Light Up Night sparks to life in Downtown on Friday with a colorful array of characters -- from Santa to Sputzy, Grushecky to Gaynor, Mr. McFeely to whatever the ice-carver guy makes.
The 53rd annual celebration commences with the City-County Building tree-lighting at noon and climaxes with Zambelli Internationale and its fireworks waterfall from the Warhol Bridge.
During the evening, Macy's will unveil its "Magical" holiday windows, Fifth Avenue Place will sport ice penguins, and the PPG Rink will open for skating.
"This year's going to be a great blend of some traditional fan favorites and new activations," says Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. "We are activating Mellon Square for the very first time this year. We're going to have a dancing-in-the-streets party on Smithfield Street with '60s, '70s and '80s music, immediately following the Macy's window opening. The band will be in the cantilever playing into the street."
That's where you'll find Beatlesque band The Elliots, longtime club favorite Sputzy (who used to front Top 40 bands Gigolo and Modern Man) and Totally '80s, which will cover everything from The Clash to Wham!
That's just a few blocks away from the blues-rock party on the Clemente Bridge with Pittsburgh legends Billy Price and Joe Grushecky. If you prefer jazz, such all-stars as Etta Cox, Kenny Blake and Roger Humphries will swing at EQT Plaza.
One Oxford Centre is where the line forms for horse-drawn carriage rides, and the beautiful new Market Square will be aglow with a light show and mini-concerts every 30 minutes.
The big-name headliner is Gloria Gaynor, a Newark, N.J., native who hit the charts in 1974 with "Never Can Say Goodbye" and shot to No. 1 four years later with "I Will Survive," the first and last song to win a Grammy for best disco recording.
The festivities roll into Saturday with the opening of the second annual Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square, a winter wonderland featuring vendors housed in Alpine-style wooden chalets. It begins at 10 a.m. with an appearance by Calum Worthy ("Austin and Ally") and performances by The Greater Harmony Chorus (11:15 a.m.), Pittsburgh Area Slovak Ensemble (noon), Pittsburgh Irish Reelers (1:30 p.m.), The Rankin Junior Tamburitzans (2:30 p.m.), The Cavaliers (5 p.m.) and Autobahn (7 p.m.). The Market will be open daily through Dec. 23.
During the holiday season, there will be free parking in Pittsburgh Parking Authority parking lots on Saturdays, as well as on Black Friday (Nov. 29).
"We're expecting hundreds of thousands of people Downtown," Mr. Waldrup says. "It's such a big event for Downtown and such a large undertaking. This is made possible by a bunch of organizations -- Fifth Avenue Place, One Oxford Centre, PPG Place and Highwoods are all planning months and months out. It's a great opportunity to bring people Downtown; many of whom don't have the opportunity to get down here a lot."
He hopes visitors will find shops and restaurants they may not have known about.
"I've been here 21/2 years, and there's been about 22 new restaurants open within a couple blocks of Market Square."
For more information, go to www.downtownpittsburgh.com/holidays.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
OFFICIAL TREE-LIGHTING AND CEREMONIES
Noon: City-County Building Tree lighting.
Noon: U.S. Steel Tower dedication of the creche.
5:30 p.m.: Allegheny Courthouse Tree lighting.
5:45 p.m.: One Oxford Centre Tree lighting.
5:45 p.m.: Santa lights BNY Mellon Season of Lights.
6 p.m.: PPG Plaza Tree lighting.
6:45 p.m.: Macy's window unveiling.
7 p.m.: Highmark Unity Tree lighting with rooftop fireworks.
Countdown with Santa as he flips the giant switch to the BNY Mellon Season of Lights with more than 150,000 lights and a 30-foot-high electronic sphere tree.
Every half-hour Market Square is transformed with a glittering wonderland show synchronized with a music medley followed by a mini-concert with Jeff Jimerson and Airborne.
5 p.m.: Jeff Jimerson and Airborne Holiday Songfest.
5:45 p.m.: Countdown to 2013 Season of Lights with Santa.
