Loreen Mills of Golden Valley has never taken the Holidazzle parade for granted, bringing her kids to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis many times since the family moved to the Twin Cities area 13 years ago.
On Friday night, Mills, along with her daughter Regina, 17, and son Elliott, 13, was again awaiting the start of the parade in front of the IDS Center, part of a throng of people lining the mall and packing skyways for the opening night of the holiday spectacle’s final season.
“I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, and this is the only city that has something this unique around the holidays,” Mills said, adding that she likes Holidazzle because it’s noncommercial. “I think it will be missed.”
Friday’s parade was the first of eight on this year’s schedule, down from the 20 or more that have been customary since the first Holidazzle in 1992. It will run Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. on Nicollet between 12th and 4th Streets.
The parade, with fairy-tale-based floats and characters walking and waving in costumes aglow with tiny lights, has attracted an estimated 300,000 people in some years.
Each night’s parade involves hundreds of volunteers as downtown employers have recruited workers and their families to walk the mall in any of the more than 200 parade costumes. The event was even exported to Chicago for one night in 1996.
Leah Wong, vice president of events and marketing for the Minneapolis Downtown Council, which stages Holidazzle, said the event’s originators have told her they’re surprised that it has lasted 22 years. But it is simply time for a change, she said. “We got to a natural point where we had to ask, ‘Do we want to continue to invest in floats, in refreshing floats, or do we want to think of something that’s fresh?’ ” she said.
The council will begin planning some type of successor to Holidazzle once this season ends, Wong added.
“Right now we’re very committed to providing the type of experience people have come to expect … something people will be able to love for years to come.” But she added that the experience “will look a lot different next year.”
From their traditional (and warm) posts on the second floor of Barnes and Noble Booksellers at 8th Street and Nicollet Mall, Cearra Selbrade and Chuck Steiner, both 21, of Mankato, wondered how Holidazzle might be improved.
Some kind of walk-through light display, perhaps? Selbrade wondered.
“It’s too bad,” she said. “I think it’s a great holiday tradition.”
“It’s always time for a change,” said Steiner, who has been coming to Holidazzles since he was a kid in White Bear Lake. “But at the same time, it’s going to be sad to see this go.”