Milwaukee flipped the switch on 2016’s holiday extravaganza, with the official Christmas Tree lighting on November 17 at City Hall.

Unseasonably mild weather supported a night of festive celebrations, with high of 72° earlier in the day. The event marked the 103rd continuous year of a Christmas tree celebration in Milwaukee. After New York city, it is the second oldest type of observance in the United States. Previously held at Red Arrow Park for many years, the tree lighting tradition returned to its original location at Wells and Water Streets, in the City Hall planter.

“The City Christmas Tree has returned home to City Hall for this Holiday Season of celebration,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a prepared statement. “This is a great opportunity to spread cheer with family and friends, and join other residents to usher in the holiday season.”

A 38-foot Colorado Blue Spruce was donated this year by Rex Hayes and Annamaria Wallace, and adorned with 5,000 lights and 150 ornaments. The decoration plan and venue presentation was designed by David Caruso, owner of Dynamic Events.

Original ornaments were crafted by local artists to depict the personality and pride of Milwaukee’s many neighborhoods and communities. One creation, the “blessing ball,” contained paper notes inscribed with the hopes and dreams of Sherman Park residents.

“The real ‘stars’ of this tree are the 12 signature ornaments that represent what Milwaukee means. Each was created with its own unique message,” Caruso said. “And they really stand out as the most beautiful ornaments on the tree.”

As a crowd of several thousand gathered and waited for the tree to be lit, there were special appearances by Santa Claus and his reindeer, and characters from the Milwaukee Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Entertainment also included the Lincoln Center of the Arts Ambassador Choir, Salvation Army Brass Ensemble, and the cast from the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol.”

After the tree lighting ceremony, the 18th Annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival kicked-off a couple blocks away at Pere Marquette Park.

The Gazebo stage hosted live music and dance performances by the local rock band Platinum, the Radio Rosies, Dance Academy of Mexico, Jenny Thiel, Robin Adkins, Carol Molex, Fred Astaire Dance Studio, and Elation Dance Center. A special show by the Brewcity Fire Brigade prepared the audience for the evening’s pyrotechnics.

Fireworks were launched from the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts complex. The display shimmered across the Milwaukee River, and was cheered on by the massive crowd.

© Photo

Lee Matz

Read the article and view the photo essay that were produced as companion features for this news report.