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Ailing economy delays tree lighting

November 21, 2008 3:15:13 PM PST
The tight economy is forcing a lot of cutbacks in the City of Chicago-- and an annual holiday tradition in the Loop is the latest to be affected.The annual lighting ceremony for the Daley Plaza Christmas tree has a new date. Traditionally, the tree is lit on the day after Thanksgiving, but city workers are being forced to take that day off. So, the ceremony will be held several days later.

The annual lighting ceremony is just the latest sign of the tough economic times that people in Chicago and all across the country are facing as they continue to worry about how they are going to pay their bills and if they are going to keep their jobs.

Continued concerns over the economy brought Sen. Dick Durbin to Chicago's Union League club Friday morning. The lawmaker plans to discuss recent developments that might quell fears over the stock market, unemployment, and the stalled auto industry bailout.

"I guess the message is take care. I mean, value what's important, and that's your family, and make certain that you're making decisions that you can live with," Durbin told ABC7 Chicago.

The ailing economy is also very much on the minds of local retailers hoping to pull in shoppers the day after Thanksgiving for the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. So far, stores are offering deep discounts to lure customers in, but analysts say because of the sluggish economy, some shoppers may not be buying.

"Just the economy. You don't want to spend money that you may need down the line," said consumer Sharon Sawyer.

"We're doing less credit card buying and cutting back. I'm using more cash," said Dan Foley, also a consumer.

As for the city, the Daley Plaza tree lighting has been pushed back to December 2 at 12 p.m., as our cash-strapped city tries to save more money. Still, some people said the delay wouldn't dampen their holiday spirits.

"It's one of the traditions in Chicago that people look forward to. It's wonderful. It's absolutely beautiful," one Chicago woman said.

"I look at it, as you know, as a tradition. It lifts people's spirits. You just keep on rolling," Randy Morton said.

This is not the first time we have seen a scale back, so to speak, in some of the city's holiday celebrations. Back in 1991 or 1992, the city put up a smaller tree because of some budgetary constraints.

What some local officials are hoping, as well as retailers, is that once the tree-lighting takes place, it will spark the holiday spirit and also holiday shopping.

The city points out that the tree will actually be lit over the long Thanksgiving weekend, but the ceremony will be held Tuesday, December 2.


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