WILLMAR -- The annual Holidaze event will mark its 10th anniversary with a parade and other free activities for children and adults beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday in downtown Willmar.
The first Holidaze event was held on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002. It was mainly a parade organized by local media including the West Central Tribune and was an effort to kick off the holiday season with a fun and joyous event.
The day of the event was later moved to Saturday. More events have been added to attract families, and the number of sponsors has expanded to almost three dozen. Sponsorships provide funding for the free activities.
"It's really a family event and we try to keep adding events that the kids really would enjoy and that brings the parents,'' says Beverly Dougherty, project coordinator with the Willmar Design Center, which coordinates more than 50 Holidaze volunteers from around the city.
"It's not about shopping,'' Dougherty continued. "It's about a festival. You can bring the whole family and it's all free. Go to Bethel (Lutheran Church) and have chili. No charge for any of the events. It's all sponsor-funded and volunteer-run.''
Upwards of 45 units representing businesses, organizations and school groups will be in the parade. Those include an individual from Australia now living in Arlington, Minn., who will have a baby camel walking in the parade. The individual is also bringing animals native to Australia.
As many as 5,000 people have attended past Holidaze festivals. This weekend looks to be nice and not bitterly cold. Weather can affect attendance, which was down last year because of a threatened snowstorm.
"But even the year it was 40-below wind chill, we still had about 2,000 down here,'' Dougherty said.
People come from across the southwest region.
"We always set the date as the Saturday before Thanksgiving. They always know that that's the date,'' she said. "We're hoping people come out and enjoy it.''
Activities include Santa at The Barn Theatre from 3 to 6 p.m.; cookie-making, tours and Sweet Williams Chocolates at The Barn from 3 to 5 p.m.; and petting zoo with llama, emu and more, fire pits, s'mores, sleigh rides, and Mr. B's Chocolates inside Building 330 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Also chili supper and live music by Terry Shaw at Bethel Church from 4 to 6 p.m.; kids' costume contest in front of Bethel Church at 5 p.m.; and tree lighting at Selvig Park at 6 p.m.
The parade begins at 6:30 p.m. The route starts on Fourth Street Southwest just south of Minnesota Avenue, proceeds north to Litchfield Avenue, turns west for one block to Fifth Street Southwest, and heads south on Fifth Street to Minnesota Avenue.
Following the parade there will be appetizers and cash bar at 414 Becker Ave.; kids costume contest awards; best window and best building awards; and parade float awards.
First Presbyterian Church will have hot chocolate, coffee and cookies after the parade.