FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mayor Jim Kenney kicks off Philadelphia’s holiday season at City’s Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration
Philadelphia’s own Jazmine Sullivan and Russell Thompkins Jr. & The New Stylistics lead an all-star program.
(PHILADELPHIA) Thursday, December 5, 2019 – Mayor Jim Kenney, City Representative Sheila Hess and special guests officially lit the holiday tree at the City of Philadelphia Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration presented by Bank of America at City Hall last night. Despite a dose of inclement weather, nothing seemed to rain on the excitement of the tree lighting activities.
The tree lighting is the signature event of the Philly Holiday Festival Presented by Independence Blue Cross produced by the Office of the City Representative in partnership with Welcome America, Inc. and many City departments. For more than 25 years, the City of Philadelphia has organized a festive tree lighting event in Center City at City Hall or LOVE Park.
The pre-show entertainment set the tone at 5 p.m., followed by the main program, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring the official tree lighting of the VISIT PHILADELPHIA Holiday Tree powered by NRG. The holiday tree lighting and a spectacular unveiling took place at 6:50 p.m.
The tree lighting, which heralds in the winter holiday season in Philadelphia, was a highlight in an evening of nonstop entertainment, which was free and open to the public. The theme was ‘Rockin’ ‘Round the Holiday Tree!
To celebrate the holidays, iconic City Hall and its surroundings magically were transformed into a winter wonderland of family-friendly festivities featuring a 65-foot-tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel and Christmas Village Holiday Train near the northeast portal of City Hall’s Wawa Holiday Plaza. The City Hall stage shined with an array of talent from the fields of dance and music to ring in the holidays. “I’ve always enjoyed the winter holidays because they give us a chance to pause and count our blessings while spending time with family and friends,” said Mayor Kenney. “The annual tree lighting celebration is a great opportunity for all of us to come together and experience some great holiday entertainment as part of the time-honored tradition of lighting our spectacular tree at City Hall.”
The show featured Strawberry Mansion-raised and Grammy-nominated Jazmine Sullivan; Philadelphia’s hitmaking soul sensations Russell Thompkins Jr. & The New Stylistics; WanMor (South Jersey’s fearsome foursome R&B group and sons of Philly-bred Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris); daytime soap actor and Broadway singer Kristen Alderson; the acclaimed Philly POPS featuring international jazz artist Alita Moses (a graduate of Philly’s University of the Arts and winner of 2014 Shure Montreux Jazz Vocal Competition); Carolyn Amaradio (of ‘”Celebrity Ghost Stories” TV series documentary fame) & Justin Gonzalez (Philadelphia’s classically-trained tenor and PHL LIVE Center Stage Awards winner).
Returning was hometown favorite Sullivan who graced the City’s tree lighting stage at City Hall’s Courtyard in 2015. Among the 2019 performances were Sullivan’s rendition of This Christmas, Russell Thompkins Jr. & The New Stylistics, who sang Have Yourself a Merry Christmas. Carolyn Amaradio & Justin Gonzalez performing O Holy Night. WanMor sang Let It Snow, a modern version made famous by Boys II Men, and Kristen Alderson will dazzle with Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and The Philly POPS featured holiday classics. Mr. & Mrs. Claus and SpongeBob SquarePants, from The SpongeBob Musical at the Forrest Theatre, and the Phillie Phanatic joined in the festivities to add even more festive cheer.
The pre-show entertainment included local performers Philly Parks & Recreation Chorale, Hill-Freedman Records Student Artists and The Royal Mix.
The performers sprinkled their musical touch on holiday classics and an assortment of seasonal medleys. The performances set the stage for the lighting of the VISIT PHILADELPHIA Holiday Tree powered by NRG — a 50-year-old majestic white fir, or concolor fir, (Abies concolor) that will light up the City Hall-area skyline. As the shining star of the show, the lush fir is 55-feet tall, one of the tallest ever showcased in a City holiday ceremony.
City Representative Hess said the season’s goodwill and glow of hundreds of tree lights now shine brightly on Philadelphia.
“The City’s lighting of the tree marked our introduction to the 2019 holiday season,” Hess said. “Our celebration symbolizes the magic and harmony of the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Festival of the Three Kings or other holiday observances, our City of Philadelphia Official Philly Holiday Festival Tree Lighting is a chance to experience the joy of the city, the world and the winter holiday season.”
Jim Dever, Market President of Bank of America, joined Mayor Kenney and City Representative Hess to light the VISIT PHILADELPHIA Holiday Tree powered by NRG. Mayor Kenney, City Representative Hess and stage guests led the crowd in the much-anticipated countdown before illuminating dozens of glimmering lights.
