As Hollydays turns 30 this year, it seems history is repeating itself.
In 1984 when the Junior League of Baton Rouge launched the holiday shopping event, Chairwoman Nell McAnelly was about to give birth. Fast forward to this year’s market and, once again, the chairwoman is pregnant. Fortunately, Jessica Gagliano isn’t due until December. Thirty years ago, McAnelly gave birth to daughter Megan the day after Hollydays closed.
Working mothers putting on a huge holiday market, which is akin to running a small business for a year, is nothing new for the Junior League.
“There are 50 League members on the Hollydays committee,” says Gagliano. “Ninety percent of them work full time. There are 36 kids and 24 babies among them. It’s nice to know we can still get it done.”
And, she and her committee have been very busy getting it all done in time to open Hollydays at the River Center Exhibition Hall with a 30th anniversary gala at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
While some planning started as soon as last year’s Hollydays wrapped up, committees began working in earnest in January on what is the largest fundraiser for the Junior League.
Over the past 30 years, through its Hollydays’ earnings, the League has put $6 million back into the community through such projects as Capable Arts, a one-week summer arts camp for children with special needs; the Cinderella Project, which provided prom dresses to high school students who might otherwise be able to attend their prom; FestForAll’s Children’s Village; Knock Knock Children’s Museum; Storytime; TLC for Caregivers, which involves providing social and networking events for caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients; as HOPE Ministrie; the LSU AgCenter; Athlete in All of Us, which assists the Louisiana Senior Olympics and the Baton Rouge Wheelchair Tennis Association; Amber Alert; Youth Unite; and the Autism Speakers Series.
“Our newest project is working with Thrive Baton Rouge, a charter school for at-risk students started by League member Sarah Broome,” says Hollydays chairwoman-elect Elizabeth Laborde.
She and Gagliano, while extremely excited about continuing the League’s legacy of raising money for community projects, are also quick to point out that this is not your momma’s Hollydays.
Of course, there will be plenty of shopping throughout the aisles of the market, but there’s also cutting-edge technology the League is introducing for its auction.
“It’s called Bid Pal, and we’re the first in Baton Rouge to use it,” explains Laborde. “It lets you bid from your iPhone or iPhone-like device. It will notify you when someone else bids on the item you’re bidding on in the silent auction. You can also place a maximum bid and buy the item outright, kind of like eBay. So, you can party, shop and eat while you’re bidding.”
Bid Pal isn’t the only thing new to this year’s Hollydays.
For the first time, there will be a “Girls Night Out” set for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s a mother-daughter, all-age kind of thing,” says Laborde. “It’s also our most limited event, with only 100 tickets available.”
The night of female bonding will have Bleaux & Go doing braids, ponytails and other “fun hairdos” and Glo Beauty Bar doing makeup.
“It’s a night of pampering, complete with a goodie bag,” says Gagliano.
Returning favorites include Preferred Shopping hours on Thursday, and Sullivan’s Wine Tasting on Friday, and Breakfast with Santa on Saturday.
“Sullivan’s Friday night event has become a Hollydays classic,” says Laborde. “They go all out for it. It’s our merchants’ favorite events. They love our events, especially when we keep it all center court near the shopping so they can be a part of the excitement.”
Speaking of merchants, this year’s Hollydays features 30 new merchants and lots of returning favorites, including two merchants from the original Hollydays market, says Laborde.
“We’re really trying to focus on the shopping this year,” she continues. “One of our new vendors, Presner, was recently featured in Vogue. We have something for every budget — some really high-end items and some great teacher gift items and stocking stuffers.”