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City turns on the glow to open holiday season

| Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Skaters take to the ice around the just lit tree at the rink at PPG Place on Light Up Night 2012.
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Julie Madera of Penn Hills, looks in the Macy's holiday windows with her daughters Ashley, center, 10, Alana, right, 12, and Myla, bottom left, 6, at Light Up Night. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Radoslav Angelov, 38, of North Side, plays some holiday songs on his accordion beneath a lit up tree on Light Up Night Downtown on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Allie Dowdell, 19, of Plum, passes out balloons dressed in an elf suit at Macy's on Light Up Night Downtown on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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The CLO Mini-Stars perform some holiday music during a pre-tree lighting performance at PPG Place on Light Up Night Downtown. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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A crowd of people bearing light sticks in honor of loved ones with cancer or who have died from cancer walk into the center of PPG Place on Light Up Night Downtown as part of the American Cancer Society's Tribute of Light. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Market Square bustles with activity on Light Up Night, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Ice skaters join santa on the rink during a pre-tree lighting performance at PPG Place on Light Up Night Downtown. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Four-and-a-half month old Matthew Urbanek of Mount Lebanon, stays warm in his father Chris Urbanek's coat and his Santa hat during Light Up Night festivities. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Santa makes moves on the ice skating rink around the Christmas tree at PPG Place on Light Up Night. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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This photo of people watching fireworks from inside their rooms at the Wyndham Hotel, Downtown, during the 2012 Light Up Night won a first place award in the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar competition.. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Smoke from the fireworks silhouettes the crowd in Point State Park on Light Up Night Downtown. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Rich Bubin of Churchill carves an ice sculpture with a chainsaw on Light Up Night. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Justin Sharkey, 4, of Moon Township, travels high on his fathers shoulders under the overpass illuminated with snowflake projections in Point State Park on Light Up Night Downtown. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Skaters take to the ice around the Christmas tree at PPG Place on Light Up Night Downtown. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

Camden Lookabaugh clung to his mother, Chrissy, and gripped a plush toy in one hand as they looked out at the crowd of several thousand people gathered in PPG Plaza on Friday to watch the lighting of a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree.

Camden's hesitancy melted away when Hannah Smith, 15, of Murrysville took the 3-year-old Arnold boy's hand and together they hit a switch mounted on a gift-wrapped box to light the tree.

Camden and Smith, who are both cancer survivors, were selected by the American Cancer Society to help usher in Pittsburgh's 52nd annual Light Up Night.

"We're just so thankful to the Lord that Camden is healthy and able to attend," said his father, Josh Lookabaugh.

Smith said participating in the event was "really exciting" because she has been attending the annual kickoff to the holiday shopping season Downtown since she was a young child.

"We come down here every year to see the windows at Macy's and participate in all the activities," she said. "It's sort of a tradition for our family, so being able to participate by lighting one of the trees is really great."

The tree in PPG Plaza was among seven lighted on Friday, including one at noon by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the City-County Building and culminating with Santa's flipping the switch for the Market Square Season of Lights stage show.

Entertainment was provided at several locations in Downtown and at Station Square in the South Side. Performers included Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers, the Al Dowe and Etta Cox Trio and No Bad Juju.

Karen Miller, 67, who lives Downtown with her husband, Richard, 70, said it was "fabulous" to see so many young families attending Light Up Night.

"This has just grown and grown over the past few years," she said. "I love that all these young people and children are here having such a great time."

Pittsburgh police geared up to deal with any problems by assigning some 100 officers, including a number of K-9 and bicycle units that are able to maneuver quickly through crowded streets.

"Seems like a million people Downtown," joked city police spokeswoman Diane Richard.

Police responded to scattered reports of fights at various locations - such as Wood Street, Liberty Avenue and Stanwix Street, and Ninth Street - but there were no immediate reports of arrests or serious injuries.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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