This year, the family did something we had never done before in the Minneapolis area. We went to the Holidazzle parade.
It may not seem like much – standing around in the Minnesota cold (8°) and watching a bunch of people walk down a street, but it actually is a tradition in the city, rich in history and extremely well loved by the community. Every Friday and Saturday, you could find the street of Hennepin overflowing with faithful followers and some newbies to boot, ready to see the lights, the people, and best of all – Santa!
And unfortunately, it was the last year for it. We caught it just in time to see it leave.
I had mentioned to Paul if we were going to go (and I had been wanting to go for the past two years), we had to make it happen because it was our last shot. So on December 20th after work, the last Friday of the parade, he and Jadon made their way downtown. (Paul was already on PTO since he had a slew of days to use. The jerk. ) Sadly, Taegan had been scheduled to work most weekends for some time, so we couldn’t get her involved.
They joined me at my building and we walked down to the right avenue.
Holy. Moly. Was it crowded! It was as if the doors of an ant farm opened and all the ants were let loose to fill the street. We had to make our way to a point were we might be able to see over the crowds of people already 3 layers deep on the sidewalk.
Now I don’t mind crowds. I’m not agoraphobic or even claustrophobic, but when you’re 5’2″ and everyone towers around you, blocking out the view of the sky or four feet in front of you, it can get a little overwhelming until you find a place.
But I had none of the “overwhelming” concerns this time because the entire atmosphere was one big playful, excited carnival. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiles, heard laughter, witnessed courtesy and felt happiness. It really was a magical, joyful time.
We found a spot where we (I) could see into the streets. As it turns out, it happened to be a perfect spot for first timers like us.
What made it perfect? The view was fine, but the people surrounding us were absolutely wonderful. They made the entire experience all the more exciting and filled with the Christmas spirit.
Jadon, 14 and anxious to eat dinner, was appreciating with the whole scenario with a bit of eye-rolling. What teenager would be caught dead at a parade? But knowing how to make his time more enjoyable, I suggested a bag of popcorn or hot chocolate to sweeten the event.
Of course he didn’t say no food.
I asked Paul if he had any money. He didn’t. With a hesitation, I pulled out my wallet, wondering if I would have anything among the cobwebs I store in there. I rarely carry cash either.
I had a buck. Bummer. A dollar short.
The lady next to me said, “I’ve got money. Let me help, please.”
What a really thoughtful and generous act of kindness! I thanked her warmly for her willingness and was about to say yes when I said, “I’ll take it if I need it, but let me check my change. I might have enough with it.”
I did. Whew.
We stood in the back, talking with our new neighbors. We were standing by three generations of attendees. They had been coming every year since it started and now they bring their kids/grandkids. They never missed a season and they looked forward to it and the kids did too.
When they found out we were Holidazzle virgins, they took me under their wings, telling me all about it, describing what would happen, talk about the procession and what we should see, and lamented that this was the last time we would attend it. They wanted t eek out all the Christmas spirit and joy they could from this merry event!
When the parade was about to start, one of the women turned to me and said, “Little woman, come take my spot. You need to stand right here so you can see the parade. There’s no way you’ll be able to see it all from back there and you need to see it all to really enjoy it!”
I think my smile might have lit up the block from the felicity I felt from that sweet gesture. I didn’t even pretend to want to turn it down. I said thanks and jumped right into her spot behind the row of kids lining the streets. It was a perfect view. (Paul and Jadon being at least 6′ tall had to stay back where they were. Ha! That’s what they get for being jolly giants.)
It was magnificent being surrounded by the kid’s wonder that was contagious to those around them!
When the parade started, and boy, you should have heard the cheers erupting down the strip! You’d have thought a famous celebrity was strolling down the avenue. It was loud. There were shouts of glee. Merry Christmas was being tossed out from the parade walkers, but even more so from the crowds to the volunteers.
I saw a number of people from work who volunteered to be in the parade. They were dressed in costumes lit up with lights or as characters in the themed floats coming down the street. They all looked happy to be a part of this particular moment in history, contributing to the smiles and joy in the crowds and making a memory of this last event.
I kept turning to Jadon and shouting like a kid all the things I was seeing. ”Look, Jadon! The Tin Man!” ”Here comes mice! Aren’t they adorable?” “Jadon! The band is coming!!! Can you heeeeeear them?”
The pack of teenagers, I noted, were cracking up at my display of frivolity and silliness that combatted with Jadon’s stoic responses. (That boy knows how not to laugh.) You know that only made me do it all the more, right?
They were bowled over with laughter as I pulled my Elf-like acting when Santa was coming down the street.
“Santa! It’s Santa, Jadon! He’s coming! It’s Saaaaaaaaaantaaaaaaa!” All accompanied by a bunch of jumping and clapping and smiling. That started cheers and screams from all the kids around me too.
He broke then. He couldn’t last forever.
As the crowd broke to go their own ways, I hugged and thanked my new friends for their warmth and inclusion on this festive occasion, glad they took us under their wings to help us enjoy the parade to the fullest. They made us feel like family, like we belonged on the street with them.
“Of course! Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?! Merry Christmas to you all!”
Why yes. Yes it is.