Tree illumination to kick off Holiday in the City 2021

Santa makes his way back to his carriage after the lighting of the Springfield Christmas tree during the Holiday in the City celebration in 2019. The event was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Santa makes his way back to his carriage after the lighting of the Springfield Christmas tree during the Holiday in the City celebration in 2019. The event was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Annual lighting in downtown Springfield will take place tonight and event will last 5 weeks through the new year.

Once the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten and Black Friday sales finished off, downtown Springfield will take off the gift wrapping on the official start of the holiday season.

At 6 p.m., the city’s official tree will be illuminated to signal the opening of Holiday in the City, which will last five weeks up through the new year for the first time. The event is open to the public and presented by Greater Springfield Partnership.

As dusk descends on the city, several lights will go on around downtown as a warm-up at 5:45. Then at 6, a countdown will see the 7,500-pound blue spruce tree grown in Clark County become the shining centerpiece of the downtown celebration.

In all, more than 100,000 lights will be part of the Holiday in the City experience according to John Kelly, Visit Greater Springfield’s downtown events coordinator. It takes various logistical issues to get all those lights coordinated by Derek Sowden and a team of people.

The lights are just the start and will be complemented by other experiences. COhatch will set the mood music with Vince Guaraldi Trio tunes, better known as the composer who created the familiar “A Charlie Brown Christmas” music.

Also beginning at 5 and running through 9 is one of the most anticipated features of Holiday in the City 2021 – the opening of the city’s outdoor ice rink on City Hall Plaza. The rink is sponsored by Speedway and measures 40-by-80 feet with actual ice. Skating costs $5 and it will be open Thursdays through Sundays until Jan. 2.

Free parking will be available at the parking garage, at COhatch, the lot next to the former State Theater and behind the Heritage Center on a first-come, first-served basis.

Holiday in the City activities continue the following day with Small Business Saturday with downtown merchants offering special sales and promotions during business hours.

Last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Visit Greater Springfield put a bigger emphasis on buying local as part of its restructuring Holiday in the City and people made shopping there part of the experience.

New businesses will add to the mix this year, offering more choices, and a few pop-up businesses will be added.

“We hope people will consider when getting their presents by shopping local. The more we support downtown businesses, the more our ecosystem will help the future of Springfield and downtown is essential to Springfield’s growth,” said Kelly.

A list of local businesses participating will be on the Holiday in the City Facebook page.

Willow Wind horse and carriage rides will begin 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, and cost $5 and free for those ages 14 and younger.

For more information on Holiday in the City activities, go to www.facebook.com/holidayinthecityspfld.

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