To signal the start of the season, tonight is the official City/County Christmas Tree lighting and the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kick-Off Extravaganza, which will illuminate all of Downtown Milwaukee. This is the city’s oldest holiday tradition – 10 years – and once again it’s the outset of a week filled with holiday celebrations.
Tonight, though, is southeastern Wisconsin’s largest winter festival kick-off. Ceremonies begin with live traditional and contemporary carols sung by the Milwaukee Children’s Choir at 4:30 p.m. at Red Arrow Park.
At 5 p.m., it will be time to flip the switch on the city’s décor and light up the Christmas tree and all of the parks and streets downtown. And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, the commencement is said to be topped off by a brilliant fireworks display. There will also be free hot chocolate and coffee to keep everyone toasty, as well as cookies and special goodies for the kids.
Then around 6 p.m., Pere Marquette Park on Old World Third Street will offer up timeless holiday music and a repertoire of festive acts and appearances by local celebrities. Plus everyone, even adults, will be anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus who will be there with bells on, of course!
When the festivities wrap up, jump on the heated Jingle Bus for a free tour around downtown’s dazzling displays or take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride. Here’s a list of the holiday light exhibits.
The community’s Christmas and holiday season kick-off continues on Saturday morning with Milwaukee’s annual Holiday Parade. Plan to grab a cup of hot cocoa or coffee and a couple of folding chairs, and stake out a spot along Kilbourn Avenue. From 9:30 until 10:30 a.m. marching bands, extravagant floats, huge balloons, local celebrities, city politicians and, of course, Santa Claus will make their way through Downtown Milwaukee for the 82nd consecutive year.
The 100-plus entertainment units start at the corner of Kilbourn and Prospect Avenues, and then head north on Water Street, west on State Street to Old World Third Street before wrapping up in front of the Shops of Grand Avenue.
If you can’t be curbside for the parade, watch it live on Fox 6 instead. And for those of you braving the chilly morning, don’t forget to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Hunger Task Force’s Food for Families to help bring hope and a good Thanksgiving meal to our neighbors in need. For more information about the parade, log on here.
If you can’t make it to any of these events, don’t worry, Santa won’t put you on his naughty list! Thankfully, Milwaukee’s Holiday Lights Festival runs from November 20 (tonight) through January 4, 2009. So, you have ample time to get bundled up and come downtown to check out the hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights on display around the city – you have to see it!
Now, if the festivities don’t get you into the holiday spirit, maybe this cold weather will. Meanwhile, I’ll keep you up-to-date on all of the other fun holiday festivities happening around Milwaukee. Until then, enjoy the holidays, everyone!
Photo comes from gettyimages.com.