While planning for the 2020 Holiday events in spring 2020, our community was hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic would have run its course by November. We were greatly mistaken. As positive COVID-19 cases increased throughout the summer, the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, leaning heavily on Kalamazoo County Health Department guidelines, determined that it was not safe to proceed with the 2020 Kalamazoo Holiday Parade or the Holly Jolly Trolley.
With the cancellation of two well-attended holiday events, we understood that it was critical to the ongoing economic recovery of our downtown businesses to offer other safe opportunities that would attract visitors to downtown Kalamazoo. With the help of several partners, including the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the City of Kalamazoo, the Radisson Plaza Hotel, Consumers Energy and Meijer, we successfully offered 17 days of 2020 holiday programming.
“Santa Sightings” offered outdoor, safe visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Black Santa returned with increased program hours, and Black Mrs. Claus made her debut! Seven businesses partnered to help distribute two-thousand Santa Letter Kits to downtown visitors, giving them a variety of activities for children to do at home. Plus, Santa mailboxes were placed throughout downtown, encouraging repeat visits.
Twenty block faces were decorated with holiday tree lights, and a new 12-foot wreath offered photo ops. An outdoor holiday market, offered every Saturday in December, hosted 51 vendors, of which 91 percent were minority- or woman-owned. Businesses reported that 2020 sales were equal to or higher than the 2019 holiday season.
For more information, visit www.downtownkalamazoo.org