By Bailey Hovland
The shop windows in downtown Willmar have begun to display the signs of the upcoming holiday season — a decorative wreath hung here, a sprinkle of glittering snowflakes there. Despite the temperature hovering consistently above freezing and the unusual absence of November snow, the Willmar Lakes Area is gearing up for
the holidays. And in the Willmar Lakes Area, the holiday season would not be complete without its annual kick-off event: Holidaze. This coming Saturday, November 23, downtown Willmar will be hosting this special event.
From 3:00-7:00 p.m., Building 330 will be open for the Downtown Holiday Market. Finding the perfect gift with a local touch will be easy with plenty of community vendors selling handcrafted items, make and take activities for family participation and plenty of food to snack on while you shop. And at 4:00 p.m., the holiday festivities ramp up with a visit from Santa Claus. A jolly old Saint Nick will be welcoming visitors young and old at The Barn Theatre, putting the “Ho, ho, ho!” in Holidaze. The Willmar Public Library will be hosting different kids holiday crafts so your little ones can have a souvenir or two from the event.
Bethel Lutheran Church will be ladling out bowls of chili to visitors, keeping them nourished and warm as they spend an evening in the winter Minnesota air. The church will be accepting free will donations for the chili feed. And
over on 4th Street, the Willmar Fire Department will be conducting tours of the fire department vehicles from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for all the little boys and girls (and their enthusiastic parents) who might be hoping to find a classic little red fire truck under the tree.
On Becker Avenue, the Holidaze will have a petting zoo with adorable animals for the kids to get up close and personal with. Q102 and Big Country will be handing out free hot chocolate, making sure visitors stay warm and cozy for the whole event. A sleigh pulled by reindeer will be trotting up and down Becker Avenue, giving event-goers a chance to experience Santa’s primary method of transportation. And inside the City Auditorium, visitors can see real penguins, courtesy of the Hemker Park & Zoo, and bounce up and down on the numerous inflatables. Finally, at 5:00 p.m. a few rounds of turkey bowling will be going down in front of the Foxhole Brewhouse.
The floats for the parade will line up at 6:00 p.m., with the parade’s officials start time at 6:30 p.m. The route will begin at the intersection between 5th Street and Becker Avenue and travel north to Litchfield Ave, turn east
for a block, and then continue south on 4th Street. Following the parade, there will be free hot cocoa and cookies at the First Presbyterian Church, as well as a free holiday movie feature at The Barn Theatre: this year they’ll be showing The Grinch (2018).
The annual Holidaze celebration is a moment where the community joins together, in the cold winter weather, to prepare for the holiday festivities. With plenty of things to do, it’s an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a night out on the town. But make sure to dress for the weather: holiday festivities aren’t quite as fun when you’re cold. Of course, all are welcome to attend. So, come on out to downtown Willmar this Saturday evening for a few hours of festivities and holiday fun.
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