Tuscaloosa holiday event will make Government Plaza its permanent home

After the successful receipt of its temporary move, city officials said Holidays on the Plaza would remain in the plaza.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said community response and participation in its annual winter-themed event prompted the city to keep the skating rink and associated activities at Government Plaza.

“I don’t see a situation where he won’t come back to Government Plaza. It was a hit,” Maddox said. “It makes me really proud of the city to put on an event like this and see it succeed.”

Following:‘Like a Hallmark movie’: Tuscaloosa’s plaza vacation is popular

Vacation on the River, as it was originally called, began along the property of the Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in 2012, the year after an EF-4 tornado ripped through a path of destruction from 5.9 miles through Tuscaloosa, as a way to foster community hope and goodwill during the holiday season.

With its growing popularity, it was moved in 2015 to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

Tuscaloosa City officials have decided to move the event again for the 2021-22 season from the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater to Government Plaza due to ongoing construction on Jack Warner Parkway directly across from the entrance to the ‘amphitheater.

The Plaza Holidays began with crowds filling Government Plaza to view the Christmas trees on the Tinsel Trail on Monday, November 22, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

But what was initially seen as a temporary move will now become permanent, depending on public response.

Through December 31, there had been a 121% increase in the number of skaters this season compared to the same period during the event’s last full season in 2019-20.

The 2020-21 River Vacation was attempted but ultimately canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

After it opened on Nov. 22, 2021, which featured decorated trees for the Tinsel Trail, the annual fundraiser for Tuscaloosa’s One Place, visitors and attendees compared it to a stage out of Hollywood.

Ashley Hester, communications director for One Place in Tuscaloosa, said the organization was initially concerned about moving the Tinsel Trail to Government Plaza for the ninth annual fundraiser.

But, like most others, the move turned out to be an unexpected benefit for the family resource center.

“We had no idea how successful this move would be for Tinsel Trail,” Hester said. “Visitors and sponsors were overwhelmingly in favor of the move, with many noting that downtown Tuscaloosa looked like a scene from a Christmas movie.

“The Tinsel Trail’s central location has allowed more people than ever to access and enjoy the Trail.”

City officials agreed.

“I’ve heard nothing but praise for both events this year from downtown citizens, visitors and business owners,” said Stacy Vaughn, the city’s director of public services, which oversees and handles the event. “Overall, I think the combination of the two was magical and made downtown Tuscaloosa look like something out of a Hallmark movie.”

Ice skaters circle the ice rink at Government Plaza on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Ice skating in the square is still available until Monday. For the final day — Martin Luther King Jr.’s vacation — one-day skate passes will cost $10, compared to the average $15.

“It was a great deal and they did a great job,” Councilman Lee Busby said. “And just watching all the families walking around and hearing the numbers is fantastic.”

For more information, visit www.holidaysontheplaza.com/

Contact Jason Morton at [email protected].

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