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Festival to light up the holidays

| Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003

What began eight years ago as a simple tree-lighting ceremony and visit from Santa at UPMC Passavant in McCandless has evolved into a major holiday event attracting thousands of people from throughout the North Hills and Western Pennsylvania.

Depending on the weather, up to 10,000 visitors are expected at this year's Holiday Festival of Lights, which will be held Friday on the campuses of UPMC Passavant, La Roche College and the Sisters of Divine Providence, located off of Babcock Boulevard.

Because the North Hills area encompasses several municipalities, the annual festival serves as a central gathering for an old-fashioned, small-town celebration.

"The North Hills doesn't have a specific downtown. The Festival of Lights gives everyone a chance to congregate in one area and walk the lighted paths of the campuses to get the feeling of a typical downtown holiday atmosphere," said Robert Henderson, UPMC Passavant's director planning and marketing.

A variety of holiday activities, entertainment and food will be offered at each campus. Admission and parking are free.

After the lighting of the Lights of Love Tree at 6 p.m. on the UPMC Passavant campus, Santa Claus will make his appearance leading a holiday parade. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Kris Benson will be available to sign autographs at La Roche's Kerr Fitness Center.

Entertainment will include performances by local high school bands and choirs, the Sisters of Divine Providence Bell Choir and a Zambelli Internationale Fireworks display. Visitors can do their holiday shopping at the Holiday Mart Craft Fair in the lobby of UPMC Passavant and are welcome to tour the hospital's three new patient floors, featuring 93 private rooms and remodeled labs.

"A lot of people don't want to venture Downtown (Pittsburgh) during the holidays," UPMC Passavant spokeswoman Clare Heekin said. "The Festival of Lights offers a nice holiday event that is close to home in the North Hills."

If you're going


What: The 2003 Holiday Festival of Lights, which features a tree lighting, the arrival of Santa Claus, fireworks, craft fair, petting zoo, children's activities, food and musical entertainment.

When: 4 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, with a few related events Saturday.

Where: Campuses of UPMC Passavant, La Roche College and Sisters of Divine Providence, Babcock Boulevard, McCandless.

Highlights: Holiday Mart Craft Fair, noon to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday in lobby of UPMC Passavant; children's activities, 4 to 8 p.m. Friday in the Kerr Fitness Center on the La Roche College campus; tree lighting, parade and Santa's arrival, 6 to 7 p.m. on the UPMC Passavant campus.

Details: (412) 367-6485.

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