Holiday Lights Festival Kicks Off With Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony

This year's Holiday Lights Festival will be the last one for a few years as downtown's Gene Leahy Mall gets a face lift, and organizers say it'll be one for the record books. 

The annual Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony, will take place this year on Thursday, Nov. 22, in the Gene Leahy Mall at 14th and Farnam Streets. The illumination of thousands of white lights is expected to draw thousands of people to downtown Omaha. Visitors will be treated to a special performance by Musical Kids beginning at 5:40 p.m. 

At 6 p.m., Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will lead the crowd in a countdown to the activation of the 2018 lighting display. Trees throughout the Gene Leahy Mall and neighboring streets will be illuminated. Inspired by the display, downtown businesses and residences traditionally bring out their own holiday lighting and decorations to add to the festive atmosphere. Those needing or requesting special accommodations are welcome to view the lighting from the fourth floor of the W. Dale Clark Library at 215 S. 15th St. just west of the Gene Leahy Mall. 

Omaha’s Millennium Lights celebration was originally meant to be a singular, spectacular celebration as the calendar turned to the milestone year 2000. But the celebration endured as the Holiday Lights Festival, an annual holiday season tradition that has expanded to encompass a series of festive events.

Holiday Lights Festival Schedule:

  • Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony Thursday, Nov. 22, 6-7 p.m.
    • The Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony takes place Thanksgiving evening in the Gene Leahy Mall at 14th and Farnam Streets. Musical Kids will take the stage at 5:40 p.m. At 6 p.m., MayorJean Stothert will lead the crowd in a countdown to reveal the 2018 lighting display.Downtown businesses and residences traditionally feature festive lighting and holidaydecorations to add to the charm. Some shops and restaurants in the Old Market are openbefore and after the ceremony; visit the Holiday Lights Festival’s website for a complete list.The lighting display is illuminated nightly from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. from Thursday, Nov. 22,2018, through Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
  • Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert Presented by Lincoln Financial Group Thursday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
    • The Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert is performed in the Holland Performing Arts Center at 13th and Douglas Streets. The free concert, supported by the Mammel Family Foundation, features a special guest vocalist, Mary Carrick, accompanied by the Nebraska Wind Symphony.
  • The Capitol District Ice Rink Presented by Energy Center Omaha Friday, Dec. 7 – Monday, Jan. 21
    • The Capitol District Ice Rink on 10th Street and Capitol Avenue returns to entertain families and “Shine the Light on Hunger.” The rink will be open seven days a week from Dec. 7, 2018,through Jan. 21, 2019, with special holiday hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The rink is closed Christmas Day. A $10 admission fee includes skate rental, although patrons may bring their own skates.


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