Holiday Events in Waverly – A Year of Planning

Holiday Events in Waverly – A Year of Planning

By Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services

How many of you have attended a community event for a holiday? I’m guessing quite a few of you. This month, we talked to Travis Toliver, Executive Director of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce, to learn a bit more about the behind the scenes planning and preparation that takes place for their community’s holiday celebrations.

Long-Term Planning

When it comes to planning, it starts almost a year in advance. “Tiffany Schrage, our Special Events and Tourism Director, does an amazing job with scheduling and coordinating all of our events throughout the year and especially our holiday celebrations. She books Santa and his reindeer about a year out along with our trolley service for our larger holiday event, Christmas Greetings on Main. Everything else gets worked on throughout the year with most everything coming together by the end of October,” says Toliver.

Community Collaboration

One thing that sets Waverly apart from other communities is having a local college, Wartburg, with just over 1,500 students.  Wartburg has its own events as well which does bring additional traffic to Waverly throughout the season. Toliver explains, “Fortunately, our planned events revolve around Wartburg’s schedule so it works out very well for both our organizations. We partner with them on the Festival of Trees event on campus and help promote Christmas with Wartburg, which is a live telling of the Christmas story through music and spoken word featuring most of the college’s music ensembles. It’s a holiday tradition all of Waverly enjoys attending.”

Reaching Every Demographic

Waverly uses all different types of media to promote their events to reach every demographic, including local consumers and visitors as well as those out of the market area. “We use everything from newspaper ads and radio spots to our website and Facebook page to cover all mediums of exposure,” says Toliver. “Regionally we share a healthy retail market with both Cedar Falls and Waterloo and try to capitalize on that each year giving the regional consumer another option for unique holiday shopping and events.”

Obstacles, Or One in Particular

There is one thing that has the potential to affect it all – Mother Nature. “Most of our community holiday events happen outside snow or shine from Santa at his house in Kohlmann Park and his live reindeer to Christmas Greetings on Main featuring live window displays all along our main street Bremer Avenue. So because of this we are always monitoring the weather and tweaking things as we go to ensure no matter what Mother Nature throws at us, our events will be a success,” explains Toliver.

Nearby Competition

With so many large and small communities close together, I wondered if their holiday events factored into Waverly’s planning. “We don’t necessarily focus on them as much as we try to help promote them as added opportunities for people to experience during the holiday season. Our organization works in tandem with others who put on events in the region during the holidays and we are very sensitive about not overlapping on one another’s dates and types of events,” he says and concludes with, “We want folks to experience a unique event wherever and whenever they go throughout the Cedar Valley.” That mindset definitely exemplifies the holiday season spirit!

Getting Involved

For start-ups and entrepreneurs, Toliver recommends you join your local Chamber of Commerce and be proactive about getting more involved through the community and consider sponsoring annual events to help promote your business.

The Best and Worst

My last two questions focused on the overall holiday celebrations – favorite part and most difficult. Toliver’s favorite part was seeing all the kids from the area get amazed by holiday decorations, lights, music, and Santa. “Their eyes get big and their smiles and laughter make all of our hard work worthwhile. You can’t put a price on the magic which you create by doing what we do. It makes our team eager to make it even better the next year.” And on the other hand, the most difficult part for Toliver and his team? “We have none. It’s all fun with a lot of hard work thrown in. We, as a team, enjoy what we do for our community and are always looking for new ways we can enhance our holiday events to make them that much more exciting for all who attend the next year.”

So there you have it. If you’re nearby or looking for a road trip, here are the events taking place this season in Waverly.

  • Holiday Open Houses shopping event which kicks off the season on November 18

  • Festival of Trees, a partnership between Wartburg College and the chamber, from November 30 to December 15

  • Santa’s Arrival on December 3

  • Christmas Greetings on Main on December 8

  • Santa and his reindeer’s visit before heading back to the North Pole on December 17

You can check out their calendar of events and learn more about the Waverly Chamber of Commerce at

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