CHICAGO - The holiday season officially kicks off in Chicago Saturday with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
Michigan Avenue is feeling festive on the eve of one of the biggest parties in Chicago.
Our own ABC7 crew are getting ready for the big broadcast; you can watch the parade live on ABC7 and streaming on the ABC7Chicago news app and abc7chicago.com. Click here for more information.
The parade, as always, will feature Mickey, Minnie and friends, and the Mag Mile itself is one of the stars. A million lights will make it even more magnificent.
"When Mickey and Minnie come down the parade route and the trees light up - we've been doing this for years - and when the trees light up, it's just magical. You feel like a little kid again," said Kelley Green, who was visiting from Ohio.
The festival also lights up cash registers. Mag Mile retailers estimate sales from the weekend are equivalent to 80 percent of a Black Friday.
Even in this retail age of online dominance, the Lights Fest brings out the shoppers.
"The family is not going to gather around the computer and call that a holiday experience. This is about looking at the windows," John Chikow, president and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association.
With the city estimating about a million people in and around the parade route, security is paramount. Salt trucks will be blocking streets, acting as roadblocks to protect crowds from any possible vehicular attacks.
And in the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas hotel staff along the Mag Mile have been asked by police to be on alert for anyone suspicious.
"We have a standard package that we put in place for large events like this. This event we do have some extra assets that are going to be on the ground. Some will be visible and some won't be visible," said Rich Guidice, Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
But festival-goers said they expect a wonderful event.
"It's kind of the kickoff, I feel like, in Chicago, of the holiday season. It gets everyone excited and in the mood," Lexi Herz said.
The festival starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, the parade kicks off at 5:30 p.m., and street closures go into effect around 4 p.m. Public transportation is recommended.
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicks off holiday season Saturday