— The sounds and sights of the holidays are only a few short days away, as Willmar is set to kick off the season with its annual
. The afternoon of Nov. 18 in downtown Willmar will be filled with family-friendly activities and events to get everyone in the holiday mood.
The fun starts at 2:30 p.m. at
The Barn Theatre
, which is hosting a free screening of the fan-favorite "The Muppet Christmas Carol." Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and friends fill the roles of many of the Charles Dickens characters, and Michael Caine stars in the role of Mr. Scrooge.
Radio station Q102 will be handing out free hot chocolate and cookies starting at 4 p.m. in Selvig Park while supplies last. Visitors can then head back to the Barn Theatre and the Lakeland Building for activities and crafts from 4 to 6 p.m. There will also be the annual Gingerbread House and Festival of Trees display at the Barn Theatre, open to the public for viewing.
Along Fourth Street Southwest, attendees will be able to get up close with various public works and service vehicles during the Touch a Truck exhibit, from 4 to 6 p.m.
And one can't forget the all-important visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The famous couple will be visiting from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Goodness Coffee Shop. They will be available for pictures.
The Barn Theatre is also acting as a drop-off site for the annual Toys for Tots toy drive. Unwrapped toys and gifts can be dropped off at the theater from 2 to 7 p.m. The nonprofit provides holiday gifts to children in need from
The grand finale of the evening is the Holidaze Lighted Parade. Floats from various businesses, groups and organizations will be draped in holiday finery, including Christmas lights, to officially usher in the 2023 holiday season. Santa and Mrs. Claus will close the parade on the last float.
The parade begins at 6:30 p.m. starting at the corner of Fifth Street and Becker Avenue Southwest. The parade route heads north on Fifth Street, turns east on Litchfield Avenue and then turns south on Fourth Street. The parade comes to an end at the intersection of Becker and Fourth Street.
Before heading home, First Presbyterian Church invites visitors in for one last cup of hot chocolate and a few cookies following the parade.
Holidaze has opened the holiday season in Willmar for many years. It was originally started by the West Central Tribune and local radio stations in 2002 before being taken over by
Willmar Downtown Development in 2006
. Willmar Fests took over
the celebration in 2017