Even with a few trees still bearing leaves, downtown Detroit posted all signs on Friday night that the holiday season was starting as planned.
The 18th Annual Detroit Tree Lighting kicked off the weeks leading up to Christmas with a colorful ceremony that drew tens of thousands to Campus Martius Park.
Presented by the Downtown Detroit Partnership and the DTE Energy Foundation, the event featured a host of food trucks, figure skating, local artists, and even a visit from “Santa Claus”.
The festivities were meant to both entertain and help the attendees feel more joyful. And it worked.
“These are the people who have the Christmas spirit,” said Anita Ross, who came from New Orleans with her family. “It’s awesome.”
The event marked the return to a live ceremony after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the lighting to be televised last year.
The crowds showed up even as the state reported nearly 18,000 new confirmed cases of the virus over two days and the largest one-week total of its confirmed cases – 53,575 – since the virus was first detected for the first time in Michigan in March 2020.
The organizers encouraged the wearing of masks for participants, but it was not compulsory. Masks and vaccines were also offered at the event. Estimates were not immediately available on the number of participants who took a mask or received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The centerpiece on Friday night was a 65-foot, Michigan-grown Norway spruce tree adorned with ornaments and illuminated by 20,000 multi-colored LED lights.
Families bundled up against the cold cheered as the tallest tree to adorn the space came alive with golden, crimson, purple and emerald lights. Massive box-shaped gifts perched below and a snowflake-shaped light twinkled atop.
Minutes later, the crowd watched the figure skaters glide across the ice at the ice rink, which officially opened on Friday, to holiday-themed songs such as “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey .
The scene took on new meaning for Latina Brintley, who had never attended it before but wanted to celebrate the end of cancer treatments with her 10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old niece.
Anita Ross, her mother, had battled COVID-19 and Brintley’s grandmother died of the virus.
“It was going so badly, it’s great to see that something is going right,” Brintley said as she stood by a light in the shape of a Christmas decoration and as Detroit singer Thornetta Davis performed. “Boogie Woogie Santa”.
She and others who filled the park also watched the performances of other singers such as Cam Anthony, season 20 winner of “The Voice,” as well as Olympic and American champion figure skater Ashley Wagner, who won. a world silver medal in 2016 and an Olympic bronze medal in 2014.
Some also found carriage rides or headed to the downtown Detroit markets at Cadillac Square, which opened last month with 18 local retailers selling jewelry, decorations, toys, and more.
The freezing air carried the scent of hot chocolate, barbecue, fries and gyroscopes from the assorted food trucks that dot Campus Martius.
The sights and sounds were a plus for Oscar Ferrari of West Bloomfield Township, who carried his 7-year-old daughter, Augustina, through the crowds.
“We are having a great time,” he said.