Christmas trees are up, lights are twinkling and Mariah Carey has risen from her slumber — this is by far the greatest time of year. Some might say that I’m obsessed with Christmas, and they would be correct. I decorate my house almost the second that Halloween ends because an extra month of tinsel and bells is good for the soul. The holiday season always brings together friends, families and communities, and after the past couple of years, reconnecting with people is a breath of fresh air. The perfect way to “mix and mingle in the jingling beat” is to attend the many holiday events happening all around the state.
I recently attended an event that knocked my stockings off, and lucky for all of you this event is around for the entire Christmas season. Holidaze in Fayetteville features two Christmas pop-ups, Naughty on Block and Nice at the Walton Arts Center, with custom drinks, snacks and incredible decorations to get you in the holiday spirit and bring back that sense of child-like excitement for the season.
Hannah Withers and Ben Gitchel of Maxine’s Tap Room, along with Richard Gathright and Cjay Crespo, are the masterminds behind this year’s Holidaze.
“This started as sort of a brainchild with my husband and I,” Hannah says. “Richard, who is the director of NWA Equality, sort of showed up the first year as a volunteer because his organization was a nonprofit receiving proceeds from Holidaze. I think Richard volunteered so much that by the end of the season we invited him to be a part of our second year. Last year, during COVID-19, Holidaze was at the Walton Arts Center, and this year we’ve added Richard’s boyfriend, Cjay, as our fourth partner. I am so glad that we have four people because getting these two locations looking festive and fun is a lot from the little details to pulling items out of storage, and we definitely have a team of people at both locations that are pretty amazing.”
The four Holidaze elves and their team of workers have created an incredible space to hang out with your family and friends.
“[Naughty and Nice] both have unique cocktail menus, and they both look fantastic. The decorations off that holiday zones of split between both those locations. It’s been awesome to work with the folks at the Walton Arts Center for Nice, and Naughty has also been a really exciting project for Richard and Cjay to work in this beautiful historic building on Block Avenue,” Hannah says.
“Ozark Cleaners were my drycleaners for twenty years before they closed, so I’m excited to see the building being used once again,” Richard adds. “It’s beautiful. It has the 20-foot ceilings, big windows and it’s just a stunning building.”
However you want your night to go, start at Nice and work your way over to Naughty or vice versa, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Nice is open for all ages, so it’s the perfect place to bring the whole family out and rent a snow globe to sit in. You read that right, a snow globe. Truly an unforgettable experience, these are large domes with fire pits inside that can be reserved for parties of six to 10 people. If you want to hang out but have an even larger party, heated tents are also available for reservations. Of course, you can also just pop into the bar to check out the specialty cocktails and warm beverages, and let me tell you, if Christmas were a liquid it would be those cocktails.
“I really do love the outdoor area of the Rose Garden at the Walton Arts Center,” Hannah says. “The decorations in the garden, especially the lights, are really magical and twinkly, and the fire pits that are underneath the domes are so unique. That aesthetic is just super festive.”
Naughty, in contrast, is for adults only. Ages 21 and up can come to Naughty looking for a more mature environment. Coming up on the Naughty agenda is a burlesque show from Radiant Rubesque Productions, Holidazzle Drag Show and more. Like Nice, Naughty has its own special cocktail menu, so I recommend going to both to try out all the mixes the team of Holidaze has come up with.
With every drink purchase at Holidaze, a percentage of the proceeds will go toward three organizations in the community.
“Giving back to our community is really important to us, and there are a lot of people that come through Holidaze that have no idea that it is for a good cause,” Hannah says. “Walton Arts Center is giving a percentage of their sales to the Walton Arts Center education program. Twenty-five percent of Holidaze sales will be split between three nonprofit organizations: NWA Equality, Fayetteville Independent Restaurant Alliance and Washington County Children’s Safety Center.”
This is the season of giving, so what a bonus it is to not only have a fantastic night in holiday wonderland, but to also help others in the process.
There is so much to fall in love with at Holidaze. The vintage decorations, the drinks, the philanthropy — you need to experience this.
“Seeing the joy on people’s faces when they walk through the door is definitely my favorite part of Holidaze,” Richard says. “We didn’t really get to see that last year, all we got to see was their eyes because everybody was masked up, but this year, you can really see the expression on people’s faces when they walk in and see the decorations. You know you’re doing something right when an immediate reaction is a smile.”
Sometimes we adults forget to slow down and appreciate the little moments. Being at Holidaze with my loved ones sitting around the fire pit drinking and laughing reminded me how important it is to make memories like this. How important it is to take in as much as you can. That excitement you felt as a child and the awe you felt around Christmas time should never be lost. Merry Christmas, everyone.
Find your tickets for Holidaze and the calendar of events here.
READ MORE: Arkansas Christmas Event Calendar 2021