Crowds pack Downtown Pittsburgh to enjoy Light Up Night festivities
Bundled in a pink coat, her hood pulled tight over a winter hat and two scarves wrapped around her face, Laniah Chavis kept her eyes up as she walked toward the PPG Plaza ice rink Friday night.
“That’s a beautiful one,” the 4-year-old from Stanton Heights said, pointing to the 65-foot Christmas tree planted in the middle of the ice rink.
Moments later, the tree glowed in chilly evening air with lights and star-shaped ornaments, one of several trees to light up throughout Pittsburgh on Friday as the city kicked off the holiday season with its annual Light Up Night celebration.
Three-year-old A.J. Mendoza started the festivities at noon by lighting the city’s Christmas tree in front of the City-County Building, Downtown. Mendoza of Mt. Washington led more than 100 people gathered at the building portico in a countdown to light the 45-foot blue spruce adorned with hundreds of colored LED bulbs.
In the evening, hundreds of thousands of people ventured into temperatures that hovered in the mid to low 20s to wander Downtown among lights, musical performances, figure skating, horse-drawn carriage rides, statues carved from ice and fireworks. A precise crowd estimate from police was not available.
Police officers patrolled the sidewalks and threaded through traffic on bicycles. Pittsburgh police acting Chief Cameron McLay said Thursday officers would work 12-hour shifts and ramp up their presence. Police spokeswoman Sonya Toler said officers broke up several fights, assisted with a few medical transports and helped lost children find their families. Nothing serious, she said.
Alexander Zawokski, 7, of Carrick watched Richard Bubin of Ice Creations use a small power tool to sculpt a reindeer from a block of ice. He held a carved candy cane and said he was looking forward to the tree lighting at Point State Park.
“My favorite part is when Santa throws the fireballs,” Alexander said, referring to Santa’s fiery method of lighting the 80-foot tree.
Santa and his fireballs is Cheyenne Anthony’s favorite part of Light Up Night as well.
Cheyenne, 15, of Kittanning and her family visited Downtown dressed in camouflage with real deer antlers, decorated for the occasion, attached to the hats worn by the family of deer hunters.
“I gotta stay warm,” said her father, Ben Anthony, 56, of Kittanning. “Lots of layers.”
Some people did jumping jacks to keep warm. Others clutched steaming cups of coffee.
Emma Queen, 10, of Fox Chapel, dressed as an angel for the RMU Island Sports Center Figure Skating Academy’s Nutcracker-themed show at the PPG Plaza rink. She said she was freezing.
But Ian Lemmon, 33, of New Castle let the moment warm him. Friday was his first Light Up Night. His friend, Alison Steele, 30, of Forest Hills, snapped his photo and shouted “Merry Christmas” as the PPG Place tree lit up.
“It really just took away the stresses of the week,” Lemmon said. “You see a pretty tree get lit up. The music is soft. It’s nice.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or [email protected]. Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report.