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Detroit — The cold night air in downtown Detroit didn’t stop the Holiday cheer at this year’s Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Attendees sipped hot chocolate while bundled in their coats as the waited anxiously in Campus Martius for the switch to be pulled to light up the 60-foot Norway spruce and welcome Christmas in the city once again. 

The Tree Lighting Ceremony has become a family tradition for the Bailey family. 

“I’m super excited to be at the Tree Lighting Ceremony another year,” says Nina Bailey of Detroit, who made her sixth trip out for the annual festivities. 

“I feel like one of the kids waiting patiently to see the tree the light up." said Bailey, with her son's ages 11 and six. "I’m bring my two sons every year and each year seems better.” 

The 15th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony was expected to draw 50,000 revelers, up from last year’s estimated attendance of 40,000, organizers said.

Organizers late Friday said they expect to have attendance estimates by Monday.  

Navpreet Saini, 25, of Howell said this is her first year attending the ceremony.

“My fiancé and I just moved back to Michigan and the Tree Lighting Ceremony is an amazing welcome home present,” said Saini, as she stood with friends near a warming station. “Everyone is so happy to be here. The holiday spirit is definitely in the air. Not only am I excited to see the tree light up, but I can’t wait to see Santa Claus.”

The free party kicked off at 5 p.m. before the tree lit up at 7:45 p.m. 

Attendees were offered a sampling of sliders and turkey wraps as they took in the live reindeer, music and horse-drawn carriage rides.

The carriage rides throughout Downtown Detroit, kicked off as the event commenced and will continue through Dec. 22 from 6 p.m. to midnight. 

One of the highlights of the festivities this year was a performance by Grammy Award-winning Gospel artist CeCe Winans who performed new songs as well as holiday standards. 

On the ice, Olympic medalists and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani performed along with athletes from the Arctic Figure Skating Club and other clubs, including the Dearborn Senior Crystallettes. 

The footprint for the tree-lighting party expanded this year to include Beacon Park, which had its own display of 90,000 holiday lights, including a three-dimensional, 25-foot tall starburst.

Free shuttles also were in service between the city center and the newer park at Grand River and Cass.

Marianne Dobk of Allen Park says the Ceremony makes her reminisce on her years as a young child. 

“I don’t mind standing out in the cold tonight. Being in this atmosphere right now reminds me of my childhood,” she said. “My family and I would go to J.L. Hudson to watch the Christmas tree light up. It was incredible. I can’t believe Detroit kept the tradition this many years later. ”

More festive lighting continues next month with the Menorah in the D ceremony Dec. 2, a 5 p.m. menorah-lighting ceremony in Campus Martius that includes marshmallow-roasting pits, live entertainment, a kosher food truck and more. Visit menorahinthed.com for more information. 

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