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Festive season kicks off with Light Up Night

Light Up Night isn’t just Pittsburgh’s beloved, 50-year-old tradition for area residents. People are coming from all over Pennsylvania and bordering states — and even from other area of the country, like Florida — for the holiday bash, according to organizers and postings on Light Up Night’s Facebook page.

Friday and Saturday’s event — Pittsburgh’s kickoff to the Yuletide season — offers visitors to Downtown a delightful, whimsical and picturesque beginning to the jolly season, officials say.

“In New York, it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — and here, it’s Light Up Night,” says Hollie Geitner, one of the planners of Light Up Night and a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which puts on the event.

“It’s just one of those magical weekends,” she says. “There’s so much to do, and everything is so pretty. It’s that mental switch that this is the holiday season; it begins now.”

Highlights this year include several live musical performances by artists including Donnie Iris and the Cruisers; the Highmark Light Up Night March, featuring five high school bands; the PNC Fireworks Finale; the Duquesne Light Horse-drawn Candlelight Carriage Parade; and more.

Last year, Light Up Night — celebrating its 50th anniversary — attracted more than 300,000 people, Geitner says. This year, because the event stretches over two days, officials are expecting about a half-million people, and the hotels are expected to be booked, she says. The event has been on the Friday before Thanksgiving for the past 16 years, but has not been a two-day event for several years, Geitner says. The partnership added Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary, and to encourage people to visit Pittsburgh and stay for the weekend.

Visitors, both local and from afar, will enjoy the beautiful sights of Light Up Night, Geitner says.

“I really think that the city never looks better than it does that night, even when it’s cold and windy and blustery … when everything is lit up,” she says. “It just looks stunning.”

Linda Barnicott, a Monroeville painter who does many portraits of Pittsburgh, created a special painting of the newly re-opened Market Square for Light Up Night. The portrait — “The Golden Glow of Light Up Night,” which is about 16 inches by 24 inches — shows the square’s new lighted crystal tree, fireworks, people and background buildings. Barnicott will be inside Two PPG Place with her paintings, including some for sale, during Light Up Night.

“I just think that Pittsburgh is delightful in the holiday season,” says Barnicott, 52. “Market Square is so beautiful now.”

She has participated in Light Up Night for several years, and says she loves the event.

“Everybody is so happy,” she says. “It’s wonderful. Everybody’s in a great mood. … It’s a great family tradition.”

Light Up Night

When: Activities are Friday night and all day Saturday

Admission: Free

Where: Various spots Downtown and on the Roberto Clemente Bridge

Details: 412-566-4190 or website

Performance schedule

FRIDAY

In Market Square:

• CAPA Choir Ensemble, 4 p.m.

• Etta Cox and Al Dowe Trio, 4:30 p.m.

• No Bad Ju Ju, 6 p.m.

• Market Square Season of Lights inaugural lighting ceremony, 6:30 p.m.

• The Stickers, 7:45 p.m.

At the Clemente Bridge Party:

• The Granati Brothers, 4 p.m.

• Johnny Angel and the Halos, 6 p.m.

• Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, 8 p.m.

• PNC Fireworks Finale by Zambelli Internationale, 9:38 p.m.

Additional activity: The 2nd Annual Highmark Light Up Night March begins at 6:15 p.m. on Grant Street, near the Pittsburgh Creche, and march toward Market square.

SATURDAY

Market Square:

• Pitt Pendulums, 10 a.m.

• Waldorf School Choir, 10:35 a.m.

• Afterschool Buddies and The Rainbow Kids, 11:15 a.m.

• The Joe Negri Quartet, 11:50 a.m.

• Jeff Jimerson and Airborne, 1:35 p.m.

• Borelli Dance Gallery Holiday Spectacular, 3:20 p.m.

• Vanessa Campagna Christmas Show, 4 p.m.

• Duquesne Light Horse-drawn Carriage Parade, 5 p.m.

• Grand Pittsburgh “Celebrate Santa!” Stage Show, 6:30 p.m.

Additional Saturday activities:

• Snoopy’s 60th Birthday Bash at PPG Ice Rink, noon-2 p.m.

• Pittsburgh Memories Photo Exhibit at One Oxford Centre, noon-2 p.m.


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