Ophelia Doyle and her son, Liam, 3, of Royal Oak, bounce in the giant inflatable snow globe during the Royal Oak Holiday Spectacular Dec. 16.

Ophelia Doyle and her son, Liam, 3, of Royal Oak, bounce in the giant inflatable snow globe during the Royal Oak Holiday Spectacular Dec. 16.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Holiday Spectacular replaces Royal Oak's annual parade

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 18, 2017

 Hailey Barwell, 10, and Zachary Barwell, 8, of Troy, ride the Ferris wheel during the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority’s inaugural Holiday Spectacular event Dec. 16.

Hailey Barwell, 10, and Zachary Barwell, 8, of Troy, ride the Ferris wheel during the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority’s inaugural Holiday Spectacular event Dec. 16.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 A four-story Christmas tree towers over Washington Avenue and Fifth Street at the Royal Oak Holiday Spectacular Dec. 16.

A four-story Christmas tree towers over Washington Avenue and Fifth Street at the Royal Oak Holiday Spectacular Dec. 16.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ROYAL OAK — On Saturday, Dec. 16, the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority threw its inaugural Holiday Spectacular along Washington Avenue and Fifth Street.

The event drew hundreds and featured the chance to visit Santa, a snow globe inflatable, a four-story Christmas tree, a Ferris wheel, carriage rides, live musical entertainment, refreshments and special vendors.

For the past dozen years, the city held the Holiday Magic Parade as its holiday event.

Real Detroit Events, Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection helped produce and manage the new event, which also included extended retail store hours — all businesses were open until 10 p.m., according to DDA board member and owner of Five15 Gary Baglio.

Brad and Maggie Reuter, of Royal Oak, brought their son, Sam, 2, to the event after hearing about it on Facebook.

“We’ve never been to this one,” Maggie said. “We’re probably most excited about the snow globe (inflatable attraction).”

Sisters Parie Wallace and Valine Jones, of Detroit, brought their children, Kelvyn Armstrong, 4; Eddie Armstrong 7; Vala Jones, 6; and Arnaz Jones, 10, to the holiday event. The group watched a fire performer, purchased some light-up necklaces and then got in line to take pictures with Santa Claus.

“We’re having a good time,” Wallace said. “We follow the city (on Facebook), so any event, whether it’s Arts, Beats and Eats, we’re always out here.”

She said the kids were excited to visit with Santa Claus inside Citizen Yoga.

“They’re ready to see Santa and excited to go to the snow globe,” Wallace said. “We’re having a merry Christmas. We always come up together and bring our kids so they can have the experience that we did as kids.”

At 6:30 p.m., Matt Flynn, of Ultimate Fun Productions, led the assembled crowd in a countdown from 10 to light the 40-foot tree at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Fifth Street.

He said the tree arrived in 70-something boxes, and it took a crew of eight people 2 1/2 days to assemble.

“It’s a wonderful tree,” he said. “There’s a rumor the city is looking to add more trees. Royal Oak is tree city, so it would be nice next year to have more trees.”

Baglio said he has been working for 6 years to bring the large tree to the downtown district.

“We have the city Christmas tree by City Hall, and I’ve been trying to get a holiday tree by the stores,” he said. “Tonight, (the stores) are all packed, so, in my mind, this is a huge success.”

He said the thought process in moving from a parade to a walkable holiday format was to keep people in the downtown area and give them the chance to engage in more activities and shopping.

“We wanted to engage the downtown businesses a lot more, which is part of the DDA’s mission,” DDA Downtown Manager Sean Kammer said. “We wanted to basically reinvigorate it — reinvent the holiday event in Royal Oak.”

He said the event was busy, with long lines for the attractions. In the future, he said, the DDA plans to tweak the holiday event.

“We have a lot of room to add more things. There’s definitely room for more creativity and improvement,” Kammer said. “I think having it right here on Fifth was definitely a great idea.”

He said the city received a lot of calls about the cancellation of the parade.

“Word wasn’t circulating fast that we were replacing the parade with the event,” he said. “When people heard the parade was canceled, at first, we were getting upset phone calls, but once we assured them we were replacing it with an event for the community to engage with, (it seemed better).”

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 498-1029.