Fireworks erupted above a festive crowd of about 1,000 people bundled against the chill Friday at the first Holidazzle celebration held at Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Many celebrants drove in from the suburbs for the holiday extravaganza, which featured an ice-skating rink and Santa Claus. The monthlong free winter festival also is offering foodies a chance to taste a variety of gourmet goodies, from caramel apple puff pastries to Kramarczuk’s sausages.

Friday’s opening ceremony featured welcoming words from leaders from the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the city’s Park and Recreation Board, followed by fireworks and a screening of the Will Ferrell holiday comedy “Elf.”

City Council Member Lisa ­Goodman said she hopes the event will encourage visitors to explore the city even further.

Parents pulled their children up onto their shoulders to get a glimpse of the fireworks as the crowd “oohed” and “aahed.”

Last year’s Holidazzle, a European-style holiday market held at downtown’s Peavey Plaza, replaced more than two decades of the annual parade along Nicollet Mall. That more commercialized version of the beloved holiday tradition drew the ire of Holidazzle purists, ultimately eliciting a Facebook apology from event organizers.

Gerald “Jay” Woldt, 72, of Minneapolis, praised the event’s new location, food vendors and free entry. “This is definitely better than last year,” he said. “Even at this age, I still love fireworks.”

This year’s event, managed and produced by the Downtown Council and the Park and Rec Board, will run 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Jana Lofton, 50, said the $6 fee at last year’s Holidazzle kept some families away.

Holidazzle attendees looking to warm up grabbed hot cider and took seats inside the Fulton warming tent. Inside the tent, children laced up to glide onto the skating rink while their parents sipped ­Fulton’s brews.

Out on the ice, some children held onto grandparents while their parents snapped pictures from the sidelines.

Heather Christopherson, 37, was there with her two daughters. She said she found Friday’s opening a bit crowded. “We miss the parade,” she said.

There were long lines to get to vendors selling potato pancakes, dry-rub ribs and cheese curds. Parents with strollers tried to navigate through the dense crowd. Amid the food vendors, Santa Claus bent to hug his little fans and smile for the cameras.

Amanda Kendall, 29, was attending the festival for the first time with her daughter Alexia, 6. Kendall said she would definitely come back.

Alexia concurred. “I really like the food,” she said as she bit down on her caramel apple puff pastry.


Staff writer Emma Nelson contributed to this ­story.