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Kalamazoo Holiday Parade, Santa's Workshop and Holly Jolly Trolley to return to downtown

A banner from the 2018 Kalamazoo Holiday Parade invites people to celebrate the holidays in downtown Kalamazoo. (WWMT/File){p}{/p}
A banner from the 2018 Kalamazoo Holiday Parade invites people to celebrate the holidays in downtown Kalamazoo. (WWMT/File)

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The Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership and Maple Hill Auto Group announced the return of the holiday parade after the 2021 event was called into doubt over concerns about COVID-19.

The 59th Kalamazoo Holiday Parade is now planned for November and is expected to kick-off Small Business Saturday weekend between Nov. 26-28. Other events to return are Santa’s Workshop, Holly Jolly Trolley, the window decorating contest and the Downtown Dollars incentive program.

Maple Hill Auto Group will be in charge of planning and managing the parade, which was previously put on by the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership. The partnership said it would be focused on the other downtown events.

“We are grateful for Maple Hill Auto Group’s 23-year tenure as the parade’s sponsor and believe its longtime support of this event makes this transition a natural fit,” said Andrew Haan, President of the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership.

The announcement comes nearly a month after multiple downtown businesses were told the parade could be canceled in 2021. The 2020 parade was canceled due to the pandemic.

Haan said solidifying plans ahead of the 2021 event was complicated.

"Well, it’s always important to have context around stuff like that and this has been an ever-changing year with us, with our planning and certainly we had considered that it might not be possible to do the parade and had considered contingencies and think this is really a win for the community to be able to find a way to continue doing this," Haan said.

The switch in production to Maple Hill Auto Group, a longtime sponsor of the event, was lauded by Jim VandenBerg, Maple Hill's owner and general manager.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue the holiday parade as a not-for-profit event. We felt it was the next natural step for us to grow into a larger role for the parade,” VandenBerg said. “It’s our mission to preserve the core of the Kalamazoo community."

Vandenberg said taking over the parade has nothing to do with Maple Hill Auto Group and everything to do with supporting the city's downtown.

"We want to do more for the downtown merchants, we want to do more for the sponsors of the parade. We’re going to not just put our dollars and cents in there, we are going to put the advertising dollars behind it. We want to put tens of thousands of dollars into promoting downtown Kalamazoo," he said.

The Santa’s Workshop, put on by the partnership, will return after Thanksgiving and offer a letter writing workshop for kids that funnels Christmas lists directly to jolly old Saint Nick.

The Holly Jolly Trolley will also make a comeback, offering free rides with stops at several downtown locations.

Downtown businesses will compete in a window decorating contest. Shoppers and spectators will vote for a winner by scanning a QR code on their smartphones.

The Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership said it also re-invested in the Downtown Dollars program, which will allow people to purchase certificates in $5, $10, and $20 that can be used at participating downtown businesses.

“Downtown businesses are vital to our community’s success, and we believe our enhanced holiday programming will continue to bring increased exposure to downtown restaurants, shops and businesses. It also will help make the holidays even brighter for those who live, work and visit downtown – and for those who call the Kalamazoo community home,” Haan said.

Maple Hill Auto Group also announced they will make a donation to any charity that signs up to enter a float in the 2021 parade.

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To get involved in the parade or enter a float, you are asked to contact Abby VandenBerg with Maple Hill Auto Group.

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