All Things Madison | The Madison Street Festival's Educational Grant Program: What You Should Know
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The Madison Street Festival’s Educational Grant Program: What You Should Know

The Madison Street Festival provides an unmatched opportunity to gather downtown and enjoy the best of the city, but did you know that the purpose of the festival as a whole is to give back to educational programs throughout Madison?
All Things Madison | The Madison Street Festival's Educational Grant Program: What You Should Know

If you’re new to the Madison area in the last couple of years, I’d love to tell you about a really special not-so-little-anymore festival that happens each fall right here in Historic Downtown Madison. If you’re not new to Madison and are indeed familiar with the festival, I’d love to share with you an arm of this annual event that perhaps you were unaware of.

Madison Street Festival in Madison, Alabama

The Madison Street Festival will celebrate the 41st festival on October 7th, 2023, and will feature entertainment stages, a lengthy showcase of local businesses, community artwork, a crafters area, a fun children’s and teen’s section, food galore, and even a kick-off morning parade! The festival is run by an all-volunteer team of over three dozen people who gather year-round to ensure that every inch and element of the festival has been considered in order to provide an optimal, seamless, immensely enjoyable experience for all attendees.

The best part of the festival is that it’s completely free (though vendors will be on-site with items and food for purchase if desired!)

Tens of thousands of people flock to downtown Madison for the Madison Street Festival (MSF) each year, and though it appears to simply be a grand day of entertainment, many do not know that the festival itself is actually designed to be one giant fundraiser that gives back to the community in remarkable ways.

MSF President Crystal McBrayer shares that the intention of the festival is to “support and fund educational programs around the city.”

These programs are not limited to public school programs but extend to anything that is deemed educational, such as technology programs for senior citizens, special needs programs at various local centers, and much more.

"There is this incredible 'full circle' thing that happens with the festival," shares McBrayer. "People in our community have the chance to showcase their businesses and talents as well as come out to support everyone who is there, and then the festival gives back to the community that supports it through the grant process."

All Things Madison | The Madison Street Festival's Educational Grant Program: What You Should Know

McBrayer says that the financial side of the house is actually quite simple. In a nutshell, the street festival is funded by sponsorships and vendor fees which pay for all of the logistics required to put on an event of this magnitude (i.e. signs, rental equipment, etc.) After the festival is over and all expenses are paid, the committee will determine how much money is left over and then use it to award as many grants as possible.

The goal each year is to give away a minimum of $6,000 worth of grants, though McBrayer says they are hoping for much more this year.

“There is this incredible ‘full circle’ thing that happens with the festival,” shares McBrayer. “People in our community have the chance to showcase their businesses and talents as well as come out to support everyone who is there, and then the festival gives back to the community that supports it through the grant process.”

The Madison Street Festival earned its official 501(c)(3) non-profit title last year.

Since 2012, the Madison Street Festival has given away more than $73,000 to organizations primarily within Madison City Schools. Last year’s recipients included:

  1. Madison Elementary School’s “STEM club”: Grant awarded to help purchase materials needed to create different opportunities for students to explore and learn through STEM club challenges.
  2. Bob Jones High School Teaching Academy- “Reading Buddies”: Grant awarded to help create a program where younger students are paired with high school students. The older students read to the younger students to help promote reading.

    3. James Clemens High School’s Special Education Program- “Brain Gym”: Grant awarded to help purchase a recumbent exercise bike with a video program screen.

    4. James Clemens High School’s “Photography”: Grant awarded to help to update cameras

    5. Discovery Middle School’s “Panther Racing”: Grant awarded to help purchase basic build materials required to modify the green power car steering mechanism.

    6. Rainbow Elementary School Resource Classroom- “Sensory items”: Grant awarded to help purchase items for the sensory classroom.

    7. Heritage Elementary School’s- “Hands-on Literacy Learning w/VersaTiles”: Grant awarded to help purchase VersaTiles BOB book sets for kindergarten teachers.

    8. Heritage Elementary School’s “Finch Robots”: Grant awarded to help purchase finch robots.

    9. Madison City School’s “Robotics team”: Grant awarded to help fund the first robotics competition of 2023.

    10. Columbia Elementary School  “Astros”: Grant awarded to help purchase coding rights, accessories, and batteries for enrichment and STEM groups.

    11. Columbia Elementary School “Shopping for Success”: Grant awarded to help to purchase items to create vendor booths and supply the different booths with items the students can purchase using fake currency they earn for good behavior, completed work, and classroom jobs.

    12. Columbia Elementary School ” 3D Art”: Grant awarded to help to cover materials cost for 3D art

    13. Midtown Elementary School’s “Archery team”: Grant awarded to help to purchase bows, arrows, and targets for the archery team

    14. Midtown Elementary School’s “Music Program”: Grant awarded to help create a music program at Midtown elementary

    15. The Danny Kendall Johnson Foundation: Grant awarded to help toward the education program that provides scholarships and assistance to students taking the ACT and learning how to successfully interview in a professional environment.

    16. American Legion Post 229 Foundation: Grant awarded to help towards scholarships for Madison City Schools delegates to the Alabama boys and girls state convention in June 2023.

Though the festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021, McBrayer explains that the committee still granted $5,000 to various educational programs throughout the community. These grants helped to fund an outdoor theater class from Discovery Middle School, a concert tuba for the Bob Jones High School band, an “art abroad” program at James Clemens High School, a “medical interventions in a laboratory setting” program for the Bob Jones High School Medical Academy, and much more.

Grant applications for 2023 are available from September 1st – October 31st, 2023. Grant awards will be presented in early 2024. Click here to access the application. 

When asked what motivates McBrayer to serve as president over such a large community event, she shares that she is highly motivated by the task of creating an “amazing day of community for everybody in this area” as well as the opportunity to “then give so much money back to education.”

Madison Street Festival Registration and General Information

When: Saturday, October 7th, 2023 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: Downtown Madison, Alabama

Cost: Free!

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2023 Madison Street Festival volunteer committee photo by Cristie Clark, Captured by Cristie LLC

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All Things Madison | The Madison Street Festival's Educational Grant Program: What You Should Know