SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The annual Sioux Falls Parade of Lights is a downtown spectacle that draws thousands to the City of Sioux Falls each year. With the influx of people, so too comes an influx of business for those along the parade route.
Based on the assessment of Joe Batcheller, President of Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. (DTSF), this was a nice year for the parade.
“We had 69 floats in total,” he said. “That includes all the people that were walking; the people-warmers, as we like to call them. Those are the ballooners that set up and are launching their flamethrowers up into the air, warming up the crowd.”
Batcheller calls the parade an ‘enchanting experience,’ and says it’s one that drew a lot of people out to watch this year. “Our record that we have [before this year] was in 2018 — we saw about 42,000 people.”
He says that the weather definitely played a role in the record attendance in 2018. The following year, (2019) the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. It went from about 40 to about 20 and we had freezing rain, and that cut our numbers in half,” said Batcheller.
With the nice weather seen lately in Sioux Falls, Batcheller says this year should add up to be a record breaker too. “We’re gonna see that number spike quite a bit,” he said.
Official numbers haven’t been provided yet to DTSF by the Sioux Falls police, who estimate crowd size based on the depth of the crowd along each block, but Batcheller says they’ve got an idea of what to expect.
“We think that it is definitely an increase, and believe that it’s probably going to come in around 45,000 — we’re still waiting to hear,” said Batcheller.
One thing DTSF does know for sure is that the parade means business. “When we see those kinds of numbers for Parade of Lights, usually that translates into good numbers the following day for Small Business Saturday,” Batcheller said.
Those good numbers the following day came through this year, says Batcheller, who says the feedback from DTSF businesses “was that it was outstanding.”
Overall, Batcheller says small business shopping has improved since last year. “I think that we’ve seen this collective shift in attitude with how we can responsibly gather, and I think people have gotten more comfortable with shopping downtown,” he said.
The main difference, according to Batcheller, is that the pandemic has taught shoppers not to take local businesses for granted. “Last year really put a point on the idea that local businesses matter,” he said. “We saw some really good support during the Christmas shopping season last year, and that has really grown throughout 2021.”
In addressing the future of the Parade of Lights and the accompanying business boosts, we first looked back to where it began.
“The parade started in 1991,” said Batcheller. “Since we didn’t have it last year, this was the 29th annual parade — so it’s been around for quite a while. It’s become kind of a downtown institution.”
Looking back over the years, Batcheller says the aspect in which the parade has grown the most is in the effort given.
“When the parade first started out, you would see a wide variety of floats… I mean in terms of quality,” grinned Batcheller. “I think the people who came out this past Friday saw a lot of the floats that were in the parade were really good floats. People put a lot of time and energy into them — the quality has really increased over the years.”
Batcheller could not provide us with an answer as to which of this years floats was his favorite, but says that he enjoys seeing the drum-lines pass through, as well as the motorcycles, both of which he says help pump up the crowd. “I really like the ones that really try to create a scene,” he said.”
Looking forth to the future, Batcheller is hopeful for continued growth. “If we can just increase the quality of the floats — we’ve seen sort of what the ideal is with like the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade — that’s a very unique event. You’ve got other parades around the country like the Parade of Roses leading up to the Rose Bowl, and I would love it if the Parade of Lights could become something iconic like that.”
Batcheller says he thinks the parade has become iconic, at least on a regional level, and says it’s just a matter of bringing forth the best ideas and engaging the community to continue growing the parade.
While the Parade of Lights may have some distance to go before reaching the ranks of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade, its impact is felt strongly along the shop fronts of downtown Sioux Falls.