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‘Holidaze’ to benefit Walton Arts Center

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It’s not Thanksgiving just yet, but if you ask us, it’s never too early for a little bit of holiday cheer.

In fact, some recent news out of Northwest Arkansas has already generated quite a bit of it already this year.

That’s because the folks behind Holidaze, the kitschy-fun holiday pop-up lounge with over-the-top vintage decorations created by the owners of Maxine’s Tap Room and Leverett Lounge, recently announced plans to return to Fayetteville in an indoor-outdoor space at the Walton Arts Center Rose Garden this fall.

The pop-up project full of vintage light-up Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and thousands of holiday lights was a huge success in its debut last year when it set up in a vacant space on Center Street just off the square.

This year, the pop-up is back and will help benefit the Walton Arts Center Ghost Light Recovery Fund to help maintain facilities, sponsor programming, and support the arts center’s employees while the pandemic continues to halt Broadway and other performances.

Co-owner Hannah Withers said she wasn’t sure the holiday pop up would be able to return this year. An outdoor space was needed to increase safety for guests this year, and Withers was having a hard time finding one. They needed heaters, which are in short supply, access to restrooms, and space to spread out.

Then they got a call from the folks at Walton Arts Center.

The WAC offered up their outdoor space in the Bradberry Amphitheater and Rose Garden, with access to their Joy Pratt Markham Gallery and Sudduth Garden Room and restroom facilities, and the project suddenly became feasible again.

“We had pretty much resolved that Holidaze couldn’t happen this year because of space restrictions due to COVID-19,” Withers said. “But Walton Arts Center offered to partner and host, and it was nothing short of a holiday miracle. The gorgeous facilities with both indoor and outdoor space are sure to give us a holiday experience that we all need this year. We are excited to anchor Dickson Street with some obnoxious seasonal cheer!”

Holidaze will continue to offer themed holiday drinks, but will use compostable cups instead of vintage glassware. It’s all in the name of safety for patrons and staff, Withers said.

“We have a really solid plan about how to do this safely,” she said. “With social distancing, we’ll probably be able to fit around the same amount of people as our capacity in the small space from last year, just with a lot more room to spread out.”

There were other advantages, too. The WAC has access to outdoor heaters typically used by the Walmart AMP this time of year, and the staff and equipment to take care of the production needed for music and entertainment events.

The project will also allow the partners to employ about 15-20 hospitality workers during the holiday season, and proceeds from the venture will go to the Walton Arts Center’s Ghost Light Recovery Fund to help provide revenue for the performing arts center that is facing a full year of lost revenue due to the pandemic.

As it did last year, Holidaze will also host select fundraising nights to benefit other local non-profit organizations.

“This partnership will allow us to give back to our community again this year, which was a big part of what this project is all about,” Withers said. “We are thrilled to be able to give back to the WAC, which is really an anchor of our downtown area.

“One of the beautiful things that have come out of the challenges of this year is seeing how we can all support each other, and to see how we can all help each other stay afloat,” she said.

Holidaze will expand its non-alcoholic drink offerings this year since their outdoor space at the WAC could be more conducive to families that want to stop by before heading up to Lights of the Ozarks. They’ll also be able to take advantage of the new Outdoor Refreshment Area for to-go drinks for folks who want to park on Dickson Street and take their beverage up to the square.

As they did last year, they’ll be displaying letters to Santa written by patrons, and will take reservations for small groups under 10 people for socially-distanced family get-togethers and company Christmas parties.

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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