This weekend, thousands of people will emerge from their suburban cocoons and make the trek into the scary streets of downtown Minneapolis.
Yes, it will be freezing. Yes, they will have to pay for parking. And yes, there's a good chance they'll probably get turned around and accidentally drive by Sex World, leading to a fantastic chit chat with the kids. But even with all that drama and hassle hanging over their heads, they will still make the trip. Why? One (completely made up) word: Holidazzle.
For the past 20 years, hundreds of volunteers have strapped on their light-up costumes and shuffled down Nicollet Mall for the entertainment of the masses, creating a fun-filled holiday event for everyone.
Almost everyone, that is.
See, I used to think Holidazzle was a harmless yuletide celebration. That's why last year I agreed to participate in the parade, playing the seemingly innocent role of "yellow light bulb." Little did I know the terror I was about to experience. This is my story.
It started when I arrived at the meetup spot to suit up. I was pretty psyched during the afternoon, and was looking forward to getting naked, strapping on that giant bulb, and hitting the streets.
But as I was standing in line waiting to collect my costume, I thought to myself, "Wait; how many other dudes have gotten naked and strapped this on? Do they wash it? Will my action and the remains of some other electric holiday parade enthusiast's action come into contact?"
It was too much to handle. As a result, I chose to stay fully-clothed inside of the bulb, making that 20 minutes of waiting around sort of hot and uncomfortable. (Later on I was told that ALLEGEDLY no one gets naked inside the costumes. If true, I refuse to believe I'm the only one who has ever made that mistake. Moving on.)
Finally, it was time for the parade to begin. I tried my best to put the nudity episode out of my mind, and started to have fun again. Unfortunately, things were about to get worse.
About a block into the parade, I was waving and making dreams come true when all of a sudden I was rear-ended by a giant blue light bulb. Like an out of control Christmas kamikaze,the giant inflatable decoration slammed me, backed up, and did it again, nearly sending me crashing to the ground in the process.
I spun around to confront my assailant, but the giant costume created some huge blind spots. I turned to my right, and was struck once again. I could hear one of the parade marshals shouting, "Blue light bulb! No bumping!" But the bumping didn't stop.
Next thing I knew, I was running for my life (probably), slamming into all of the other colored bulbs in the process. The marshal was getting upset and kept shouting at me to stop, but I knew that if I did the blue bulb would strike again.
About three-quarters of the way through the parade, I stopped and looked around. My lit up assailant was nowhere to be found, and I finally thought that I was safe. I began to get into the holiday mood once again, and decided to pull some sweet moves to entertain the good folks on the parade route.
I was throwing kicks, spinning around like an electric dreidle (Holidazzle is for Jewish bros too), and generally making this the best parade performance in the history of Holidazzle. And then it came crashing down.
And by "it" I mean me.
Without warning, I face-planted into the street, unable to stop the momentum of my top-heavy costume. While I can't prove it, I believe I was struck from behind by that blue light-up guy, leading to a dangerous and chaotic situation.
As I rolled around trying to get up and salvage my street cred in the holiday parade game, I heard the five most terrifying words any inflatable character can hear: "That yellow bulb is leaking."
You want to talk about destroying a fantasy? Try watching a six-foot-tall light bulb sprint down Nicollet, while holding up his nylon costume as both parents and children alike shake their heads with disappointment.
Mercifully, the parade ended shortly after, and all of the volunteers prepared to board the bus and return their gear. As I waited in the cold, soaking in my own shame, I realized that Holidazzle is very much like figure skating: fantastic to watch, but vicious and terrifying to participate in.
I hope this serves as a cautionary tale to all future light bulbs and other Holidazzle-related characters. Watch your back, and stay clothed. Good luck.