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Crowds pack Downtown Pittsburgh to enjoy Light Up Night festivities

Aaron Aupperlee
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
People skate around the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Fireworks celebrating Pittsburgh Light Up Night illuminate the skies Downtown on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Lola Wilhite, 11, of Franklin Park prepares to skate as a toy soldier with her fellow skaters from Robert Morris University Skating Academy around the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Part of the Light Up Night festivities, the skaters performed a few scenes from The Nutcracker on ice.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Scott Roney (left), 52, of Crafton, and Maggie Daniher, 53, of Polish Hill share a laugh as they dance to Sean Jones with Roger Humphries and the RH Factor in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Emma Queen (left), 10, of Fox Chapel waits in her angel costume as she watches her fellow skaters Anna Sluis-Cremer (center), 13, of Ross and Alexis Martyn, 13, of Wexford get ready at PPG Place, Downtown, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Part of the Light Up Night festivities, the skaters from Robert Morris University Skating Academy performed a few scenes from 'The Nutcracker' on the ice rink around the PPG Christmas Tree.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Camden Lookabaugh, 5, of Arnold gets some help from his mother, Chrissy, 34, as he presses the button to light up the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. This is Camden's second time receiving the honor to light the American Cancer Society tree at PPG place, which is given annually to a young person who is battling cancer. Camden stepped in last minute as a replacement for a fellow little boy with cancer who was hospitalized with a fever earlier in the week.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Hannah Fairman, 20, of Downtown, claps after revealing one of the Christmas windows at Macy's in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Chanel Peterson, 4, of Swissvale oohs and ahhs at one of the Christmas windows at Macy's, Downtown, during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Lilly Tracey and other students from the Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 School hug a polar bear to keep warm during the official lighting of the city's Christmas tree outside the City-County Building, Downtown, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Pedestrians walk past Pittsburgh's creche in 2014. The creche is the world's only authorized replica of the Vatican's Christmas creche on display in St. Peter's Square in Rome. A dedication service will be held at noon on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, Downtown at the U.S. Steel Building on Grant Street.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Skaters appear to skate in a snow globe as light refracts off the windows at PPG Place as they loop around the Christmas tree in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Brooke Vardzel, 1, of Pittsburgh makes sure Santa's beard is real as she sits on his lap at One Oxford Center, Downtown, during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Jayda Duncan, 4, of the North Side makes a face as she waves a light wand and dances to music on the street in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At the City-County Building, Downtown, Santa Claus leads the way during the official Lighting of the city's Christmas Tree, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Assisting Santa were Alex and Kristina Mendoza (left) of Mt. Washington, holding their son, A.J., 3.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At the City-County Building, Downtown, students from the Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 School smile along with Santa Claus after the official Lighting of the City's Holiday Tree, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. People gathered during the lunchtime hour to listen to holiday music and visit with local mascots, and donate gifts to the Salvation Army. Santa Claus is John Suhr.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
People skate around the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
ptrlightup01112214
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Fireworks celebrating Pittsburgh Light Up Night illuminate the skies Downtown on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLIGHTUP1112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Lola Wilhite, 11, of Franklin Park prepares to skate as a toy soldier with her fellow skaters from Robert Morris University Skating Academy around the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Part of the Light Up Night festivities, the skaters performed a few scenes from The Nutcracker on ice.
PTRLIGHTUP10112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Scott Roney (left), 52, of Crafton, and Maggie Daniher, 53, of Polish Hill share a laugh as they dance to Sean Jones with Roger Humphries and the RH Factor in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLIGHTUP2112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Emma Queen (left), 10, of Fox Chapel waits in her angel costume as she watches her fellow skaters Anna Sluis-Cremer (center), 13, of Ross and Alexis Martyn, 13, of Wexford get ready at PPG Place, Downtown, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Part of the Light Up Night festivities, the skaters from Robert Morris University Skating Academy performed a few scenes from 'The Nutcracker' on the ice rink around the PPG Christmas Tree.
PTRLIGHTUP4112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Camden Lookabaugh, 5, of Arnold gets some help from his mother, Chrissy, 34, as he presses the button to light up the Christmas Tree at PPG Place in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. This is Camden's second time receiving the honor to light the American Cancer Society tree at PPG place, which is given annually to a young person who is battling cancer. Camden stepped in last minute as a replacement for a fellow little boy with cancer who was hospitalized with a fever earlier in the week.
PTRLIGHTUP5112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Hannah Fairman, 20, of Downtown, claps after revealing one of the Christmas windows at Macy's in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLIGHTUP6112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Chanel Peterson, 4, of Swissvale oohs and ahhs at one of the Christmas windows at Macy's, Downtown, during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLOTREE01112214
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Lilly Tracey and other students from the Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 School hug a polar bear to keep warm during the official lighting of the city's Christmas tree outside the City-County Building, Downtown, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLOCRECHE112214
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Pedestrians walk past Pittsburgh's creche in 2014. The creche is the world's only authorized replica of the Vatican's Christmas creche on display in St. Peter's Square in Rome. A dedication service will be held at noon on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, Downtown at the U.S. Steel Building on Grant Street.
PTRLIGHTUP7112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Skaters appear to skate in a snow globe as light refracts off the windows at PPG Place as they loop around the Christmas tree in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLIGHTUP8112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Brooke Vardzel, 1, of Pittsburgh makes sure Santa's beard is real as she sits on his lap at One Oxford Center, Downtown, during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLIGHTUP9112214
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Jayda Duncan, 4, of the North Side makes a face as she waves a light wand and dances to music on the street in Downtown during Light Up Night on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
PTRLOTREE02112214
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At the City-County Building, Downtown, Santa Claus leads the way during the official Lighting of the city's Christmas Tree, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Assisting Santa were Alex and Kristina Mendoza (left) of Mt. Washington, holding their son, A.J., 3.
PTRLOTREE03112214
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At the City-County Building, Downtown, students from the Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 School smile along with Santa Claus after the official Lighting of the City's Holiday Tree, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. People gathered during the lunchtime hour to listen to holiday music and visit with local mascots, and donate gifts to the Salvation Army. Santa Claus is John Suhr.

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.

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