Holiday atmosphere cranked up in downtown Springfield

Visit Greater Springfield has added new holiday lights and music to create a festive mood in downtown Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Visit Greater Springfield has added new holiday lights and music to create a festive mood in downtown Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The festive lights of downtown Springfield during the holiday season can brighten anyone’s evening. For the next several weeks, those lights will be at about 150,000 times brighter.

Visit Greater Springfield has added 150,000 new holiday lights, a sound system and several pop-up features to greet visitors and add to the holiday spirit on the city’s core block.

For several years, the Visit Greater Springfield staff has envisioned the annual Holiday in the City event stretching over more than one day. This year proved the right time to experiment.

“It’s been in discussion for years to extend to more days or investing in more lighting and environment. The pandemic sort of forced our hand on this,” said Chris Schutte, vice president, destination marketing and communications for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

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Plans for Holiday in the City activities begin in March, and even then Schutte and staff got the hint the pandemic may alter it, canceling in July. Logistics and contracts for attractions like entertainment and rides have to be completed well in advance and couldn’t just be done on spur of the moment even if the pandemic let up, which it hasn’t.

It just meant a different approach.

“We asked can we create an environment downtown we can sustain from Thanksgiving to the first week in January,” Schutte said.

John Kelly, Visit Greater Springfield’s downtown events coordinator, said the long-term challenge was how to change the events and programming under the Holiday in the City brand. This led to the new plan, one which still encourages people to visit downtown without the crowd of 25,000 Holiday in the City draws on one day.

Schutte consulted with the Clark County Combined Health District for best measures to not put people at risk.

Now visitors can find a nightly winter wonderland on the downtown core block on the esplanade, starting with a sound system on top of City Hall playing holiday music from 5-9 p.m. daily, while the new lights will make the scope larger.

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Scutte said it’s a great place for photo ops. He was pleased on Monday to find families and friends taking pictures despite the snow coming down rapidly, creating the desired response.

There will also be pop-up attractions such as projections and other surprises to give people reasons to revisit. It can also help promote downtown shopping and dining or taking advantage of the DORA program.

Visit Greater Springfield’s web page has a list of downtown merchants and restaurants and their hours of operation so visitors can shop and support local businesses and make a night out of it. Schutte also hopes it’s a destination for those visiting from out of town.

“We’re creating a family atmosphere downtown,” Kelly said.

Schutte added that plans are already being made for the return of Holiday in the City in 2021 and building the brand by involving other organizations and businesses past just that date and credits several local sponsors with helping fund the event.