Students dazzle at holiday parade

University students make extra cash by working at the TCF Holidazzle parade.

Daniel Groth

As lights, floats and music liven up downtown Minneapolis this month for the annual TCF Holidazzle Parade, University students are getting in on the festivities.

The parade, which runs Wednesday through Friday nights until Dec. 23 along Nicollet Mall, features floats decked in holiday lights, music and costumed characters.

This year’s parade also showcases 22 choirs and nine marching bands, including the University of Minnesota Marching Band and Alumni Band.

Some students line the streets with children and families to watch the parade, while others use the event to make some extra holiday cash.

Mallory Marshall, a global studies and Spanish sophomore, spends eight hours each week selling light-up toys along the parade route.

“Going to work really puts me in a good mood, because you’re surrounded by Christmas music and the cutest kids ever,” Marshall said. “The kids are just smiling and waving at you and you get to give them toys and they love you for it.”

Marshall said she had never seen a parade before working at this year’s Holidazzle.

“My father hated parades and never took us as kids,” she said. “So the first time I worked, I was just excited to see what parades are all about.”

Marshall said she learned about the job through her roommate, Mallory O’Neil, a nursing sophomore, who also sells light-up toys to parade-goers. O’Neil has worked at Holidazzle for two years to “pick up some extra holiday cash.”

“I really like walking down the block and seeing all the kids tugging on their parents’ sleeves when they see me,” O’Neil said. “Almost all the parents are shaking their heads and just hoping I walk past them so their kids don’t start crying.”

She said the job allows her to get her mind off of finals for a while.

“It’s just fun because everyone’s always so happy there,” O’Neil said. “Plus we get to wear elf hats; they’re green, with little lit-up red balls on the ends. It’s a pretty dignified job.”

Costume aside, she said her work isn’t all fun and games.

“It gets freezing out there sometimes,” she said. “Walking around in the cold is the worst part.”

But Marshall said the “cold shoulder” can be worse than the cold.

“Some people are really ecstatic about seeing you, but others don’t want anything to do with you,” she said.

To get in the holiday spirit, first-year management student Karin Anderson attended the parade Saturday evening.

“There’s not a lot of Christmas stuff on campus, so it’s great to come out here and get in the spirit,” she said.

Anderson and her friends did Santa Claus impressions as St. Nick himself passed by, then chanted “Spin, spin, spin!” to the twirling Nutcracker, who indulged their request.

When Captain Hook’s float passed, one of Anderson’s friends shouted, “He’s not a Christmas character!”

Microbiology senior Traci Armstrong, who once played a mouse in the parade as a child, said she thought this year’s parade was “boring.”

“The timing sucked; there was way too much time in between floats,” she said. “And the floats weren’t as cool as they’re presented to be.”

Armstrong attended the parade for a date party, and said the guys in her group wanted “to leave and go to the bars.”

One of her friends also fell into the street during the parade and almost got run over by a twirling snowman, she said.

“Thankfully, the snowman’s quick 360-degree mobility saved his life,” Armstrong said.