Just mention “Night of Lights” to generations of Fort Wayne residents and visitors, and they will list the holiday traditions that play out on Thanksgiving Eve.
Downtown will light up again on Wednesday, Nov. 22, as iconic symbols begin glowing for yet another HolidayFest.
Santa and his reindeer will dash across the wall of the PNC Bank Building, just one of a dozen highlights of the evening. Downtown churches will offer the Ringing of the Bells at 7:30 p.m. Parkview Field spectators will lift their eyes to holiday fireworks at 7:45 p.m. Also this year, Ash Brokerage joins the lighting ceremonies with Holiday Illumination at 6:40 p.m.
Family-friendly lighting ceremonies and indoor and outdoor holiday activities will take place throughout the late afternoon and evening. Warm up with cocoa and carols at the Allen County Courthouse. Enjoy a special outdoor holiday concert with Renee Gonzales and her Merry Musicians at I&M Power Center Plaza, presented by Wells Fargo. Take in the kickoffs of both the Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center and Festival of Trees at the Embassy Theatre. Participate in activities like Cookies & Cocoa with Santa at Salin Bank, Santa’s Workshop at the Community Center, the Holiday Open House at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Create a Scarf at the Allen County Public Library or Santa at the Train Station at the Baker Street Train Station.
The Downtown Holiday Window Decorating Contest returns this year. Visitors will stroll past the decorated windows of participating businesses and organizations. This year’s theme is “Walking in a Window Wonderland!” Voting in four categories will begin on the Night of Lights.
HolidayFest continues through the end of the year with performances, festivals, arts and cultural events, Holly Trolley shopping and more.
HolidayFest, featuring the Night of Lights, is presented by the Downtown Improvement District with the support of sponsors.
A list of events follows. For full information and any updates, visit HolidayFestDowntown.com.
Night of Lights lighting schedule
5:30 p.m. — History Center turret lighting (Barr Street)
5:45 p.m. — Christ Child Festival Nativity Lighting (Ross Building on Main Street)
5:50 p.m. — Aunt Millie’s Northern Lights (Pearl Street)
5:55 p.m. — Community Center Santa’s Workshop Display (Main Street)
6:20 p.m. — Santa and His Reindeer at PNC Bank (Main and Calhoun streets)
6:40 p.m. — Ash Brokerage Holiday Illumination (Harrison and Berry streets)
7 p.m. — Wells Fargo Holiday Display and Indiana Michigan Power Merry Christmas Wreath (I&M Power Center Plaza at Calhoun and Wayne streets)
7:15 p.m. — Botanical Conservatory and Embassy Theatre displays (Jefferson Boulevard)
7:30 p.m. — Ringing of the Bells (Downtown churches and Allen County Public Library)
7:45 p.m. — Parkview Field Holiday Fireworks (Jefferson Boulevard)
Santa & Mrs. Claus at 1st Source Bank
200 E. Main St., 4-6:30 p.m.
Stop by for a treat and visit Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Santa at the Train Station
Baker Street Train Station, 221 W. Baker St., 4-8:30 p.m.
Come to the Baker Street Train Station and visit with Santa and one of his reindeer. Enjoy hot chocolate, punch and cookies and crafts for the kids. A freewill donation of canned goods and/or cash will be taken for Community Harvest Food Bank.
Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Community Center, 233 W. Main St., 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Start your downtown celebration at the Community Center with free holiday activities for the kids. There will be crafts, refreshments and movies. Donate a new or gently used bear to the Disorderly Bear Den and be entered into a drawing to win a giant elf bear. Kids can shop for inexpensive holiday gifts for $4 or less at the North Pole Stop-n-Shop. Mom and Dad can shop too, from Community Center patrons who have been crafting holiday items to sell in the Crafter’s Corner. Finally, check out the light display on the Community Center roof when the lights go on at 5:55 p.m.
Warm up at Night of Lights: Create a Scarf
ACPL Teen Department, 900 Library Plaza, 5 p.m.
Stay warm at Night of Lights by making a cozy no-sew fleece scarf. One per person, while supplies last. Please come into the Teen Department.
Aunt Millie’s Northern Lights
Aunt Millie’s Bakeries, 350 Pearl St., 5-6:30 p.m.
Start your evening with Aunt Millie’s Carolers and spread some Christmas cheer. While you’re here, warm up with some free cider and sample Aunt Millie’s cranberry apple swirl bread. Count down as we light the display at 5:50 p.m.
Cathedral Books & Gifts
915 S. Clinton St., 5-9 p.m.
Enjoy free hot wassail and cookies while browsing gifts like home décor, Nativities, advent wreaths, ornaments, jewelry and much more. Save 20 percent off purchases from 5-9 p.m.
