Evan Penrod and Salena Moran | The Duquesne Duke
Pittsburgh’s 56th Annual Light Up Night will be decking the halls with new additions, including a larger event area, new music performances and a sponsored name on Friday, Nov. 18th. There will even be a cameo from some Duquesne students.
New musical performances feature Daya, an emerging pop star and native Pittsburgher and the rock band O.A.R. Other local artists will perform, including Duquesne’s own Jazz Ensemble, featuring student vocalist Natalie Tomaro, a junior music education major, at the EQT Jazzmasters venue on Liberty Avenue.
Tomaro said she and the jazz ensemble will perform “all kinds of Christmas classics,” including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “What Child Is This” and “Let It Snow.”
“I’m so ready to be singing Christmas music,” Tomaro said. “I know it’s a little early for Christmas still, but I love celebrating the holidays.”
Additionally, Tamaro said she will be singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with renowned Pittsburgh jazz vocalist Dane Vannatter.
“I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him sing for many years now, and I’ll be humbled to be singing beside him at Light Up Night,” Tomaro said. “I just know he’s going to make that performance very fun and cheeky.”
Light Up Night has been held in several local hotspots such as Market Square, PPG Place and the Cultural District and is expanding into new space this year.
Leigh White, vice president of marketing and communications for the event’s host, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP), said the main focus of this expansion will be on Fort Duquesne Boulevard. There will be two large stages on each side of the boulevard, along with various activities and food vendors.
The event will also feature 20 different bands, live reindeer, ice carving and child-friendly activities in addition to the People’s Gas Holiday Market in Market Square, according to White.
This expansion facilitates the seven large events that begin at 11:15 a.m. at the City County Building’s Tree Lighting Ceremony and continues throughout the rest of the day with other events such as the PPG Plaza Tree Lighting at 5:30 p.m., the Holiday Window Unveiling at 6:30 p.m. and the Highmark Unity Tree Lighting at 7 p.m.
One of the newest light attractions will be held at the Rachel Carson Bridge on Ninth Street with the Covestro Energy Flow Bridge Lighting, according to the Post-Gazette. The bridge will be utilizing wind turbines as a green alternative energy source to power its many electrical lights.
For the first time, the event is branded as the Comcast Light Up Night, after an agreement between the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the national media conglomerate.
“Last year we worked with Comcast on a smaller scale, and we were really pleased with their work, and they asked us if they could be more involved in this year’s Light Up Night,” White said. “We eventually agreed upon letting them be one of the main sponsors.”
With the new sponsorship and expansion, past attendees shared their expectations for this year’s Light Up Night and what keeps them coming each year.
“Everyone coming together and getting into the holiday spirit is a wonderful experience,” junior forensic science and law major Lindsay Loughner said. “Also, the symphony had a free performance and it was great to enjoy some classical music.”
Kelly Mazzei, a senior pharmacy major, said the city-wide festivities bring people together in a unique shared experience.
“My favorite part about Light Up Night is the fact that everyone can gather and come together to celebrate one thing,” Mazzei said. “I love seeing families with little kids that come down to see all the lights and decorations. It’s really a special time of the year. I love that everyone can be together and enjoy it.”
With over half a million people expected, weather permitting, according to White, both Mazzei and Loughner recommend mapping out the event beforehand to maximize time.
“You need to go with a plan,” Mazzei said.
Comcast workers will be handing out a limited number of Santa hats, and there will be a screen posting photos using the hashtag #LUN2016. At the end of the night, the traditional fireworks display will launch above the Allegheny River.
For a full list of events, visit downtownpittsburghholidays.com.