Opens tonight: Holiday in the City to blend fresh and familiar activities

Downtown Springfield tradition offers weeks of events that kick off today.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

After Thanksgiving festivities, be part of the event that will take the wrapping off the annual community gift.

The opening of Holiday in the City is slated for 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, with a sleigh-full of activities and attractions highlighted by the annual grand illumination of the city tree at 6 p.m. on the esplanade near S. Fountain Ave. and High St.

Holiday in the City will run through Jan. 6 and offer several activities and events tying in. It is presented by the Greater Springfield Partnership (GSP) and admission is free.

Chris Schutte, GSP vice-president, destination marketing and communications, and Ashten Houseman, downtown events programmer, said visitors can expect a blend of annual attractions that make this a destination people look forward to and fresh offerings, starting with centering activities around the esplanade.

“This is a more central point. The general aesthetics are spectacular and can create some amazing photo ops,” he said.

Houseman said a noticeable change is thousands more lights in a different arrangement as well as the return of what has become a Holiday in the City signature — the outdoor ice-skating rink sponsored by Speedway.

As ongoing renovation work continues on City Hall Plaza, the rink has relocated for this year to Market Alley, between COHatch and the Heritage Center of Clark County. It’s a different configuration to fit the space and Schutte asks those wishing to skate to be patient with the process.

“We know people have loved skating and we like presenting it, but it’s something we had to juggle a little this year and space skating out. We’ve done so much to work on the schedule,” he said.

Skating will open at 5 p.m. Friday and then 5-8 p.m. Thursdays (beginning Nov. 30) and Sundays and 5-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The cost is $5 including skate rental for ages 6-older.

Other attractions on Friday include live music by Wittmen Crew and The Temps on the stage; a Grand Illumination Holiday Market; holiday Barbie photos at Sip & Dipity; an interactive ice sculpture display; indoor holiday train display at Courtyard by Marriott; food trucks; and music by City Lights Jazz Trio at COHatch.

Santa Claus’s arrival will be led by the Northwestern High Marching Band, followed by the lighting of this year’s tree, which is an estimated 40-45-feet tall and considered the centerpiece of city holiday displays.

Also for the first time in several years, Santa will be available on illumination night for photos at the State Theater starting at 7 p.m. along with live music. The venue has been undergoing a restoration and will host various Holiday in the City programs in 2023.

“In the past, we used the State in its former capacity and this year it will be a whole new world,” said Schutte. “A lot of people want to get in to see how it looks as some have so many memories.”

The State will host an Ohio State-Michigan watch party at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by weekly movie matinees and a concert on Dec. 16.

Parts of Fountain Avenue, High Street and Main Street near the esplanade will be closed during Friday’s activities for safety. Schutte said the GSP is working closely with Springfield Police, putting the safety of attendees at the forefront.

“We want people to feel comfortable when they visit and that visibility of officers will be a welcome presence,” he said.

Other activities on Saturday include a mobile holiday blood drive, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Heritage Center parking lot and live music by Matt Chunko and Friends at COHatch at 6 p.m.

Carriage rides will begin Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. and each Thursday through Dec. 28 and Jan. 4-6. Rides will be 6-8 p.m. at the esplanade across from the Marriott and the cost is $5 a person and ages 6-under free.

December will see holiday markets; special events; the return of SantaCon, bigger than ever at Mother Stewart’s on Dec. 9; holiday concerts; open houses; and several appearances by Santa. Some of these may have costs or admission fees.

Schutte said downtown partners are excited and will have special tie-ins and hopes people from Clark County and out of town will visit them as part of Holiday in the City activities.

“Without our sponsors and donors it wouldn’t happen. This has a massive benefit to downtown. We’ll have 170 banners of people and businesses investing in our community,” he said.

More info

For the calendar of Holiday in the City activities and events and updates, go to

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