Did someone say there's a "War on Christmas"?
Not in Pittsburgh, there isn't, as Light Up Night, complete with Santa Claus, is one of the biggest events of the year.
The 52nd annual Light Up Night, or should we say Light Up Weekend, kicks off Friday with festivities across Downtown, from tree-lighting ceremonies to the unveiling of the Macy's holiday windows to live performances, including a quick set from funk stars Kool and the Gang.
"The thing that makes Light Up Night so special is that we are truly a holiday and Christmas fanatical market," says Ida D'Errico, event producer for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. "I think we love it more than any other city you could travel to in the United States. Light Up Night is not just about lighting the trees we do ceremoniously. It is a marketing catalyst for Downtown, so it really is programmed in such a way that it causes the over half-million people who visit to move around the Golden Triangle and see all that we have to offer."
Revelers can enjoy the Nativity creche at U.S. Steel Tower, ice skating in PPG Place, fireworks launched from the Andy Warhol Bridge, the Bottom Dollar Food Sounds of the Season parade (5 p.m. Saturday), and musical performances, featuring Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, No Bad JuJu and more, that will take place in Market Square and on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. A new venue in EQT Plaza will feature the all-stars of Pittsburgh jazz.
"I often get calls from other cities inquiring, 'How do you attract over a half-million people on a single night? What national acts do you book?' " says Ms. D'Errico. "And when I say, 'None, they're all Pittsburgh,' they're all speechless, seriously. And then they will say 'How do you light your tree?' And I will say 'Trees. We light five trees, something every 15 minutes or half hour.' "
This year's event does add Kool and the Gang, the Jersey funk band known for such hits as "Celebration," "Cherish" and "Ladies Night," to the Macy's lineup.
The Macy's windows are themed to "The Magic of Christmas," touching on Macy's seasonal traditions as well as local Pittsburgh iconic landmarks and architecture. The Franklin Regional Marching band kicks off the festivities at 6 p.m., and there also will be appearances by gospel singer/songwriter Travis Malloy, pop artists For the Foxes and Jasmine V, and Steelers Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Mundy.
The 14th Santa Spectacular show will take place at Point State Park at 5 p.m. and will include Santa with his fireballs, a new lighting installation by Duquesne Light, decorating the city side of the park with 12 LED "Ice Trees" and approximately 30 large snowflakes. Also featured will be teen star Greyson Chance and a laser display of Eat'n Park's Christmas Star commercial celebrating 30 years.
One of the biggest attractions of the holiday season will arrive a week later when a European-style market debuts in Market Square.
For four weeks, Market Square will be transformed into a winter wonderland featuring vendors housed in Alpine-style wooden chalets, musical performances and a house for Santa Claus with a bay window, ice-capped chimney and a candy cane entryway.
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership borrowed the concept from the centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, and Chicago's Christkindlmarket. Vendors such as Ivana's Igloo, The Glass Haus, Alpine Heritage and Old German Christmas will sell merchandise including jewelry, purses, decorative candle pins, soaps, Austrian Nativity scenes, Polish ceramics, hand-painted eggs, wooden toys and scarves from Turkey, Russia and Austria.
"We have an authentic German artist coming from Germany whose family has five decades of handblown glass artists," says Ms. D'Errico. "We have ornaments coming from Switzerland, Faberge pendant eggs from Russia, Polish pottery, a wide variety of imported items, as well as some local and regional folks we're quite familiar with, like Linda Barnicott, with some of her great paintings. It will be an opportunity for people to purchase items you wouldn't normally find in Downtown Pittsburgh and might have to travel to Europe to acquire or order online."
The 576-square-foot Santa's house is being designed by Desmone and Associates architectural firm and will have three doors, including "child-size" and "Santa-size," presumably for the bigger kids among us.
The Peoples Gas Holiday Market Downtown will kick off at noon Nov. 24 with a ribbon cutting and fireworks, and run through Dec. 23. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Families can visit with Santa, and photos with the jolly fellow will be available for donations of cash or nonperishable food items to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
OFFICIAL TREE LIGHTING CEREMONIES
Noon: City-County Building Tree Lighting by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
Noon: U.S. Steel Tower Dedication of the Creche
5:30 p.m.: Allegheny County Courthouse Lighting by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
5:45 p.m.: One Oxford Centre Tree Lighting
6 p.m.: PPG Plaza American Cancer Society Tribute of Light Tree Lighting
6:15 p.m.: Macy's Windows Unveiling
7 p.m.: Highmark Unity Tree Lighting with Rooftop Fireworks
7:15 p.m.: Market Square Season of Lights Lighting by Santa Claus
NORTHWEST SAVINGS BANK STAGE: MARKET SQUARE
5 p.m.: Johnny Angel and The Halos
7:45 p.m.: Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers
Noon: No Bad JuJu
1:45 p.m.: Vanessa Campagna
3:30 p.m.: The Granati Brothers
6 p.m.: Totally 80s
7 p.m.: BOB FM Holiday Wedding
7:30 p.m.: Jeff Jimerson and Airborne
EQT JAZZMASTERS STAGE AT EQT PLAZA
5 p.m.: Al Dowe & Etta Cox Trio
6:30 p.m.: Kenny Blake Quartet
8 p.m.: Roger Humphries Quintet
BRIDGE PARTY (CLEMENTE BRIDGE)
5 p.m.: The Stickers
6:30 p.m.: The Billy Price Band
8 p.m.: No Bad JuJu
9:38 p.m.: Fireworks, Warhol Bridge
Free Holly Trolley
Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Hosted by Santa's little helpers, the Free Holly Trolleys circle Downtown each weekend and pick up at stops approximately every 15 minutes.