Wells Fargo Presents: Holiday Music and More on the Plaza
I&M Power Center Plaza, Corner of Wayne and Calhoun streets, 5-6 p.m. and immediately after the lighting ceremony at the I&M Power Center Plaza
Holiday music led by vocalist Renee Gonzales and a talented group of musicians will open the evening on the plaza. Sing along, dance along or just listen as nightfall ushers in sights, sounds and activities of the season. The Wells Fargo Stagecoach will be on hand for photo opportunities in and around the stagecoach, creating the framework of earlier times when everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of the stagecoach filled with holiday packages. The holiday display lighting will take place at 7 p.m.
Holiday Kick-Off Party at the Botanical Gardens
Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St., 5-9 p.m.
$5 for adults, $3 for ages 3-17
Enjoy hot chocolate and a cookie, meet Mrs. Claus and get a free photo with Santa. Also, meet two live reindeer. The gardens are decorated for the holidays, with the animated light show outdoors.
Hot Beverages on the Market
The History Center, 302 E. Berry St., with the market just behind the History Center, 5-9 p.m.
After checking out the Festival of Gingerbread, enjoy hot beverages served on the Barr Street Market, presented by Arch and the History Center.
Lighting Night at the History Center
302 E. Berry St., 5:30 p.m.
The Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center kicks off during Night of Lights, when visitors can get a sneak peek at the handiwork of gingerbread creators from 3-9 p.m. Admission is $3 person at the door for Night of Lights. Watch at 5:30 p.m. when the History Center’s turret will be lit with holiday colors of red and green.
Cookies and Hot Cocoa with Santa
Salin Bank, 110 W. Main St., 5:30-6:45 p.m.
Salin Bank invites people to enjoy cookies and cocoa with Santa.
PNC Santa Lighting Celebration
PNC Bank parking lot at Calhoun and Main streets, 5:30-7:30 pm.
Come early to join the Voices of Unity in singing holiday tunes, sit in Santa’s lap then stay to see Fort Wayne’s biggest and brightest holiday display come to life. The classic “Santa and Reindeer” will brighten the sky at 6:20 p.m.
Christ Child Festival Nativity Lighting
Ross Building, West Main Street and Maiden Lane, 5:45 p.m.
A lighted Nativity will be hung on the east side of the Ross building.
Grand Wayne Convention Center Holiday Open House
Grand Wayne Convention Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd., 5:50-8 p.m.
Entertainment includes Faith in Motion Dancers, Allen County Public Library Children’s Department holiday crafts, The Phil’s Youth Concert and Symphony orchestras, and complimentary punch and cookies with Mrs. Claus.
Festival of Trees
Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd., 6-9 p.m.
$8 for adults, $4 for children 12 and younger.
Lobbies of the Embassy Theatre and Indiana Hotel are transformed into a wonderland of Christmas trees under the theme of “Silver Bells.” This year marks the festival’s 33rd celebration.
Cocoa and Carols
Allen County Courthouse, 715 S. Calhoun St., 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Warm up with hot cocoa while enjoying the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir Christmas Carols.
Ash Brokerage Holiday Illumination
Ash Brokerage, Harrison and Berry streets, 6:40 p.m.
With coloring-changing lights surrounding the exterior, Skyline Garage, a part of Ash Skyline Plaza, will be lit with festive colors for the holidays.
I&M Merry Christmas Wreath Lighting on the Plaza
Indiana Michigan Power Center Plaza, 110 E. Wayne St., 7 p.m.
Indiana Michigan Power will display and light the “Merry Christmas” wreath which made its debut on the original Wolf & Dessauer department store at the corner of Calhoun and Washington in 1937. In 2008, the wreath received a fresh coat of paint and all 8,500 light bulbs were replaced with energy-efficient LED bulbs, giving it a warmer, crisper glow. This marks the 30th year of this holiday season tradition.
Ringing of the Bells
Downtown Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
Listen as you walk to watch the fireworks at Parkview Field and you will hear bells and carillons from the Allen County Public Library and Emmanuel Lutheran, First Presbyterian, First Wayne Street United Methodist, Plymouth Congregational, St. John Lutheran, St. Mary Catholic, Trinity English Lutheran and Trinity Episcopal churches ring in unity to mark the beginning of the holidays downtown.
Parkview Field Holiday Fireworks
Parkview Field, 1301 Ewing St., 7:45 p.m.
The downtown skyline will light up with a fireworks display set to favorite holiday music. Visitors will also be able to take in the Erin’s House “Lights of Love” luminary display. Stroll Parkview Field’s concourse and take in the holiday atmosphere, including the TinCaps’ 24-foot Christmas tree. Hot beverages and holiday snacks will be available.
(The Downtown Improvement District provided this list of activities.)