Reporting Mike Binkley
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – A bright holiday tradition in downtown Minneapolis is nearing the end of the road.
The Holidazzle parades have been running down Nicollet Mall since 1992 – the year Mall of America opened in Bloomington — with new competition for downtown retailers.
But the Minneapolis Downtown Council said it’s time to “re-imagine the holiday experience downtown” and focus on features that could attract visitors in every season.
“We are taking a step back to really look collectively at the downtown experience, and what we can do to activate the streets 365 days a year,” said Leah Wong, spokesperson for the Downtown Council.
This will be the final year for the parades, and there will be far fewer than previous years. They will only run on Friday and Saturday nights this year, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 21.
Holidazzle has drawn an average of 400,000 visitors to the downtown area in the past 21 years. In the early years, the parades would run five or six nights a week.
“It becomes a tradition every time I bring the family here,” Nancy Anderson said.
It’s meant big money at the end of the year for businesses like Zelo Restaurant. Customers book months in advance for tables by the window.
“For the whole Nicollet Mall, I can probably speak for everyone — any restaurant or hospitality business — it really fills us up,” said Zelo General Manager Eric Carrara.
Several Minneapolis residents said it was nice to have an event that set their city apart.
“It’s just homey,” Annie Brenner said. “It makes the downtown feel a little more like small town.”
The Minneapolis Downtown Council has drawn up a “Downtown 2025″ plan, which is focused not only on transforming Nicollet Mall. Leaders want the entire downtown to be what they call “consistently compelling” to visitors and residents.
“And so while the holiday experience will look different moving forward, we’re very committed to making sure that we have a holiday event that will draw people in,” Wong said.