Chicago gears up for BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival


Mickey and Minnie Mouse will lead a tree-lighting parade down North Michigan Avenue.   Contributed photo

The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival will take place Friday and Saturday, culminating in Mickey and Minnie Mouse leading a tree-lighting parade down North Michigan Avenue.

More than one million lights will be illuminated from Oak Street to the Chicago River.

"Each year, BMO Harris Bank looks forward to bringing together friends and families from all communities across Chicagoland to participate in the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival holiday festivities," Justine Fedak, senior vice president of marketing for BMO Harris Bank, said. "We've been part of this magical celebration for over a decade now and it's our diverse neighborhoods coming together on this very special occasion that makes it my favorite event of the year."

Events begin Friday afternoon. The festivities continue Saturday morning with Santa greeting the crowd at a new chalet presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism. Animals will be on hand from Brookfield Zoo, and the BMO Harris Bank Kids Zone tent will feature large-scale games and free face-painting from the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.

"Twenty-five years ago, our hope was the lighting of the trees would become a holiday highlight and mark a new chapter for North Michigan Avenue," Marc Schulman, who founded the event in 1992, said. "None of this would have been possible without the strong volunteer leadership of The Magnificent Mile Association. Now, it's the most magical moment of the year."

Celebrity appearances include the Disney pop trio Forever in Your Mind; actor and singer Drew Lachey of 98 Degrees; country star Jo Dee Messina, presented by Southwest Airlines; Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling; and the award-winning Blue Man Group, among others.

The festival will close with a fireworks display over the Chicago River.

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