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Release Date: Friday, November 20th 2015

Pittsburgh's Light Up Night delights Downtown crowd

By Bob Bauder, Tribune Review

Brandon Chaney invited his mother out for an evening in the city Friday on Pittsburgh's annual Light Up Night, Downtown.

Chaney, 25, and his mom, Kelly, 51, were lined up to tour Kathe Wohlfahrt's “Christmas from Germany” display in Market Square. They said waiting in line to glimpse Christmas decorations was better than trying to navigate the crowded square.

“I invited her out on date night,” Brandon said. “It's a mother-son date.”

Kelly Chaney said the event brought back memories.

“When he was really little, we used to go down to the Point and watch the fireworks,” she said. “We were down there one night and snow was coming down, and we watched the fireworks from under a blanket.”

The Chaneys, both of Green Tree, were among thousands packing the Golden Triangle for the city's 55th holiday extravaganza.

Downtown was ablaze with spotlights, lasers and brightly colored Christmas trees. Crowds packed Market Square so tightly that it was hard to move. Pittsburgh police temporarily shut down pedestrian access to the Roberto Clemente Bridge about 9 p.m. because crowds grew dangerously large shortly before the BNY Mellon Fireworks Finale was set to start.

In Downtown, revelers danced to live country music on Smithfield Street, rock 'n roll near Mellon Square, a barbershop choir in Market Square and Christmas carols at Point State Park. They munched on goodies from food trucks lined up on Smithfield and gathered around PPG Place to see the annual St. Nicholas exhibit at the Wintergarden Holiday Display.

“It's nice reading the traditions from the different Santas from around the world,” said Shelley Green of Canonsburg, adding that she and husband, Kerry, have been going to Light Up Night for 15 years. “We've been here in the snow, the rain, everything.”

The weather this year cooperated with temperatures in the 50s, which compared favorably to the mid-20s in 2014.

“It's warmer than last year,” said Maj. Cynthia Foster, a Salvation Army bell ringer at the entrance to Point State Park. “We are not complaining. Last year, it was so cold.”

Jada Drewery, 10, of Moon had her nose pressed against glass at the Ice Rink at PPG Place surrounded by four brothers and sisters.

“Christmas is the best holiday,” she said.

Her grandmother, Sheila Johns, 51, of Oakdale, agreed.

“My favorite is the Joseph Horne's Christmas tree (now the Highmark Unity Tree),” she said. “My dad used to bring us down every year. Coming off the Fort Pitt Bridge we would see the tree, and it was really like being in heaven.”

Traditions die hard in Pittsburgh, and one of the city's biggest holiday landmarks has been windows at the old Kaufmann's department store. Macy's bought Kaufmann's and closed this year, but former Macy's employees laid off in September volunteered to decorate the windows one last time.

“When I saw they were going to do this, I called and said, ‘Can I help?' ” said Dave Malehorn, 53, of Morningside, a former employee of the Macy's merchandise support team. “I only volunteered a couple hours over a couple days this week. Some of the (former Macy's) design people did the heavy lifting.”

Carol Eddins, 56, of Upper St. Clair said the windows were always a tradition in her family during the Christmas season.

“It's so nice to see the city so revived on Light Up Night,” she said. “It's the hustle and bustle of the evening that we miss. Shopping used to be our great thrill at Christmastime.”

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