When the Mall of America burst onto the Minnesota retailing scene in 1991, the Minneapolis Downtown Marketing Committee was in a quandary. What could be done to keep shoppers downtown, instead of flocking to the city's newest attraction? The answer was simple: Develop a new downtown tradition. Hence Holidazzle (pictured), an illuminated children's parade that runs nightly through downtown Minneapolis from the end of November to December 30.

The parade occupies 15 full-size, completely illuminated floats that use more than two hundred thousand 3.5V bulbs. The more than 100 costumes use over fifty thousand 2.5V Christmas tree lights converted from AC. Overall, the floats use over 200 six-volt deep cycle and 40 twelve-volt rechargeable batteries, while the costumes use approximately 210 twelve-volt rechargeable batteries.

The lighting of the Holidazzle parade has been handled from the beginning by Minneapolis-based LD Michael Murnane. He brought aboard engineer Jeff Bobgan to handle its numerous technical aspects, including the design of its battery and control systems. Murnane now works with a crew of 10 at Holidazzle time.

Wiring the Holidazzle parade is an exercise in basic electrics for Bobgan and Murnane. "We use regular Sylvestri Christmas lights--2.5V and 3.5V--that we convert to DC," says Murnane. "We just rewire them into little groups on the costumes and the floats. We basically series five or seven lamps together and then parallel the series." Consequently, when a lamp goes out, instead of losing potentially 35 to 100 lamps, he only loses five to seven. "You lose little groups and it's a lot easier to troubleshoot that way."

Lighting the actual costumes is a challenge. "There are many tricks to putting lights on costumes," says Murnane. "And we've done it wrong a lot," he chuckles. To make life easier all around, most of the lights on the costumes are separated from the more than 100 volunteer performers by a removable lining, which also includes a layer of non-flammable air conditioning foam for safety.

The lights on the floats can strobe and chase, and there are even several foggers that ride along on them. A new one for 1998 was a Wizard of Oz float, including a wicked witch bedecked in eerie green lights. But in the end, the float that Murnane prefers isn't the one with the most lights (the "Sounds of the Season" choir float with about 11,000 total on the float and the costumes) or even the traditional crowd pleaser, Santa and his sleigh. It's the Cinderella float, which includes Prince Charming, a giant staircase, and a clock tower. "It's the second float we originally built--we sort of figured out what we were doing when we built it and we did a nice job on it," he concludes with pride.