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Pittsburgh's Light Up Night kicks off the holiday season

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
HEIDI MURRIN/MHM HOLIDAYDATE 1206 6/A couple stops to take pictures of the lighted sphere tree in Market Square Wednesday, December 1, 2010. (Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review)
POST-GAZETTE OUT The Greensburg Figure Skating Club show off their moves during Light Up Night at the Rink at PPG Place, kicking off the holiday shopping season Friday, November 16, 2007. (Jasmine Gehris /Tribune-Review)
Skaters make their way around the Christmas Tree as a crowd gathers outside the rink at PPG Plaza during Light-Up Night, downtown, Friday, November 20, 2009. (Andrew Russell/Tribune-Review)
JEK TABFEA1118 03 Metropolitan Lighting in Sewickley installed the lighting set up Thursday morning November 18, 2010 in Market Square downtown. The company based out of St. Louis installed the over 140,000 LED lights that will dance to the music for the opening of Light Up Night this Friday. (James Knox | Tribune-Review)
Santa makes an appearance at a previous Light Up Night. Credit: John Altdorfer
Fireworks on Light Up Night Credit: File
Madison McCombs, 4 of Canonsburg looks at Gingerbread Houses at PPG Place as part of Pittsburgh Light Up Night, Friday, November 18, 2011. (Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review)
Downtown Pittsburgh glows in the early evening as lights go on for Light Up Night, Friday, November 18, 2011. (Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
JCA SANTAS 03 03 Santa: America (Contemporary) part of the 'Spirits of Giving Around the World' display at PPG Place on Tuesday, November 25, 2009. (Joe Appel/Tribune-Review) GORMLEY STORY 12/3/09
Wattley, the mascot for Duquesne Light, visits and skates during the second annual Mascot Skate at the Rink at PPG Place, Downtown, Saturday, November 19th, 2011. A variety of local mascots skated and posed for pictures with children and families. (Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review) KJH liteup1120 2.jpg
Bishop David Zubik, and other area religous leaders, took turns blessing the Creche, during a prayer service at the US Steel Tower, Downtown, Friday, November 18th, 2011. (Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review) KJH creche1119 2.jpg
A gingerbread replica of Falling Water is on display at the Wintergarden at PPG Place, Monday, November 12, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh's annual Light Up Night has morphed into a light-up weekend with holiday-related activities kicking off at noon Friday and continuing all day Saturday and throughout the season. Besides having the buildings Downtown ablaze with lights, there will be a variety of Christmas trees making their debut Friday and the skies will light up with fireworks to end the Friday festivities. Oh, don't forget Santa Claus, who will be making appearances all across town.

Santa Spectacular

At Point State Park, CBS Radio Pittsburgh and Duquesne Light will host the Santa Spectacular leading up to the lighting of the 80-foot Tree of Lights at the Point.

Festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. with Winter Wonderland tents at the Wyndham Grand hotel bordering the park, which will feature Farkleberry Cookies and Family Photo Fun.

Starting at 7:30 p.m., there will be entertainment in the park, including YouTube sensation Greyson Chance and local groups. There will be a holiday laser-light show from Eat'n Park.

Fireworks at 8:45 p.m. at the Point will be preceded by Santa turning on the lights to the big tree.


The Friday Light Up Night festivities end with a bang, precisely at 9:38 p.m., with a fireworks show from New Castle-based Zambelli Fireworks. The show will feature big fireworks and pyrotechnic special effects, including a rainbow and the illusion of a waterfall spilling over the Warhol Bridge, from where the fireworks will be shot. The fireworks show is choreographed to holiday music. You might get the best view from near the Clemente Bridge.

Musical entertainment

Both days of Downtown's holiday kickoff will feature musical entertainment.

On Friday, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers will serenade the crowd around 7:45 p.m. at the Northwest Savings Bank Stage in Market Square after Santa Claus officially turns on the Market Square Season of Lights. Grushecky, a buddy of Bruce Springsteen, has been wailing his way through powerful yet meaningful rock 'n' roll music since the '70s.

There will be music Friday on two other stages: the EQT Jazzmaster State at EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue and the Trib Total Media Bridge Party on the Clemente Bridge.

Folks celebrating on the Clemente Bridge will be in a good spot for some solid music, with, blues master Billy Price and the reggae rockers No Bad JuJu at work. Proceedings on the bridge will get under way with the Stickers, a country hit band.

A block or two inland, drummer Roger Humphries, saxophone ace Kenny Blake, and trombonist Al Dowe with singer Etta Cox will bring some appropriate swing to the EQT Jazzmasters Stage.

On Saturday, Market Square gets loud — well, mildly elevated in volume — with a lineup of local music served slowly like a prized Christmas ham. The festivities start at noon with up-and-coming country band NoMaD, followed by up-and-coming country singer Vanessa Campagna at 1:45 p.m.

Then, take a more rocking turn with old-school blue-collar rockers the Granati Brothers at 3:30 p.m. These guys have been rocking since 1977, and have shared stages with the likes of Van Halen, Heart and the Doobie Brothers. At 6 p.m., there's Totally '80s — and you can probably guess what they do. At 7 p.m., it's the Bob FM Holiday Wedding, where Leah and Matt of Carnegie will get married onstage because, well, everyone loves a wedding, right?

The headliner of the night will be familiar to sad Pens fans, desperately awaiting the arrival of hockey. Jeff Jimerson, the Pens' golden-voice national anthem singer, will lead his band Airborne, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tree lightings

Downtown Pittsburgh will be awash in lights and holiday cheer Friday.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will kick off the first tree-lighting event of the day, at noon at the City County Building, 414 Grant St.

