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Detroit’s Christmas tree lights up Campus Martius

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Brenda Smith started a family tradition in 2012: She and her three kids join the throng at Detroit’s Christmas Tree Ceremony.

The lights are turned on at the 14th Annual Detroit Christmas Tree Lighting.

“My friends and coworkers all meet here with our families to celebrate and have fun,” said Smith, 45. “The kids faces just light up when they see the tree and we walk through downtown.”

Smith was among more than 40,000 people to gather Friday in Campus Martius for the lighting of a Michigan-grown, 60-foot Norwegian spruce wrapped in more than 19,000 lights and ornaments.

“The crowds have gotten so big last year and have grown every year, we have to keep expanding,” said Robert Gregory, chief public spaces officer for the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Gregory said it takes more than six months to plan the event. For this 14th year, they added a new and larger main stage on Monroe Street, four video walls to watch the show, a sound system throughout the district and a new restaurant.

“We’ve converted the Fountain tap that was in the summer beach into The Winter Fountain restaurant. It opens tonight and it will be there all season long,” Gregory said.

Surrounding Campus Martius, a street with food trucks was triple the size of last year, Cadillac Square market had over 30 vendors and Beacon Park had a new light show with free shuttles to Campus Martius.

Christmas tunes sung by the 70-singer Concert Choir and the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale, with 80 vocalists and 20-piece orchestra, filled the air as skaters took the ice.

U.S. Olympic medalist and four-time U.S. Figure Skating Champion Jeremy Abbott headlined the holiday ice show, which included the Detroit Skating Club and University of Michigan Skating Club. Abbott, a Colorado native, began training at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills in 2009 and has skated alongside Olympic champions Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Santa were among those to flip the DTE Energy switch lighting the tree at 7:47 p.m.

“I just want to say happy holidays, Detroit. We are the leaders in showing America that we are the comeback city, now let’s light it up,” Lawrence said.

Funk band Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and “Detroit’s Queen of Blues” Thornetta Davis were among the performers on the main stage.

Gregory said he doesn’t think the event will ever become too crowded to enjoy.

“The way downtown streets are set up, we have the option to keep growing,” he said.