FIFTH AVENUE PLACE
5-9 p.m.: Fifth Avenue Freeze: Life-sized carvings of Santa and Rudolph bring a chill to the air with their glistening-icy coats. Get up close and snap photos with Ice Angels, Penguins, Elves and more. Enjoy live ice carving shows while kids test their skills at Arctic games. Also, catch up with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and create your own personalized "Ice Painting." Snap photos with the holiday costumed character "Frosty" and celebrate with a commemorative Airbrush Tattoo.
4:30--6:30 p.m.: The Roger Barbour Jazz Quartet
7--9 p.m.: The Max Leake Trio
7--7:15 p.m., Unity Tree Lighting: Corner of Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street. Join one of Pittsburgh's best-known neighbors and the world's most beloved mailman, Mr. McFeely, along with thousands of Pittsburghers for a majestic drum line countdown by the Pittsburgh Steeline and a splash of fireworks marking the official lighting of the historic Unity Tree -- presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
ONE OXFORD CENTRE
5:30-9 p.m.: The Rick Gallagher Trio
5:45 p.m.: Annual Tree Lighting
6-9 p.m.: Santa Claus and Indoor Activities: See Santa then experience Pittsburgh Memories, an exhibit of historic photos celebrating Pittsburgh during the winter season (Level One). Outdoor activities: Catch the free horse-drawn carriage rides (pick-up on Fourth Avenue) as well as live reindeer on display in the outdoor plaza.
11 a.m.--3 p.m.: Family activities, shopping and entertainment: Children can participate in various activities, including face painting, balloon art, sand art, hat making and caricatures. The family can visit Pittsburgh Memories, an exhibit of historic photos celebrating Pittsburgh during the winter season. The Main Atrium will also have a range of live entertainment. Free gift wrapping is available with any purchase from one of the Shops in the Atrium of One Oxford Centre. In addition, free horse-drawn carriage rides will be operating on Fourth Avenue.
4:45 p.m.: RMU Island Sports & Figure Skating: On-ice interpretation of "Polar Express." Skating directed by Beth Sutton and choreographed by Crystal Mekonis.
5 p.m.: CLO Mini-Stars
5-8:30 p.m.: Dine in the food court and enjoy a musical performance by the Juan Vasquez Trio.
5:30-6 p.m.: American Cancer Society's Tribute of Light/Plaza Tree Lighting: The plaza will glisten with the glow of lights, as more than 300 individuals carrying hand-held Tribute of Light memorials will surround The Rink at PPG Place. Each glowing memorial will be dedicated in the name of someone touched by cancer. The ceremony culminates with the lighting of the 65-foot Plaza Christmas tree by 3-year-old cancer survivor Camden Lookabaugh. All proceeds from this event benefit the American Cancer Society.
6 p.m.-midnight: The Rink at PPG Place opens for the season. Magic Ice USA is donating $1 of each skate admission on Nov. 16 to the American Cancer Society.
Saturday, Noon-2 p.m.: Third Annual Mascot Skate at the Rink at PPg Place.
5:30-8 p.m.: Family Fun Activities, Kids Dept., 5th Floor: Bring your camera for a special photo-op with costume characters from the 86th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Enjoy fun trivia and giveaways with Radio Disney including face painting, balloon art and more.
5:45-7:15 p.m.: "The Nutcracker," Better Sportswear, 4th floor: Catch a riveting performance of "The Nutcracker" presented by The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.
6-7 p.m.: Holiday Window Unveiling on Smithfield Street with Kool and the Gang, Travis Malloy, Jasmine V and For the Foxes.
POINT STATE PARK
5 p.m.: The 14th Santa Spectacular show with a new lighting installation by Duquesne Light, teen star Greyson Chance and a laser display of Eat'n Park's Christmas Star.
5 p.m.: Bessemer Tree Lighting & Santa's Arrival, Bessemer Court Fountain
5:45-9 p.m.: Visit with Santa Claus, Freight House Shops
5-9 p.m.: Holiday Warming Station with Wish 99.7 FM, Freight House Shops
6-8 p.m.: A Fairytale Fiasco, Main Stage on Station Square Drive
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Meet Cinderella, Snow White, Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, Freight House Shops
6:45-7:45 p.m.: Performance by 12-year-old singer Gabby Barrett, Main Stage on Station Square Drive
8:30 p.m.: Mark Milovats "A Christmas to Remember with the Santa Belles and Duquesne Dance Team," Main Stage on Station Square Drive
5-9 p.m.: Crafts, face-painting and balloon artist, Freight House Shops
First Published November 15, 2012 5:00 AM