It’s still not the beloved parade, but downtown Minneapolis’ annual Holidazzle seems to be hitting its stride.
Now in its third year since transforming from a Nicollet Mall parade into a holiday market, Holidazzle has more to buy, do and see.
Beth Kohls of Eden Prairie started attending the Holidazzle parade in the early 2000s — one year, she even rode on a float. The first re-imagined Holidazzle in 2014, a replica European Christmas village, was “extremely disappointing,” she said, ticking off her complaints. Shoppers had to pay to get in. Peavey Plaza was crowded. And there wasn’t much to do.
“When they moved it [to Loring Park], we thought we’d give it another try,” Kohls said. “Last year, we thought it was better. And then this year, we thought it was much better.”
Last year, organizers found out late in the planning process that construction would prevent Holidazzle from being held on Nicollet Mall, said Leah Wong, vice president of events and marketing for the Minneapolis Downtown Council, which runs the event. The Loring Park site was chosen with just about a month to prepare, she said.
This year, the event has a bigger footprint and twice the number of vendors, Wong said. There are also more scheduled holiday movies and fireworks displays, a kids’ area with a hay bale maze and an ice rink with warming houses and complimentary ice skates.
The event’s 2016 budget is about $600,000, Wong said — an increase of about $100,000 from 2015.
For vendors, the 2016 Holidazzle experience has been mixed.
Jeff Sullwold, who manages the family-owned Cindy’s Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, said there seems to be more foot traffic than last year, and sales are up as a result. Though he still hears about the parade, he said the current setup is better for businesses.
“My problem with the parade is kids and adults will show up for 20 minutes and then they leave,” he said. “The whole point of Holidazzle was to promote downtown businesses, but the parade, I don’t think, did a very good job of it.”
Michele Picard, owner of Gray Duck Soap, set up shop at Holidazzle for the first time last weekend. The event was well-organized and very festive, she said, but not enough people showed up to make it worth the long hours standing in the cold.
Holidazzle opened Nov. 25 and is scheduled to run Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23.
Tina Rexing, owner of T-Rex Cookie and Coffee Cafe, is planning to sell cookies the final Thursday and Friday. It’s her first time working an outside event during the winter.
“I’m a little freaked out,” Rexing said, laughing. “I might end up having to sell ice cream sandwiches.”