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DECATUR—Walking away with a few new colorful additions to adorn their trees this year, local families tapped into their holiday creativity Saturday at the Decatur Area Arts Council.

Craft supplies enough for 200 to 300 families stretched along rows of tables, which were attended by a constant bustle of at least 50 parents and children at a time.

Decatur resident Sam Bishop was one among many at the free ornament-making activity looking for a family-fun opportunity prior to the evening's annual 2014 Lighted Nighttime Decatur Christmas Parade sponsored by the Jaycees.

“It gives families the option where you can be together and do something that won't break the bank,” she said. “At the same time, it's promoting downtown with a community event before you go out to see Santa and the reindeer, which the kids love.”

Bishop, her 5-year-old daughter Bailey and a few children she was babysitting went station to station, making snowflake ornaments with silver pipe cleaners and beads and picking out different colors of paper to group, bend and staple for a layered, paper-onion look.

“There's a great variety to choose from, and we used to make the same kind of old fashioned ornaments when I was in school,” she said.

Participants also made accordion-style snowman head ornaments, snowman popsicle sticks, spiral Christmas trees and holiday lights with pastels on dark paper.

The Arts Council hosts a community event leading up to the parade each year with the hope of spurring attention for the arts and encouraging families to bond through creative projects, education coordinator Jenny Cowgill said.

“We don't see families do this kind of thing as much anymore,” Cowgill said. “It's all a part of the giving spirit of Christmas, and this gets them into that giving mode where they start be be excited about the holidays.”

Providing such an activity can also remind community members of the importance for stimulating children artistically as school art programs are usually the first to be cut in hard budget times, said Merry Lanker, an art teacher at Stephen Decatur Middle School who volunteered to work the event.

“Art is connected to everything, and I think this is a good way for people to see that hands on,” she said. “A lot of people are quick to judge Decatur, but they need to realize there are so many amazing things going on in this community.”

Decatur resident Jeremy Benton said small crafts, as simple as a bit of paper and glue, can have a long-lasting effect with a family. His 9-year-old daughter Jyllian agreed.

“You get to make ornaments, and after you make it, you can keep it for like ever,” she said, adding that she was excited to try and get her fill of candy at the parade.

The streets of Downtown Decatur were lined with hundreds of community members in anticipation of the 30-minute parade, which was filled with police and fire sirens, parade-walkers dressed as Christmas trees, elves, candy canes and Dr. Seuss characters from Whoville, dogs from the Decatur and Macon County Animal Shelter, and floats covered in festive lights playing holiday music.

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