City turns on the glow to open holiday season
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.