The annual Holiday Lights Festival has become an annual holiday season tradition that has expanded to encompass a series of festive events beloved by the community.
In addition to its signature events, “festival-goers can also expect new elements like a relocated, brand-new ice rink and a unique musical theme for the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular," said Roger Humphries, president of the Downtown Omaha Inc. board.
The Holiday Lights Festival is produced by Mayor Jean Stothert and the Downtown Omaha Inc. Foundation , and presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska with media sponsors 3 News Now and STAR 104.5 .
The 2017 Holiday Lights Festival Schedule is as follows:
Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony presented by T-Mobile
6-7 p.m. • Thursday, Nov. 23 • Gene Leahy Mall (14th and Farnam streets)
The Omaha Children’s Choir takes the stage at 5:40 p.m. At 6 p.m., Mayor Jean Stothert will lead the crowd in a countdown to reveal the 2017 lighting display. Downtown businesses and residences traditionally feature festive lighting and holiday decorations during the event, and many shops and restaurants in the Old Market are open before and after the ceremony. The lighting display will be illuminated nightly from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. from Friday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.
Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert presented by Lincoln Financial Group
7 p.m. • Thursday, Nov. 23 • Holland Performing Arts Center (located at 13th and Douglas streets)
Nov. 21-Feb. 14 • The Capitol District (10th Street and Capitol Avenue) • $8 admission (includes skate rental)
The rink — in its new location — returns to entertain families and “Shine the Light on Hunger.” Starting Nov. 21, the rink will be open 6-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 6 p.m.-midnight Fridays, 1 p.m.-midnight Saturdays, and 1-10 p.m. Sundays; with special holiday hours on Christmas Eve (1-5 p.m.) and New Year’s Eve (1-8 p.m.), and extended hours Dec. 22-Jan. 8 and Jan. 15, 2018. The rink will be closed Christmas Day. An $8 admission fee (plus tax) includes skate rental, although patrons may bring their own skates. As part of the Shine the Light on Hunger campaign, a portion of the admission fee will be matched by a $100,000 gift from the Conagra Brands Foundation to support Food Bank for the Heartland.
7-8 p.m. Saturdays • Nov. 25-Dec. 23
Sounds of the Season showcases local choral groups ranging from school-based youth choirs to seasoned professionals. Performances take place in the Gene Leahy Mall at 11th and Farnam streets and in the Old Market at 11th and Howard streets.
Noon- 5 p.m. • Sunday, Dec. 3
For the 12th year, Wells Fargo is sponsoring the Family Festival, an afternoon of free family fun. Six downtown arts and cultural institutions offer free admission and hands-on activities for the entire family from simple crafts and cookie decorating to stagecoach rides and a visit with Santa. Visitors of all ages can also enjoy refreshments and family-friendly entertainment and collect souvenirs at most of the sites. Free trolley service provided by Ollie the Trolley connects all participating locations during the event.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular presented by T-Mobile
Sunday, Dec. 31, 7 p.m.
The last signature event of the 2017 Holiday Lights Festival is expected to draw more than 30,000 people, so spectators are encouraged to arrive early to the official viewing site at the Gene Leahy Mall located at 14th and Farnam streets. The show features a professionally choreographed display of fireworks designed by J&M Displays to hit songs from Girls Who Rock over the decades. STAR 104.5 will broadcast the live musical accompaniment onsite, and viewers elsewhere can tune in as they watch the show that will be visible for miles.