Springfield’s Holiday in the City kicks off today

Five weeks of activities and events are planned to showcase downtown.

Holiday in the City will kick off its five weeks of events and entertainment to showcase downtown Springfield with its premiere tonight.

Fireworks are no longer part of the festivities, and organizers have made the first day a smaller version of the former big one-night event so that additional holiday programming can be presented through the New Year holiday.

Here are today’s highlights for the City Hall Plaza and Esplanade areas:

5 p.m., live music by Thaddeus Williams on stage at the tree/Esplanade.

5:50 p.m., Santa Claus arrives aboard a Springfield fire truck in the area around Columbia and Main streets, and costumed characters will also appear.

6 p.m., grand illumination of the 55-foot tree on the Esplanade. A countdown will happen before the lights are turned on.

6 p.m., opening of the downtown outdoor skating rink. Skating will be offered until 9 p.m.

7-9 p.m., Charlie Brown Christmas jazz with the Connor Smith Jazz Trio at the Market Bar in CoHatch.

DJ Chill will play Christmas music from the stage through the evening, and the Springfield High ASL Choir will perform. The Springfield High School state semifinal game will be on the big screen at Mother Stewart’s Brewery, and other live entertainment will be offered at varying downtown establishments.

Other events are planned over the coming weeks.

That includes carriage rides that start Nov. 30 from 6-9 p.m. from the Courtyard Marriott downtown. The carriage rides run every Wednesday through December.

A full Holiday in the City calendar of activities and events is available at www.facebook.com/holidayinthecityspfld.

Organizers said the five-week format of events used the last couple years is a plus for those who want to enjoy the downtown holiday atmosphere but don’t want to fight large crowds that attended the old one-night format.

Tens of thousands of twinkling, warm lights are on display throughout downtown for the holiday season, and several beautiful backdrops offer spots for photo opportunities and proposals, organizers said.

The skating rink first used last year is bigger this year, with 4,000 square feet of ice to accommodate skaters of all levels.

Public skating will be offered 5-8 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 5-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Skaters will pay $5 for ice time, and skate rental is $2.