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Baptist winter wonderland popular family destinationcomment (0)

December 5, 2013

By Anna Keller

Baptist winter wonderland popular family destination

Christmas on Ice,” an event quickly becoming an annual tradition in Madison, Miss., was born out of a conversation held during a lunch a few years ago. It’s a lunch many Alabamians, especially in the western part of the state, are glad took place.

The CEO of Mississippi’s Baptist Health Systems was meeting with Rob Fultral, pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Madison, Miss., to discuss how to be the most effective leader for the health care system as possible. Baptist Health’s tagline, inspired by its mission statement, reads: “Leaders in health care. Followers in faith.” The CEO was looking for ways the hospital system could re-engage with the Baptist churches of Mississippi to really stay true to its proclaimed mission.

“Rob told him that at one time Broadmoor had considered putting a small ice rink in its parking lot, and they started talking about the possibility of getting a skating rink event put together,” said Steve Hutton, director of “Christmas on Ice.” “They started meeting with city officials and collecting sponsorships from businesses around town. Once it became apparent that the idea had some legs, they reached out to me for help.”

Hutton’s background in event planning (he’s worked for the PGA Tour as tournament director, has worked for Promise Keepers and now owns his own company, Momentum Events, putting on Christian events around the region) made him well-suited for this role. In preparation for the 2012 inaugural “Christmas on Ice” event, Hutton and assistant director Chris Link got busy getting things in order.

“We wanted to create a family destination — something that would allow families to build memories,” Hutton said, noting several youth groups from Alabama came in 2012 and he is hoping for more in 2013. “In addition to the ice skating rink, we added an ice slide, an American Idol-type stage for concerts to be hosted on and a trail around the rink where you hear a recording of the Christmas story.

“We had so many people come last year that this year’s event is bigger and better,” Link said. “We were elbow-to-elbow last year, and this year we’re making it possible for everyone to spread out a bit more.”

They’ve doubled the ice slide, doubled the size of the skating rink, doubled the available rental skates and doubled the size of the Pepsi Pavilion (where Christmas parties, birthday parties, etc., are hosted).

The winter wonderland of sorts is located on the Baptist Madison Campus near Broadmoor Baptist, but the church’s role is both significant and behind the scenes. 

Associate pastor Gary Maze has been instrumental in coordinating the church’s volunteer efforts. Broadmoor is responsible for many of the event’s logistics, like shuttling attendees from Broadmoor’s parking lot to the event, setting up instruments on the stage, providing technical assistance and initiating some of the PR outreach.

“The feedback from last year was all unbelievably positive, outside of the challenges of space when we had more of a crowd than we expected,” Maze said. “The novelty, the decorations, the programs, the thoughtfulness of the event — all that was wonderful. We were able to present the Christmas message without apology. This is a great opportunity for the hospital to realign what they do as a Christian institution committed to the Kingdom.” 

Link said she entered into this opportunity thinking it was going to be a typical event job, but it ended up being so much more. 

“My ultimate goal for being involved in this event is for souls to come to know the Lord,” she said. “It’s a family tradition event. It’s a beautiful and fun event. It’s alcohol and tobacco free. I hope that people will take part in the Christmas story trail and start asking questions and that lives will be changed.”

The 2013 “Christmas on Ice” kicked off Nov. 16 and will run through Jan. 5. For more information on “Christmas on Ice,” including the schedule, pricing and event details, visit the event’s website at www.christmasonice.com.   

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