The City of Milwaukee welcomed area residents to a series of festive celebrations that officially kicked off the holiday season on November 21, filling downtown locations like Cathedral Square Park, City Hall, and Pere Marquette Park with lights, music, and community cheer.

The evening began as Saint Nicholas took an inaugural ride on Everstream’s ‘Hoppy Holidays’ Streetcar, a holiday-themed vehicle that delivered him to the 106th Annual City Christmas Tree Lighting. The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, got a makeover for the 2019 holiday season from the streetcar’s newest partner, Everstream. The Business-Only Fiber Network announced on November 1, as The Hop began its second year of operation, that its sponsorship would allow the public to continue riding the streetcar for free into early 2020.

Mayor Tom Barrett, local leaders, and area families then gathered by the City Christmas Tree on Market Street, next to City Hall, for Santa’s arrival. The 2019 Christmas tree is a 35-foot Colorado Blue Spruce donated by Daisy McGregor. The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works staff decorated the tree with nearly 3,500 lights and more than 200 ornaments. First Stage Theater Academy students performed songs from “ELF – The Musical” before the switch was flipped to light-up the tree.

Afterwards, downtown was illuminated with more than 500,000 lights and dozens of animated displays for the 21st Annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. The traditional display of lights, coordinated by Milwaukee Downtown BID #21, transformed three downtown parks into winter wonderland scenes. “Community Spirit Park” at Cathedral Square Park, “Polar Park” at Pere Marquette Park, and “Holiday Hearth powered by We Energies” at Zeidler Union Square, were supported by street decorations along three downtown thoroughfares, including an 18-block stretch of lights along Wisconsin Avenue.

Those lights officially ignited with a switch-flipping ceremony at Pere Marquette Park, during the Festival’s kick off extravaganza. The show featured holiday treats, a visit from Santa, and live music. Performances included the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Jenny Thiel, cast members from “Black Nativity,” Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol,” Anita’s Dance Center, Milwaukee Flyers, Robin Adkins, illusionist David Seebach, and national recording artist Grace Weber. A fireworks ceremony concluded the night.

This collection of images shares the sights and experiences of those events, as participants of all ages came together in community to enjoy the start of the 2019 holiday season in Milwaukee.