Light Up weekend Downtown will have it all this year -- a visit from Santa, music, ice skating and fireworks.
But one of the biggest attractions of the holiday season will arrive a week later when a European-style market makes it debut in Market Square. Organizers delayed the beginning because they thought Light Up Night crowds would overwhelm the market.
Light-Up Night festivities announced
The Light -Up Night schedule of events was announced during a press conference at the PPG Place Wintergarden. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/1/2012)
For four weeks, Market Square will be transformed into a winter wonderland featuring vendors housed in Alpine-style wooden chalets, musical performances and a big new home-away-from-home for Santa Claus with a bay window, ice-capped chimney and a candy cane entryway.
In developing the concept, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership borrowed from the famous centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, and Chicago's Christkindlmarket, which started in 1996 and attracts more than 1 million visitors a year.
The Peoples Gas Holiday Market Downtown will kick off at noon Nov. 24 with a ribbon cutting and fireworks show -- it's Pittsburgh, after all -- 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, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said that 17 vendors have agreed to participate so far and several others may commit before the opening.
"Market Square is the perfect venue for an Old World, European-style market, as it has become, once again, the center of this city and a welcoming destination for locals and visitors alike," he said.
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.
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.
Children -- and adults -- will be able to visit with Santa. Photos with the jolly old fellow will be available for donations of either cash or nutritious, nonperishable food items to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
"It comes at an especially good time for us, as this is our busiest season," said Lisa Scales, food bank CEO.
In the past year, the organization provided enough food for more than 22 million meals.
While children and seniors make up more than half of the people served, the food bank recently has seen an "alarming" spike in the number of working families seeking help, Ms. Scales said.
The formal kickoff of the holiday season will start with Light Up Night on Nov. 16. The festivities will include traditional activities such as the dedication of the Nativity creche at U.S. Steel Tower, the unveiling of the Macy's holiday windows, ice skating in PPG Place and, of course, a fireworks show launched from the Andy Warhol Bridge.
Musical performances will take place in Market Square, on the Roberto Clemente Bridge and at a new venue in EQT Plaza, featuring jazz artists. Also new this year will be the Bottom Dollar Food "Sounds of the Season" parade at 5 p.m. Nov. 17.
Mr. Waldrup said he is hoping Light Up weekend and the new holiday market will help to spur more retail activity Downtown as a whole. In keeping with the season, some retailers will stay open late Nov. 15 and Dec. 20, and the partnership is encouraging them to try other nights as well.
He said merchants as a whole are looking forward to the holiday season.
"When we talk to Downtown retailers, they're excited about all that's happening. They're excited about the weekend traffic. I think everybody's optimistic about a great holiday season," he said.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262. First Published November 2, 2012 4:00 AM