By Eric Seiverling
It’s official: The holiday season is underway in Pittsburgh, and true to the city’s reputation for holding a celebration, the 57th Annual Comcast Light Up Night on Fri., Nov. 17 made for a day filled with food, fun, and fireworks.
The celebration began at 11:30 a.m., with the Allegheny County Courthouse tree lighting, and concluded at 7 p.m. with the lighting of the Highmark Unity Tree and a fireworks display from Zambelli Firworks.
The day’s activities were expected to draw nearly 500,000 people.
“We’re so proud to be the naming sponsor for this event because this is a true Pittsburgh tradition,” Bob Grove, Comcast Keystone Region’s vice president of public relations, said during a break from meeting guests at the Blast! VIP Party at the U.S. Steel Tower. “It gets better every year. You can really feel the energy throughout the city.”
Those not able to make the events on Nov. 17 need not worry, as holiday vendors and activities will continue in Downtown Pittsburgh through January of 2018.
During light up night, Comcast featured free interactive attractions and entertainment, including the XFINITY Experience on the Andy Warhol Bridge and Ft. Duquesne Boulevard, where revelers experienced virtual reality snowboarding and recharged their cell phones. Eighteen kegs of hot cocoa warmed hands and stomachs of those waiting in line to experience the Comcast attractions.
“We saw the fake snow and that caught our eye,” said Denise Binder, who traveled from Imperial, Pennsylvania to brave the cold weather at the Comcast XFINITY tent. “That put us in the holiday mood.”
“We’ve had probably 400 people come through the tent,” Ashley Farace, Comcast specialist, said while ushering people into the Comcast XFINITY tent and answering their questions. “Everybody’s had an amazing reaction, and we’ve seen a lot of kids, which is awesome.”
Twenty five Comcast volunteers scattered throughout the festivities handed out 15,000 Santa Claus hats to those in attendance.
Musical acts at the Comcast Main Stage at Ft. Duquesne Boulevard and Ninth Street included Meeting of Important People, JD Eicher, and national recording artist Andy Grammer.
“It’s a challenge to take a 57-year tradition and update it with something new and fresh,” said Leigh White, Pittsburgh Downtown Partership’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “By bringing in all the jumbotrons and all the Wi-Fi hot spots, Comcast has allowed us to step up our game. It’s been a fantastic day and the crowds are amazing.”
Other musical acts during the evening included Youtube sensation Maggie Lindemann at the BNY Mellon New Music Stage at Ft. Duquesne Boulevard and Sixth Street; Pittsburgh rockers Joe Grushecky and Jeff Jimerson at the Total Sports Rockin’ Blues Stage at Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue; and the Django Festival All Stars and vocalists Etta Cox and Tania Grubb at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage at EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra held free, 30-minute mini-concerts at Heinz Hall during the evening. Selections included Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”
The 6th Annual Peoples Gas Holiday Market turned Market Square into a European-inspired holiday village complete with a 35′ tall tree, 150,000 lights, and free photos with Santa Claus to support the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The market features 35 vendors of international and locally handcrafted gifts housed in Alpine-style chalets.
The market was be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but re-opened on Nov. 24 and will continue to Dec. 23.
The vendors and activities continuing throughout the holiday season are expected to generate an estimated $21 million in revenue to Pittsburgh’s economy.