|[Gazing into the Holi-Abyss.]|
If you ever wanted to see a bunch of volunteers trudge slowly down a cold winter street wearing light-up costumes resembling various childhood tropes, tonight and tomorrow are your last chance. The Holidazzle parade is quietly holi-fizzling away this year with surprisingly little fanfare.
I went with a group of intrepid urbanists last week to see the penultimate Holidazzle weekend. We wandered through the skyways on our way there, and with notable booster R.T. Rybak at the head of the parade, it was not a disappointment.
Meanwhile, the last of the major department stores was still called Dayton's, and they had long trumpeted a rotating holiday-themed display spectacular on their 8th Floor. I remember going there as a kid to see Santa Bears, and various holiday display adventures. Back then, window displays were still a big deal. Downtown retail really invested a lot of time and energy into doing things like this. It was another era...
And that's when Holidazzle was born. I chatted the other day with Michael Murnane, who founded and ran the parade for many years. As he told it, it was during one of these brainstorming hand-wringing sessions that some of the Dayton's 8th Floor designers pitched a new parade for downtown that would draw people to the retail district during the Holiday shopping season. It would be a parade themed around various childhood stories and fantasies, and the main attraction would be that the whole parade would be made out of lights.
At first there was some skepticism, particularly about the high cost of such an endeavor. But after conducting some research down in Disneyworld, Murnane and a childhood electrician friend began re-wiring many many many strings of Christmas lights so that they would run on batteries. Then the fun began. They started building floats and costumes, and launched the first Holidazzle in 1992. It grew for a long while, and evolved into a series of themed floats and costumes sponsored by various downtown interests.
|[Last stop for the Twinkle Bus. Last stop...]|
The other takeaway from the Holidazzle experience is that it continues to attract a large crowd! There were lots of people cramming into an otherwise empty-after-six downtown, and it was quite fun to see the city packed on a cold winter's night.
|[Please, will somebody please volunteer????]|
|[Twirling snowball gets more hits than Drew Butera.]|
|[Dunno what these are but whatever! Lights!]|
At the same time, it's difficult to think of downtown civic events that have been as much of a consistent attraction as the Holidazzle parade. Kitschy as it might be, it's at least as good as the Aquatennial whatever-it-is. (Barring, of course, the awesome fireworks display.) Back in 2007, the Holidazzle management got changed, and (so I hear) they started cutting back on some of the expenses and maintenance. The old days of downtown department stores are never coming back, no matter how many bedazzled floats we throw at it. Maybe it was always inevitable that the Holidazzle would twinkle and sparkle and fizzle into that good night.
|[After all, no snowman is an island.]|