By Matt Petras
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Colten Gill, the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, vividly remembers going to Light-Up Night in Pittsburgh with his family when he was in middle school. It really inspired his love of the city.
“Coming down here and just feeling that energy of the city and everyone coming together for one thing was really inspiring to me,” Gill says. “Just seeing all the lights, there’s something magical about having everyone down here for the same reason and celebrating with people from all walks of life.”
Now, PDP is readying the 59th Annual Comcast Light-Up Night on Nov. 22, set to be a night filled with homages to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, an Adam Lambert concert, lights and fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks.
Light-Up Night, a defining tradition for Pittsburgh during the holidays, brings several events across downtown. At noon will be the Dedication of the Crèche at the U.S. Steel Tower.
Then, throughout the day, trees and buildings will be lit up at the Allegheny County Courthouse (4:45 p.m.), the City-County Building (5:15 p.m.), PPG Plaza (5:30 p.m.), One Oxford Centre and Market Square (5:45 p.m.) as well as Highmark (7 p.m.). During the Highmark tree lighting is the first fireworks display at Fifth Avenue Place, followed by another in Point State Park (7:45 p.m.) and the grand finale at BNY Mellon (9:30 p.m.).
Interwoven throughout these lightings and fireworks displays will be musical performances, headlined by Lambert, who will perform at 8:30 p.m. at the Comcast Main Stage on Ft. Duquesne Boulevard and Stanwix Street. The Nox Boys and Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers will play before Lambert at 6 and 7 p.m. respectively.
Lambert became famous in 2009 after finishing second-place in American Idol’s eighth season and boasts several hit songs, like “For Your Entertainment” and “Whataya Want from Me.” Since 2011, he has taken on the role of Queen’s lead singer.
“That’s one of the biggest highlights,” Gill says. “He recently was in Pittsburgh fronting for Queen, where he was at PPG Paints. He performed live there, and we’re happy to welcome him back to the city.”
On the BNY Mellon New Music Stage, located at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street, Beauty Slap (6 p.m.), Tribe Eternal (7:30 p.m.) and Krunk Movement (8:30 p.m.) will play. And on the EQT Jazzmasters Stage on 625 Liberty Avenue, renditions of music from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will be played. The titular star of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a children’s cartoon produced by Fred Rogers Productions, will make an appearance at this show, which runs from 6-9 p.m.
“I think the messaging of Fred Rogers is all about being a good neighbor,” Gill says. “And I think that’s something that all of the holiday activities throughout downtown are about, it’s being good neighbors to the people of Pittsburgh.”
Several food vendors will be available throughout the day in addition to Downtown’s regular restaurants.
“Obviously all of the Downtown restaurants are open for Comcast Light-Up Night usually,” Gill says, “so there’s a great opportunity if you haven’t been Downtown to just stop in, get out of the cold and enjoy the fantastic dining scene that Downtown has to offer.”
All of the events throughout the day are free to all, but folks can purchase a $100 VIP ticket for a premium experience. Ticket holders can hang out in the U.S. Steel Tower lobby from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for included drinks and food. Then, there will be a rooftop-tour and special, up-close viewing of fireworks.
“You get to see Downtown all lit up from the rooftop of the steel tower,” Gill says.
Pittsburgh has celebrated Light-Up Night since 1959, though it wasn’t always a Christmas celebration, according to Gill. Originally, it was done to celebrate a season of Pirates baseball.
“Then, the year after that, the city came together and thought it was a really great way to attract people into Downtown Pittsburgh to kick off the holiday shopping season. And it’s really continued since then,” Gill says. “It was off for a few years in the ‘70s and ‘80s and then it came back as this really big tradition of bringing the Pittsburgh community together.”
A ton of preparation goes into Light-Up Night every year.
“It’s probably at the back of the mind almost all year,” Gill says. “It’s one of our crowning events, so we like to get a jumpstart on things.”
Pittsburgh has a great sense of community, Gill says, and Comcast Light-Up Night really underscores that.
“It’s one night where you get to see everybody from all around the city and the region just come together [and] celebrate for a good time,” Gill says. “There’s good feelings in the air. Everybody’s happy to get things kicked off, and it’s really a time for the city as a whole to come together.”