The annual tree lighting in downtown Detroit makes its return with visitors in attendance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 65-foot northern Michigan spruce will be the center of attention as people head to Campus Martius Park for ice skating, hot cocoa and horse-drawn carriage rides. The festive event is from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday with the tree lighting ceremony beginning at 7 p.m.
Eric Larson, the executive director of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, says this year will be very special for everyone who visits. “We are really excited that we can, again, bring people back together downtown. … These events … are really important, especially coming out of the pandemic because of the impact [it’s had on] so many of our businesses.”
This year marks the return of the full program with the 65-foot northern Michigan spruce — the event’s largest and tallest ever — as the centerpiece, decked out with more than 20,000 LED lights.
Beacon Park will also be home to the lighting of the children’s tree with a guest appearance from Santa, who will welcome visitors “so that people can really enjoy what will be an absolutely bright not only tree but moment as we move forward as a community,” he says.
In addition to Santa, Larson says ice skating medalists such as 2016 world silver medalist and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner will perform along with singers Cam Anthony, the winner of “The Voice,” Thornetta Davis and Ryan Neal.
The tree lighting comes at a time when the daytime population is still low but more visitors are coming back downtown, Larson says. “The visitor population and especially the Detroit residents that have reengaged and rediscovered the downtown has really picked up,” he says. “While the traditional daytime population isn’t quite what it used to be, our traffic numbers, surprisingly, are on par for what we would have done [before the pandemic].”