6-9:30 p.m.: Season of Lights Show & Jeff Jimerson mini-concert (every half-hour).
NORTHWEST SAVINGS BANK STAGE AT MELLON SQUARE
Three blocks of Smithfield Street are closed for a dance party with lasers and bubble machines and music to get you moving. Up the steps, the newly renovated Mellon Square is transformed into a bistro with a tasty selection of hot food.
7 p.m.: The Elliotts ('60s).
8 p.m.: Sputzy ('70s).
9 p.m.: Totally '80s ('80s).
EQT JAZZMASTERS STAGE AT EQT PLAZA
5-9:15 p.m.: Roger Humphries and RH Factor.
5 p.m.: Etta Cox and Al Dowe.
6:30 p.m.: Michele Bensen and Kenny Blake.
8 p.m.: Spanky Wilson.
CLEMENTE BRIDGE PARTY
5 p.m.: Women of the Blues.
6:30 p.m.: The Billy Price Band.
8 p.m.: Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers.
9:38 p.m.: BNY Mellon Fireworks Finale -- Launched from the Warhol Bridge, Zambelli Internationale display will include the signature Niagara Falls of fireworks, all synchronized to a live broadcast on 3WS (94.5 FM).
FIFTH AVENUE PLACE
Join Mr. McFeely, bagpipers and a splash of fireworks to kick off the official lighting of the historic Unity Tree, presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Shops, Food Court and Caffe Amante will be open until 9 p.m. with many eateries open later.
5-9 p.m.: Fifth Avenue Freeze & Festivities: Life-size ice carvings of Santa, penguins and snowmen. Create your own luminary with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, play Arctic games and get commemorative airbrush tattoos.
4:30-6:30 p.m.: Roger Barbour Jazz Quartet.
7 p.m.: Highmark Unity Tree lighting with rooftop fireworks, corner of Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street.
7-9 p.m.: Max Leake Trio.
4 p.m.: Light Up Night Pre-Party, juniors department, 5th floor. Join Macy's for sips and sweets, a live DJ and more.
6-7 p.m.: Holiday window unveiling and Gloria Gaynor in concert, Smithfield Street stage. Plus performances by Pittsburgh CAPA students and singer Alyssa Bernal. The lineup includes Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, children of Make-A-Wish Foundation and Santa Claus.
ONE OXFORD CENTRE
5:30-9 p.m.: The Rick Gallagher Trio.
5:45 p.m.: Annual tree lighting and Santa's arrival: Official lighting of One Oxford Centre's 30-foot Christmas tree. Santa will be on hand.
6-9 p.m.: Free horse-drawn carriage rides: Take a ride around the block. Pickup will be on Fourth Avenue. (Last ride at 8:45 p.m.)
6-9 p.m.: Santa's reindeer greet you in the outdoor plaza. Free indoor activities for children, such as face painting, balloon art, sand art and caricatures. Experience "Pittsburgh Memories," an exhibit of historic photos celebrating Pittsburgh during the winter season (level one).
PPG PLACE & ICE RINK
Rink is open until midnight and Magic Ice USA is donating $1 of each skate admission to the American Cancer Society.
4:45-5 p.m.: Robert Morris University Island Sports figure skating will kick off the holiday season with an on-ice interpretation of "Polar Express."
5-5:45 p.m.: CLO Mini-Stars.
5:30-6 p.m.: American Cancer Society's Tribute of Light/Plaza tree lighting. The Plaza will glow as more than 300 people carry hand-held Tribute of Light memorials, dedicated to someone touched by cancer.
5-8:30 p.m.: Brigid's Cross: Dine in the PPG food court and enjoy music from this duo with humor and audience participation.
POINT STATE PARK
5 p.m.: CBS RADIO Pittsburgh and Duquesne Light present the 15th Santa Spectacular with a Restaurant Row, Get Go Warm Up Tent, "American Idol" semi-finalist Adam Brock, singer Lucy Hale and Santa.