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OUR OPINION: Grand Forks' HollyDazzle festival dazzles, draws comparisons

One is only a few days old. The other is 57 years old. But the HollyDazzle Festival of Lights was so much fun, and the parade down DeMers Avenue drew such a great turnout, that it's worth noting just how successful such an event can become. So, t...

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Our Opinion

One is only a few days old. The other is 57 years old.

But the HollyDazzle Festival of Lights was so much fun, and the parade down DeMers Avenue drew such a great turnout, that it's worth noting just how successful such an event can become.

So, take this as a compliment, HollyDazzle Festival of Lights organizers. That's how it's intended.

Because if, after your maiden effort, you're already being compared to Duluth's venerable Christmas City of the North Parade, you're doing pretty darn good.

There's something bracing and invigorating and wonderful about turning out for a parade during the North Country's holiday season, which always is cold and usually features snow. The parka-clad grownups and snowsuit-wearing children and toddlers in downtown Grand Forks felt this thrill Saturday, as they happily took part in the first HollyDazzle Festival of Lights.

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The cold gives such an event an extra kick. It makes festival-goers feel as charged up as if they'd each downed two or three cups of coffee.

And in Duluth - as in New York City, home of Macy's famous Thanksgiving Day Parade - civic boosters have taken advantage of that "winter wonderland" excitement since 1958. That's the year Thanksgiving fell near the end of November, so a Duluth notable got the idea of extending the shopping season with a downtown parade on the Friday evening before the holiday.

Today, the Christmas City of the North Parade not only draws 12,000 people to downtown Duluth, but also is televised and attracts more viewers than any other locally produced event, Duluth TV stations report.

A typical Christmas City parade features 70 units. They include 13 marching bands, 22 floats and some 28 other organizations that are glad to take part.

True, while the organizations may be glad, their parade participants may have other ideas. "I have never been colder than the times I marched in the Christmas City of the North Parade with the Cherry (Minn.) High School marching band in the mid- to late-1990s," writes Aaron Brown, a Minnesota Iron Range resident who blogs at MinnesotaBrown.com.

"It's not that it's the coldest time of year. It's that it's merely a very cold time of year, and you are wearing band uniforms designed for places like Texas.

"Throughout high school, I kept the chemical hand-warming pouches in my trumpet case from each year's parade, talismans of survival and grit," Brown continues.

"My trumpet always froze so that I could only play notes in the open position, like a bugle."

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Other band members tell of how hard it is to finger keys or valves while wearing gloves, and how funny the band members look with their marching-band hats riding high over their stocking caps.

But despite those inconveniences, the Christmas City of the North Parade remains an absolute delight. It's a signature Duluth event, one that residents proudly support and take part in year after year.

Can the HollyDazzle Festival of Lights evolve into Grand Forks' version of the same?

If this year's event is any indication, the answer is yes. Grand Forks already has the unique downtown and the civic spirit, and it sure has the cold. Now it has the other key ingredient: energetic leadership.

Congratulations, Grand Forks Downtown Development Association and Leighton Broadcasting, for planning and staging such a successful and memorable event.

- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Related Topics: CHRISTMAS CITY OF THE NORTH PARADE
Opinion by Thomas Dennis
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