After the tree lighting in New York City, Milwaukee held the second oldest holiday tradition of its kind in the United States on November 16, with festivities that included performances of music and dance, and a fireworks show along the river.

Previously held at Red Arrow Park for many years, the tree lighting location returned to its original spot at Wells and Water Streets in 2016, at the City Hall planter.

Thousands of Milwaukee residents attended the festivities and enjoyed treats like hot cocoa and freshly baked ginger bread men. Special guests included Santa and his reindeer, and carols sung by the Lincoln Center of the Arts Ambassador Choir. Support from the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino helped make the event possible.

With the assistance of several of Milwaukee’s children, Mayor Tom Barrett flipped the switch to illuminate the the 32-foot Colorado Blue Spruce, harvested from the city’s South Side. It had been decorated with thousands of lights and hundreds of ornaments by members of the Department of Public Works, and was donated by Thomas Scannell and Elizabeth Hipp this year.

After the tree lighting, the Downtown BID’s Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival extravaganza “Catch the Spirit,” began at Pere Marquette Park with live musical entertainment including special performances by Lex Allen.

Fireworks were then 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.

These images from the tree lighting ceremony and the holiday lights festival show the multi-cultural spirit that exists in Milwaukee. The events serve as an example of people coming together in community.

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Lee Matz