Light Up Night draws tens of thousands to Downtown Pittsburgh
Zach Brandner has only lived 20 years, but he can count at least 14 times he's attended Pittsburgh's Light Up Night.
He may no longer be waiting in line for a photo with Santa Claus, but he says he still wouldn't miss the annual celebration featuring holiday pop-up shops, food trucks and plenty of free entertainment — from live music to live ice-sculpting.
At the 2017 Comcast Light Up Night on Friday, Brandner watched tree lightings, perused ice sculptures and staked out a spot for fireworks shows alongside three college-aged peers from Pittsburgh's Oakland and South Side neighborhoods.
"I used to always come with family and now I come with friends. I just like being with everybody and everyone's in a Christmas mood," Brander said shortly after attending the tree-lighting ceremony at the PPG Place ice-skating rink. "It's kick-starting the season."
Organizers had expected hundreds of thousands of people— as many as 500,000 over the day-long event, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership spokesperson Leigh White said. Updated attendance estimates were not immediately available Friday night.
Red Santa hats dotted much of the crowd, along with colorful lighted necklaces, glow sticks and black-and-gold sports gear. Among the most popular item up for sale by street vendors: light-up sword sticks resembling Star Wars' lightsabers selling for $5 to $10 each.
Headlining the night was singer-songwriter Andy Grammer, who's preparing to release his third album and performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade next week.
The event featured not one, but three different fireworks displays — the Highmark Unity Tree Lighting on the corner of the Penn Avenue Place Building; the 19th annual NRG Santa Spectacular in Point State Park, which was not officially a part of Light Up Night but happened at the same time; and the BNY Mellon Fireworks Finale.
Matt Davis, who attended the festivities for the third year with his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 8, said he's still puzzled by just how much the city of Pittsburgh seems to love its fireworks.
"I grew up in Illinois, so I'm still trying to figure that out a little bit," David said. "But it's a fun time."
Security plans had included uniformed and plainclothes police patrols, officers stationed at high vantage points, officers on horseback, surveillance cameras at key locations and air support from the state police Air Patrol Unit.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NewsNatasha.