Annual Twin Cities holiday events go virtual amid pandemic

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In a normal year, Loring Park is bustling with activities on the day after Thanksgiving, as Holidazzle kicks off the holiday season in Minneapolis.

The pandemic has forced many time-honored traditions and events in the Twin Cities to move away from in-person gatherings and instead provide entertainment online.

"Virtually seemed to be, and certainly is the right option to go this year," said Mark Remme with the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

Organizers decided in September to forego the annual in-person events in the park and instead transform Holidazzle into a series of virtual offerings for families to enjoy throughout the month of December.

"What we wanted to do was take the elements of Holidazzle that you find in Loring Park each year, and bring them into your homes," Remme said.

The event showcase is the Holidazzle Show, a performance featuring Santa Claus, that debuts new episodes each week. The website also features shopping spotlights on local businesses and events and activities for kids, including a meet and greet with Santa via Zoom.

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While some organizations had months to plan how to make virtual events happen, others were forced to make the switch last minute, due to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the state.

The team that puts together the Excelsior Christkindismarkt had prepared for a live, socially distanced week of activities starting Saturday. But new restrictions on gatherings threatened to derail the entire event.

"We’re going to do it here in the office, in the large room in the back," said Myrle Mackenzie, who leads the group of volunteers that put the event on each year in the West Metro town. "We didn’t want to just let it die and go away."

The "Christkindismarkt Live" show will start streaming at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 28th, with an online marketplace, a Q&A with Father Christmas and other live events to follow throughout the week.

"It has so many great elements that are so special to children," Mackenzie said. "It really builds those memories that kids have and take with them about Christmas."