What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘Winter Wonderland’? Chestnuts roasting by an open fire? Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Well, Extraco Events Center is bringing a whole new meaning to Winter Wonderland with their new event, North Pole Palooza.
North Pole Palooza, located in the Extraco Coliseum, is Waco’s chilliest holiday experience. This event features numerous family-friendly activities, vendors and food trucks for all of Waco to enjoy. The event is the brainchild of Melinda Adams, senior division manager of marketing and sponsorships at Extraco Events Center, and other event center staff. The idea came to them after they traveled across the country and visited different winter attractions.
“We had gone to a conference in Las Vegas last year and we went to an ice bar while we were there and that’s when the gears started turning,” Adams said. “We were like, ‘Wow. This would be really cool if we could bring something like this to Waco.’ And so the ideas started flowing and then a couple months later we went to the Christmas experience at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas and that’s when we started talking about it pretty realistically.”
After deciding to take the plunge, Adams and other staff started their months-long planning process in March of 2023 and worked around their busy Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo schedule. After the rodeo ended, Extraco events staff made a quick turnaround to get everything together.
“As soon as it was over, we flipped the room overnight and took out everything,” Adams said. “It took about a week for us to get all of the ice rink in there and have that filled with ice and groomed, then we had all of the decor hung and the lighting trusses, and then we had all of the vendors moving in.”
The planning and hard work of the staff quickly paid off, resulting in Waco’s very own North Pole experience. When attendees first walk into the Coliseum, they’ll be met with Christmas music, winter lights and Santa’s throne, where he’ll listen to Christmas wishes and take pictures. A snow playground rests nearby so that kids of all ages will have the chance to create snowmen or battle it out in a snowball fight. There are plenty of opportunities for photo ops, including the 32-foot Christmas tree or the life-sized snow globe. Further into the building is North Pole Palooza’s main event — the ice skating rink.
“Our main attraction in the room is going to be the ice skating rink,” Adams said. “It’s got real ice, something that we have not had in Waco in a really, really long time.”
Local food and business vendors are scattered throughout the Christmas Market at North Pole Palooza. From food vendors such as Quesadilla factory to local artisans, new vendors are set to come each weekend. Alongside that, numerous Waco businesses played a role in sponsoring and furnishing North Pole Palooza, such as Alan Samuels, Waco Carpet Company, Epic Party Productions, Enviro-Serv and many more.
“Local sponsorships played a huge role in helping out with this event,” Adams noted. “We tried to use as many local businesses as we could.”
Even though North Pole Palooza has so much to offer, Adams and the events staff hope to expand in the future and bring more activities to the event.
“With a first-year event you’re always limited with budget until it grows,” Adams said. “We hope to eventually grow it to where it could even potentially be a ground-wide event. We’d love to be able to offer more for the older kids and maybe do some rides in the future. We want to see what we can do and what makes the most sense for our community.”
This event will run until December 17. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit the North Pole Palooza website today.