The lights brought to life the massive freshly-cut tree, which is topped with a fully- illuminated gold Liberty Bell, more than 3 feet tall. The tree is adorned with 4,000 linear feet of multi-color LED lights and more than a dozen hand-designed ornaments including colorful holiday balls; snowmen, sleds, stars and snowflakes.
The custom-steel tree base is more than 7 feet, weighing at least 40,000 pounds. It represents 30 of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods — from Chinatown to Fishtown. The decorative pedestal showcases artful images of Philadelphia’s skyline and icons such as Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
A 24-hour soundtrack accompanying the illuminated tree base features a mix of holiday classics and modern tunes (including All I Want for Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Do You Hear What I Hear, Santa Tell Me, My Only Wish This Year and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays) – as well as holiday greetings from Mayor Kenney and 6abc news anchor Jim Gardner.
The stage backdrop was an elaborate fire place scene showcasing the words “Philadelphia Loves The Holidays,” and the Second Empire-style columns on the façade of City Hall will be lit festively with illuminated snowflakes to reflect the spirit of the season.
The tree was selected by representatives from the City’s Parks and Recreation department on October 7, then freshly cut and delivered to City Hall on November 18. Sautter Crane Co., of Northeast Philadelphia, donated its services to secure the tree after its delivery to City Hall from the Yule Tree Farms in upstate New York. The tree and Philly-centric base were spruced up with decorations soon afterwards. The City’s tree will be on display after New Year’s before it is removed and recycled. Part of the tree trunk is scheduled to be upcycled into a table, small bench or another item to be donated to a charitable organization.
This year, the City Hall sidewalk-apron became The Wawa Holiday Plaza at North Broad Street, where guests shopped 15 new holiday merchants and enjoyed new attractions while taking a photo with the VISIT PHILADELPHIA Holiday Tree powered by NRG. Visitors came out early and enjoyed special giveaways from event partners: NRG, Bank of America, Wawa, Acme and Hershey’s Kitchens. They gathered with family and friends for a holiday photo at the Independence Blue Cross photo booth. It added to the festive atmosphere created by Christmas Village in LOVE Park and Christmas Village’s ACME Winter Memories in the City Hall Courtyard operating now through Christmas Eve.
Returning this years were the ACME Winter Memories in the City Hall Courtyard featuring a holiday carousel and more than a dozen holiday merchants as well as The Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink at Dilworth Park on the west of City Hall.
The Philly Holiday Festival presented by Independence Blue Cross is produced by the City of Philadelphia with official broadcast partner 6abc, and supported by sponsors including Visit Philadelphia, NRG, Wawa, Bank of America, Christmas Village in Philadelphia, Acme, Hershey’s Kitchen, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Proof Productions Inc. and Sautter Crane Rental.
Some famous recent celebrity figures appearing or performing at the City’s tree lighting programs over the years are: Nick Canon, Kenan Thompson, Jazzman Gerald Veasley, Marsha Ambrosius, Estelle, Kathy Sledge, talent show stars Michael Woodard, Cam Anthony and Catie Turner, Gritty, Bernie Parent and Vince Papale.
The Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony was held variously at City Hall and LOVE Park in recent years. It was at City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza in 2009 and 2010. Due to the nearly three years of renovations at Dilworth Park (formerly Dilworth Plaza), the Holiday Tree lighting was held at LOVE Park, from 2011 to 2013 featuring a 38-foot artificial LED tree. Dilworth Park reopened in September 2014 after undergoing a more than $50 Million renovation project that has completely transformed the west side of City Hall, where the tree was displayed for years. In 2014, the City began obtaining a holiday tree at commercial farms to improve the quality (to make the selections consistently better) of the trees for the holiday ceremonies. Prior, the City’s Fairmount Park (now Philadelphia Parks and Recreation) sourced the City fir or the tree lighting celebration from locations donated by Philadelphia residents.
Check out www.phila.gov for details about the Philly Holiday Festival citywide, and a full calendar of events and details on tree lightings around the city.
Holiday revelers can stay up to date on social media at:
Facebook Handle: Facebook.com/PhillyCityRep
Instagram Handle: @PhillyCityRep
Twitter Handle: @PhillyCityRep
Made possible by our fabulous sponsors:
The City of Philadelphia
6abc (Official Broadcast Partner)
Independence Blue Cross
Bank of America
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Kindy’s Christmas Factory Outlet
Sautter Crane Company
Proof Productions, Inc.