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Thousands of white lights to return to Gene Leahy Mall this holiday season

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Lighting ceremony

Thousands of white lights will be returning to Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha for the first time since 2018. The park had been undergoing major renovations the past few years.

For the first time since 2018, lights will return to Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha.

Through a new partnership, Gene Leahy Mall will participate in the Holiday Lights Festival after the park underwent a complete renovation the past few years.

The Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront. The lighting ceremony, led by Terri McCormick of STAR 104.5 The Christmas Station, serves as the official kick-off for the festival.

A short performance by Musical Kids will precede the program, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will lead those gathered in a countdown to the start of the holiday season.

Along with traditional white tree lights and some large ornaments, this year the park also will feature a festive multimedia show that will debut during the official Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony.

This production will incorporate color-changing “up-lights,” video projections onto the Gene Leahy Mall Performance Pavilion and Burlington Building, thematic video on the 10th Street Bridge LED wall and holiday music sounding throughout the park.

The multimedia show, which is about seven minutes long, can be seen every Friday and Saturday throughout the holiday season, running every hour.

“The RiverFront team has been busy preparing for the holiday, not only by wrapping the trees as seen in years past, but by adding seasonal decorations throughout the park and planning numerous family friendly activities in the weeks ahead,” said Roger Dixon MECA President and CEO. “Since reopening this summer, Gene Leahy Mall has become a favorite destination for our community. We are happy to help carry on this wintertime tradition in Omaha.”

The Holiday Lights Festival runs from Nov. 24 to Jan. 2. In addition to the displays in the Gene Leahy Mall, lights will illuminate the Old Market from 10th to 13th streets and Farnam to Jackson streets; North Omaha along 24th Street from Burdette to Ohio streets; and South Omaha along 24th Street from L to Q streets.

Making Spirits Bright Concert

The Making Spirits Bright Concert will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holland Performing Arts Center, immediately following the Holiday Lights Festival lighting ceremony. This holiday concert is free and open to the public. 

Thanksgiving evening also will include the Making Spirits Bright Concert immediately following the lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Holland Performing Arts Center. This concert is free to the public and is family-friendly.

There are no tickets and seating is available on a first-come first-served basis. The concert will feature a selection of holiday music performed by the Nebraska Wind Symphony and special guest vocalist Ryan Daly.

Here’s a sample of some of the other holiday-themed events taking place in the area this weekend:

Christmas at Union Station

The Durham Museum in Omaha will have a virtual tree lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The ceremony featuring the lighting of the museum’s 40-foot-tall Christmas tree can be viewed on the museum’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The 30-minute program will feature musical performances by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Concert Choir, Enjoli and Timeless, a greeting from Santa and the countdown to the lighting of the region’s largest indoor Christmas tree.

The Durham will opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday for the public to experience Christmas at Union Station.

In addition to the museum 40-foot-tall Christmas tree, the celebration includes a holiday cultural trees display, a photograph display featuring holiday memories at Brandeis Department Store, ornate chairs used by Santa and Mrs. Claus at the department store and toys of yesteryear from the museum’s permanent collection.

Village Pointe Tree Lighting

The Arlington High School marching band will again take part in the holiday celebration on Friday at Village Pointe Shopping Center in Omaha.

The Peppermint Elves will perform at 6 p.m. in the amphitheater. Following their performance, Santa will arrive by horse carriage led by the Arlington High School marching band along with favorite storybook and holiday characters.

The parade will start at 7 p.m. Free carriage rides will be offered immediately following the lighting ceremony until 8 p.m. in front of the theatre. Holiday characters will be available for pictures after the tree lighting.

Santa will be inside Marcus Village Pointe Cinema lobby after the event. Santa visits are free and photos will need to be taken with your own camera.

MainStreet of Fremont Christmas Walk

Downtown Fremont will be bustling with activities from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday for MainStreet of Fremont’s Christmas Walk and Small Business Saturday.

The event will include holiday treats, Santa Claus, carriage and trolley rides, Christmas tree lighting, live animals, face painting, music, shopping sales and more.

See Tammy Real-McKeighan’s article in today’s paper for a detailed rundown of the popular event.

Valley tree lighting

The Downtown Valley Christmas Tree Lighting is set for 5-7 p.m. Saturday in downtown Valley.

A heated tent has been added for Santa this year. There will be food, kids activities and stores will be open for Small Business Saturday.

Santa will arrive in style shortly after 5 p.m. Chili and cinnamon rolls will be available. The Boy Scouts will be serving hot cocoa. The library will have craft activities for kids. Trees will be lit a 6 p.m.

Small Town Christmas

Scribner will be hosting A Small Town Christmas at 6 p.m. Saturday in downtown Scribner.

Soup, hot chocolate and treats will be served at the event sponsored by the Scribner Chamber of Commerce.

Visitors also can watch the Christmas parade, visit Santa, see the lighting of the tree, and shop downtown.

Broad Street Revue Sings

Bob Yanike will direct the Broad Street Revue in “Broad Street Revue Sings” at 3 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 815 N. Broad St., Fremont.

A freewill donation will be accepted for the nonprofits, Rebuilding Together and Fremont Opera House.

More than 30 singers will perform along with instrumentalists for a concert which will feature a variety of songs, culminating in the music of Christmas.

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