Don't fret if you can't make the lunch-hour festivities. There's other chances to see the lights — at the Allegheny Courthouse, 5:30 p.m.; One Oxford Center, 5:45 p.m.; PPG Plaza, 6 p.m.; Highmark Unity Tree, 7 p.m., on the corner of the building Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue.

Santa Claus will flip the switch at 7:30 p.m. during the Market Square Season of Lights stage show.

Gingerbreads and Santa Clauses

For some families, a trip to the Wintergarden at PPG Place has become a holiday tradition.

Every November, the glass-enclosed courtyard hosts an international assembly of Santas and other holiday benefactors with its Spirits of Giving from Around the World exhibit that highlights the folklore and fantasy of Christmas.

At the center of the action is a 32-foot-tall tree where miniature trains chug along tracks that run through, around, over and under a virtual metropolis of imaginative, and often highly detailed, gingerbread structures.

Past displays have included a pretzel-clad log cabin, a Victorian mansion with a peppermint path, a Hawaiian hut with a shredded-wheat roof and a UFO with gum-drop lights.

The 10th Annual Gingerbread House Display and Train Display and the Spirits of Giving exhibit can be seen Friday through Jan. 7 in the Wintergarden at Two PPG Place.

Hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Additional houses on display in the exterior windows of Two PPG Plaza can be seen 24 hours a day.

Pittsburgh Creche

The Pittsburgh Creche, a Christmas tradition, will be unveiled at noon Friday with a blessing and will be open through Jan. 7. Musical performances are scheduled throughout the season. Located at the U.S. Steel Plaza, Downtown, the display is the world's only authorized replica of the creche erected at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. The creche was first put up in 1999 through the work of Christian Leaders Fellowship, an ecumenical group of local bishops and denominational leaders. It is supported by the Creche Endowment Committee, local unions, business organizations and individuals.

The creche features more than 15 figures, including larger-than-life-size renderings of the Holy Family, the magi, angels, shepherds, a woman and child, animals and a stable, along with a professional sound and lighting system.

There is no admission charge, although free-will offerings for maintenance and upkeep are accepted.

Christmas cards of the creche are available from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Details: 412-456-3021;

Macy's Windows

Kick off the holiday season and experience “The Magic of Christmas” at Macy's, Downtown. This year, four windows on Smithfield Street will showcase “The Magic of Christmas,” touching on Macy's seasonal traditions such as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the animated special “Yes, Virginia.” The windows will have a distinctly local feel, with Pittsburgh landmarks and architecture such as the ice-skating rink at PPG Place and the historic corner clock that has been the meeting place for generations of Pittsburghers. For more than 35 weeks, a small army of carpenters, machinists, artisans and animators work to bring each scene to life. The holiday window display is a tradition that dates more than 100 years. The windows will be unveiled at 6:45 p.m. Friday and be on view through Jan. 7.

At the unveiling, there will be special guest performances by gospel-singer-songwriter Travis Malloy, iHeart Radio pop sensations For The Foxes, and rising pop star Jasmine V. Steelers players Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Mundy will take part, along with the children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the man of the hour, Santa Claus.

Details: 412-232-2000

Ice skating

The Rink at PPG Place will kick off its season of outdoor ice skating on Friday and follows it up Saturday with a character-filled event. The third-annual Mascot Skate, noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, lets you skate in the outdoor rink around the 65-foot Tribute of Light Tree with several Pittsburgh mascots, such as Steely McBeam, the Eat'n Park Smiley Cookie, the Pirate Parrot, and others. Don't forget to bring the camera. The rink is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 1, when the hours change. The rink is open all of the holidays, as well. Admission is $7; $6 for children and seniors; skate rental is $3. Details: 412-394-3641;

Saturday parade

For the first time, the Saturday after Light Up Night will feature a parade. The Bottom Dollar Food Sounds of the Season Parade begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The parade, which proceeds down Liberty Avenue, will feature regional high-school marching bands, the 13-by-9-foot inflatable Bottom Dollar Piggy Bank blimp and a horse-drawn carriage. The event will honor the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and features numerous fire trucks, including an antique fire truck and antique armored car. For latecomers, part of the parade will turn around at Stanwix Street and double back. This parade precedes by a week the annual My Macy's Holiday Parade on Nov. 24, Downtown.

Science Center sleepover

Across the river from Light Up Night events, the kids can enjoy a sleepover at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side and get a good view of the fireworks. The Light Up Night Sleepover, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday and ends at 10 a.m. Saturday, will feature demonstrations about the science behind fireworks, glow-in-the-dark activities, a laser show, an Omnimax movie, a late-night snack, and a continental breakfast. Participants are encouraged to stay the rest of Saturday, when they will get free center admission. Kids at this sleepover will be among the first visitors to check out the new SpacePlace exhibit, which also opens Friday. The cost is $35 per person, and includes parking. Registration is required. Details: 412-237-1637 or

Station Square

Lighting the Christmas Tree at the Bessemer Court Fountain and the arrival of Santa Claus at 5 p.m. kick off the family-oriented Light Up Night holiday celebrations at Station Square. Bring the camera for Santa meet-and-greets starting at 5:45 in the Freight House Shops.

Performances will include an interactive show called Fairy Tale Fiasco at 6 and 8 p.m., 12-year-old Pittsburgh singer Gabby Barrett performing Christmas favorites starting at 6:45 p.m. and Mark Milovats with the Santa Belles and Duquesne Dance Team starting at 8:30 p.m., all at the main stage on Station Square Drive.

Other activities will include a face-painter and balloon artist, and a tree auction benefiting the National Hemophilia Foundation, at the Freight House Shops.

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