2013 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival ready to kick off

November 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Pioneer Court will be the hub of activity between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. The city's emergency office is also on standby, making sure they're prepared for the large crowd. They're asking everyone coming down to the festival to be an extra set of eyes and ears, and if you see anything strange or unusual, to call 911.

While you watch the lights illuminate, the city's emergency management office will use cameras along the Magnificent Mile to look for trouble.

"Right now there are no credible threats to this event," said Gary Schenkel, executive director, Office of Emergency Management & Communication.

Schenkel says plenty of police will patrol the route and he says the city has met with federal law enforcement, too.

"We will do our very best to protect and ensure this is a good, safe, and fun event," said Schenkel.

The parade steps off at 5:30 p.m., travels east on Oak Street from Rush, and down Michigan Avenue to Wacker, where it turns east.

"It's just so magical. I mean, like you see all the lights just light up!" said Kelsey Glabowicz, Waukegan resident.

Barricades are up and several roads in the area will be closed. And watch out when you park, tow-zones are posted. If you're walking, you will not be able to cross the Michigan Avenue Bridge after 3:45 p.m.

"We're here from Ohio and we're here to shop, have a good time and see the parade," said Denise Armstrong.

Pioneer Court is ready for entertainment, too. This is a Chicago experience.

"Arizona you don't get to see this kind of stuff. It's just Christmas trees that are palm trees, and lights are on palm trees, and it's just like, not the same," said Jeremy Guire, visitor.

No, it's not. This is winter and the holidays in Chicago.

"You meet people in the crowd, everyone is happy, everyone is having a good time. And that's what it's all about," said Deloris Pacheco, Round Lake Beach.

Much of the entertainment will happen between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. The parade will take place between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., with fireworks planned for 6:55 p.m.

The event is a whole lot of fun, but it's also big business for Michigan Avenue retailers with sales this weekend expected to total about two-thirds of a typical Black Friday.

The stage is set and crews are ready for the unofficial kickoff of the holiday season in Chicago.

"It's real exciting to see Mickey lighting every light individually when it comes down Michigan Avenue. That's great. To see the kids' faces, real nice," said Marquita Hawkins.

It's a night the Mag Mile becomes even more spectacular. The parade featuring eye-popping balloons and plenty of music and dancing.

"We've got Debbie Gibson performing. We've got Megan and Liz. We've got Justin Roberts," said Joel Morales, Magnificent Mile Lights Festival spokesman.

The event usually draws about a million spectators and for retailers, it's a chance to add a week to the holiday shopping season.

"We're going to be getting a running start because Thanksgiving comes so late, so it's going to be very tight. But we look at this event as kicking things into high gear," said John Chikow, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.

Last year, after the parade ended, a suburban doctor was stabbed in the neck during an attempted robbery in the bathroom of the Westin Hotel's restaurant, marring what is usually a family friendly-event.

"I'm sure the hotels will have probably enhanced security. . .But I would not let last year's event frighten anybody from coming downtown really enjoying what that festival is," said Jody Weis, Eyewitness News public safety expert.

Among those performing at the festival is the Coal City High School show choir. Despite that community suffering heavy storm damage earlier this week. Their appearance added more inspiration to an already-heartwarming event.

ABC7 will broadcast the event live from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can also watch it on the WATCH ABC live stream app, and will be available on-demand at abc7chicago.com.

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