After a one-year absence, Metro Transit has brought its Twinkle Bus back to the Holidazzle parades in downtown Minneapolis.
The brand-new rolling sound and light show is adorned with 23,000 bulbs that blink in sync with cheerful renditions of “Deck the Halls,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland.” The Twinkle Bus will be a main feature in the parades, which kicked off Friday and continue Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 23.
The Twinkle Bus had been a fixture in the holiday parades since 1994, but when the Gillig Phantom bus was at the end of its service life in 2010, Metro Transit retired the bus and pulled it from the parades. And that left a void, said Metro Transit’s John Siqveland.
“We were nervous when we retired it,” Siqveland said. “We heard from the public and parade organizers, so it’s back. We are back in dramatic fashion.”
A new yet-to-hit-the-streets hybrid-electric bus has been transformed into what Siqveland is dubbing “Twinkle Bus 2.0.” Two mechanics spent five months installing five speakers, laying 3 miles of wire, building a frame to hold the lights, and connecting it all to a circuit board to ready bus No. 7310 for its debut Friday.
It cost $8,000 to retrofit the bus, which will be pressed into regular-route and express service when the Holidazzle parades end, Siqveland said.
Metro Transit employees dressed in costume will accompany the parade float as it makes its way down Nicollet Mall from 12th to 4th Street each night. The transit agency will run special Northstar commuter trains on Saturday and Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22. Trains will leave Big Lake at 3:06 p.m. and arrive at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis at 3:55 p.m. The return train will depart at 8 p.m.
Metro Transit will offer free rides to Holidazzle on buses and on the Hiawatha light rail from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 15.