Trail of Lights will be open from 5 until 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 - 7, 14 - 17 and 24 and 5 until 8 p.m. on Dec. 8 - 9, 15 - 16 and 18 - 31.
The space will also be available to rent for private and non-private parties.
For more information or to book a party, call MAD at 870-444-3004 or visit https://eldomad.com.
New Year's Eve
The El Dorado City Council granted Monday a request from Main Street El Dorado to extend the hours of the city's entertainment district for a New Year's Eve celebration that is in the works for downtown El Dorado.
Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, presented the request during a city council/El Dorado Water and Public Works Board meeting.
Brumley told council members that MSE is partnering with The Haywood Hotel for a New Year's Eve Bash, the first such event that will be held downtown in a number of years.
She said the event will include a countdown and ball-drop and will prompt the closure of a section of South Washington Avenue, south of Main Street.
Brumley asked for a special-event extension of the normal hours for the entertainment district, which allows for the public consumption and carry of alcoholic beverages on streets and sidewalks within the district from noon until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and holidays.
The district covers several blocks downtown. Its boundaries are marked with signs.
The council adopted an ordinance in 2019 to establish the district. A recent amendment to the ordinance bans alcoholic beverages that are purchased outside the district.
The city ordinance also allows organizations with special-event or temporary permits to request an extension of the normal operational hours for the district.
Brumley noted that the city council approved a similar request for the Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism, which was held for the first time in El Dorado last February.
The 49th annual event was slated for Feb. 26 - 28, Sunday - Tuesday.
There was a brief debate Monday about whether such action was needed for the New Year's Eve event.
Council Member David Hurst pointed out that the existing ordinance already denotes holidays as active hours for the conference.
New Year's Eve is on Sunday.
"We didn't know if the holiday would be (Dec.) 31 or (Jan. 1). We just want to make sure that we're covering our bases," said Brumley.
Council Member Judy Ward said the ordinance requires groups with special-event or temporary permits to apply to the mayor's office with a request to activate the district outside of its normal hours.
Mayor Paul Choate said he had received the application for the New Year's Eve event and presented it to the council for a vote.