The pandemic has forced the cancellation of so many beloved traditions in 2020, so we’re thrilled to see how one of our holiday favorites, the BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, has pivoted to keep things festive this season. Although the country’s third-largest parade won’t be happening this year, Michigan Avenue will still shine bright all winter long with illuminated trees lining the Magnificent Mile.
Some viewers at home and around the country participated in the Chicago tradition over the weekend when the festival kicked off with a special broadcast on ABC7 on Sunday, Nov. 22. If you missed it, you can catch the special broadcast when it re-airs Sunday, Nov. 29 from 4-5pm and on abc7chicago.com.
Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, typically the parade’s grand marshals, deliver a special greeting from Walt Disney World and the broadcast features performances by an impressive lineup of stars. Chicago native and Grammy- and Academy Award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson headlines the one-hour broadcast along with country band Rascal Flatts.
Other performers include Tony and Grammy Award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley; Disney’s a cappella group DCappella; Caroline Bowman and Austin Colby from Disney’s Broadway Musical FROZEN; folk, soul, pop duo Johnnyswim; Disney Channel star Kylie Cantrall; American Idol winner Laine Hardy; and international global pop group Now United. ABC 7 Eyewitness News Anchors Cheryl Burton and Alan Krashesky host the pre-recorded special.
“So much has changed in our world this year, but our city’s holiday spirit will shine through,” said Eric Smith, vice chair for BMO. “Generations of Chicagoans enjoy this event each year, and this year they have new ways to do that in addition to a great broadcast to watch from the comfort of their homes. We’re proud to be sponsoring this event for the 15thconsecutive year and to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Chicago communities for the whole nation to see.”
Vistas of North Michigan Ave., lit with one million lights, will be broadcast to audiences across the country as the special is nationally syndicated throughout the holiday season to more than 90% of markets nationwide.
New this year, the Magnificent Mile Association will feature festive window displays from 15 cultural and community partners in open storefronts along North Michigan Avenue. Events partners impacted by COVID-19, including Christkindlmarket, EXPO Chicago, Get Growing Foundation (formerly Flower Show), and the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International will each get a home for the holidays in a decorated window.
Connecting passersby to a broader swathe of Chicago, communities clustered around the Invest South/West footprint will showcase their cultural traditions, artists in residence, and local businesses in 11 individual window displays anchored by a 7.5’ holiday tree.
“We want to ensure that Chicagoans from all corners of the city feel welcome on The Magnificent Mile,” said Gail Spreen, Chair of the Lights Festival. “There will be no gathering this year, but there will still be plenty of holiday cheer!”
We want to see how you’re enjoying the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival at home this year! Post your photos using the hashtag #BMOLightsFest and tag @betterchicago to be featured!
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Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native who has worked for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in New York and for various book publishers in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics, always counting down the days to their next Disney vacation. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.