CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival® invites visitors to kick off the holiday season with two days of family fun—November 18 and 19! On Saturday evening, November 19, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® will lead an unforgettable tree-lighting parade down North Michigan Avenue, illuminating more than one million lights 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," said Justine Fedak, SVP, Marketing, BMO Harris Bank. "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!"
Beginning on Friday afternoon, November 18 at 4:00PM, Lights Festival Lane (401 N. Michigan Avenue) promises an interactive wonderland of free, holiday-themed activities. BMO Harris Bank presents an immersive virtual reality experience at the BMO Dome, inviting visitors to "Show Your Light" by writing a holiday message using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. All written messages will be projected on the 30' tent.
The beautifully-lit BMO Dome will be the focal point of a special dedication at 5:00PM to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Lights Festival. The moment will feature live music; Hubert the Lion and friends from BMO Harris Bank; a giant cheesecake from The Eli's Cheesecake Company; and an address from the event's founders.
The fun continues Saturday morning, November 19 at 11:00AM. Santa Claus will greet festivalgoers at a brand-new Santa Chalet presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism, complete with wintry animals provided by Brookfield Zoo. The BMO Harris Bank Kids Zone tent will be full of larger-than-life games provided by the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, along with free face painting. Guests can enjoy interactive activities from the Disney Store, Museum of Science & Industry and more; and sample treats from local favorites like Garrett Popcorn Shop and Connie's Pizza.
Subaru will have a display at Lights Festival Lane featuring the all-new 2017 Impreza. Guests can get their photo taken with a professionally carved ice scene and help themselves to holiday-themed giveaways.
Saturday's festivities lead up to the much-anticipated tree-lighting parade, the country's largest evening holiday celebration. The parade begins at 5:30PM as Grand marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse join classic characters from Walt Disney World®, including newcomers Woody and Jessie from Toy Story; and lead more than 40 magnificent floats, helium-filled balloons and five marching bands from across the country down the route.
"25 years ago, our hope was the lighting of the trees would become a holiday highlight and mark a new chapter for North Michigan Avenue," says Marc Schulman, founder of the event in 1992. "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!"
Audiences can expect crowd favorites to return, including the larger-than-life Hubert the Lion balloon from BMO Harris Bank and the world-famous scent of Garrett Popcorn Shop's popcorn infused from the shop's float. In the spirit of sharing light in the community, Northwestern Medicine invites organ transplant recipients and donors, as well as their family members, to ride on their float. Santa soars down the parade route on a float from the Illinois Office of Tourism to officially signal the start of the holiday season.
This year, BMO extended an invitation to several inspiring Chicagoans to join them on the BMO Harris Bank Community Float along the parade route. The invitation extends from civic and religious leaders to the most innocent who have been victims of gun violence in their own backyards and have overcome adversity so bravely.
Celebrity appearances include the Disney pop band trio Forever in Your Mind; actor and singer, Drew Lachey of 98 Degrees; country superstar, Jo Dee Messina, presented by Southwest Airlines; Grammy-winning jazz vocalist, Kurt Elling; powerhouse vocalist, MARi; Chicago-based acapella group, The Remedy; and the award-winning Blue Man Group.
The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival draws to a grand conclusion with a spectacular fireworks display over the Chicago River.
The nationally-televised event will be hosted by ABC 7 Eyewitness News Anchors Cheryl Burton and Rob Elgas on Saturday, November 19 from 6 – 7 PM CST on ABC 7 Chicago, with anchor Judy Hsu and entertainment reporter Janet Davies capturing the magic from the street.
The Lights Festival parade will also be streamed LIVE on the ABC App and will be available on-demand at abc7chicago.com. The broadcast will air in more than 90% of markets around the United States throughout the holiday season, with repeat airings in multiple markets. Viewers can find their local broadcast times at TheMagnificentMile.com or check their local listings to relive the magic.
The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is also the perfect time to get a start on holiday shopping! Seasonal promotions and holiday happenings from area shops, restaurants, hotels and attractions continue into the new year.
High-resolution event images are available to download here: https://spaces.hightail.com/space/I9YNh
About Walt Disney World Resort
Walt Disney World Resort is a contiguous, nearly 40-square-mile, world-class entertainment and recreation center featuring four theme parks (Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park , Epcot®, Disney's Hollywood Studios® and Magic Kingdom® Park; two water adventure parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon); 35 resort hotels (25 owned and operated by Walt Disney World, includes seven Disney Vacation Club resort properties); two full-service spas; Disney's Wedding Pavilion; ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex; and Disney Springs with one-of-a-kind shopping and waterfront dining. Located at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 20 miles southwest of Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort opened Oct. 1, 1971. Open daily, year-round.
About BMO Harris Bank
BMO Harris Bank provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions close to 600 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. For more information about BMO Harris Bank, go to the company fact sheet. Banking products and services are provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. and are subject to bank and credit approval. BMO Harris Bank® is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with approximately 1,500 branches, and CDN $692 billion in assets (as of July 31, 2016).
About Southwest Airlines Co.
In its 46th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by more than 53,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually. Southwest operates more than 3,900 departures a day during peak travel season across a network of 98 destinations in the United States and seven additional countries with service to Varadero, Cuba beginning Nov. 13, 2016, and to Havana, Cuba, beginning Dec. 12, 2016, both routes subject to governmental approvals.
About Illinois Office of Tourism
The Illinois Office of Tourism manages industry efforts that result in sustainable and significant economic and quality-of-life benefits for Illinois residents. For trip ideas, planning tools and to find out more about Illinois Made, visit EnjoyIllinois.com or follow @EnjoyIllinois on social.
About The Magnificent Mile®
The Magnificent Mile® is Chicago's premier destination, offering more than 460 stores, 275 restaurants, 60 hotels, unique museums and entertaining attractions to more than 20 million visitors each year. As one of the Great Avenues of the World, The Magnificent Mile district features extraordinary shopping, critically-acclaimed dining, world-class hotel accommodations, seasonal event campaigns and exceptional urban landscaping with more than 52 separate parkway gardens that reflect the changing seasons and complement the unique architectural beauty of Chicago. For more information, visit TheMagnificentMile.com or follow The Magnificent Mile on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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SOURCE The Magnificent Mile Association