Holidazzle is back live and in person this year, and organizers are primed to welcome revelers back to downtown Minneapolis for festivities that begin the day after Thanksgiving and culminate with a party in Loring Park the weekend before Christmas.
Santa stopped by a kickoff event featuring holiday music and treats Wednesday at the IDS Crystal Court to announce the return of the outdoor family-oriented fete a year after COVID-19 forced events to be held online.
Even then, tens of thousands tuned in to watch shows on the Internet and children snapped up all the available slots to chat with Santa on Zoom, numbers that show Holidazzle — even in its various forms over the years — still has staying power.
"It is a beloved tradition," said Leah Wong, vice president of external relations for the Minneapolis Downtown Council, which puts on the celebration. "We know people near and far look forward to it every season."
With a theme of providing "in-person moments," festivities begin Nov. 26 with the lighting of the 17-foot tall Holidazzle Yeti at Peavey Plaza. The illuminated art installation by Christopher Lutter-Gardella made from recycled materials will glow nightly through Dec. 3.
Santa will take virtual calls Dec. 4 and 11 ahead of the big finale Dec. 17-19 in Loring Park where there will be with three days of music, family activities, amusement rides — Ferris wheel, carousel and a giant slide — and a market featuring local small businesses. There also will be food and beverages, in-person visits with Santa and fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights.
In being mindful that the pandemic still rages, Holidazzle will follow whatever CDC guidelines are in place when events take place, Wong said. Masks will be recommended for anybody unvaccinated and physical distancing should be practiced when possible, she said.
The scaled-down format is the latest iteration of Holidazzle, which originated in the early 1990s with nightly parades featuring comic-book characters riding holiday-themed floats, music and light shows on Nicollet Mall. The Downtown Council started the event to keep shoppers downtown after the Mall of America opened.
In 2014, the council reformatted the event into a marketplace showcasing local businesses and works by local artists and moved it to Loring Park. The celebration also offered a broader choice of activities. Then the pandemic hit in 2020 and forced the council to shift gears once again. This year is no exception.
"Holidazzle continues to evolve," Wong said. "It has shown up in different ways, yet remains our downtown free accessible community gathering to celebrate. It draws us together."
To whet the appetite for this year's fun and promote other downtown holiday events such as theater and dance performances, the Dayton's holiday window displays and Timberwolves and Vikings games, Holidazzle will offer giveaways on its social media channels.
The approach, Wong said, "is to bring in-person experience to Minneapolis."
Looking ahead, Wong isn't sure what the celebration will look like next year. But with strong corporate sponsorship, "Holidazzle is alive and well," she said. "We will continue for a deeper return in 2022."