DOWNTOWN — The Magnificent Mile’s Lights Festival will return Saturday after it took a pandemic hiatus last year.
The event will bring holiday spirit and life to the Mag Mile, a Downtown stretch of Michigan Avenue that’s historically been famous for its shopping — but which, more recently, has been hurt by pandemic business closures, bouts of looting and crime.
“This year, after a challenging 18 months, we needed a celebration,” said Kimberly Bares, CEO and president of the non-profit Magnificent Mile Association. “We needed to welcome families to North Michigan Avenue to fill our hotels, our restaurants and retail.”
It’s the 30th anniversary of the event — billed as the largest nighttime parade in the United States — and the state provided a $400,000 grant so the festival could return “bigger and better than ever,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a Wednesday news conference.
The festivities kick off with a preview event 4 p.m. Friday at the Wrigley Building’s Centennial Plaza, 400-410 N. Michigan Ave., where there will be a tree-lighting ceremony. The event will honor the building’s 100-year anniversary.
But the real party starts 11 a.m. Saturday at Lights Festival Lane, 401 N. Michigan Ave., where there will be holiday decorations and booths with activities for families, including photos with Santa Claus, according to the Magnificent Mile Association’s website. Those events last until 4 p.m.
There will be a tree-lighting parade starting 5:30 p.m. Saturday down Michigan Avenue, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse leading the way. There will be more than an hour of floats, balloons, marching bands, musical performances and more, “all helping to illuminate more than 1 million lights along the Magnificent Mile,” according to the website.
The event will end with fireworks 7 p.m. over the Chicago River at DuSable Bridge.
The event will be streamed online and broadcast by ABC. More information about participating or watching is available online.
The state has provided a $400,000 grant for this year’s event. All together, the traditional event costs $1 million to put on, Bares said at the news conference.
The festival has a strong economic impact for the business district, city and state: In 2019, the Lights Festival weekend drove bookings for more than 10,000 hotel room nights and generated sales of $26.1 million, according to a Magnificent Mile Association news release.
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