Holiday fun is the name of the game for this year’s Downtown Festival of Lights from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.
The "almost halftime" highlights will be when Mayor Sharon Weston Broome lights the city’s 35-foot Christmas tree located in North Boulevard Town Square at 6 p.m., and a fireworks display lights the sky afterward.
Leading up to that, Soul Jukebox will perform on the Mayor’s Stage at Galvez Plaza. Ned Fasullo & The Fabulous Big Band will help the crowd “swing into Christmas” from 6:25 p.m. to 8 p.m.
On the Community and North Boulevard Town Lawn stages, groups entertaining will include the Adonai’s Butterflies Dance Studio, All Star Arts Academy, Baton Rouge Chorus of Sweet Adelines, Cangelosi Dance Project, Charlie’s Kings Kid's Bell Choir, Glasgow Middle School Choir and Band, Hosanna Christian Academy Praise Dancers, McKinley Middle Advanced Choir and Park Forest Middle School Band.
“We’ve got all the traditional things we’ve always had but, in addition, there are three ribbon cuttings earlier that afternoon for outdoor projects that have recently been completed,” said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District which organizes the annual holiday celebration. “There’s the ribbon cutting for Phase II of the North Boulevard Town Square at 3 (p.m.), one for the Riverfront Plaza project at 4 (p.m.) and, at 5 (p.m.), the dedication of the Rotary Club’s Centennial Sculpture, which is a gift to the city.
“We’re very excited about all of this, and we encourage everyone to come downtown for the festivities,” Rhorer said.
The evening also offers lots of free events, like ice skating on the Raising Cane’s River Center's first-floor outdoor plaza, ages 5-10 only; a Snow Village at Repentance Park, ages 5-15 only; a screening of holiday films at the Hartley/Vey Theatres; First Presbyterian Church’s 7 p.m. performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”; “Santa in the Senate” beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Old State Capitol; and a “Cajun Night Before Christmas” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Old Governor’s Mansion.
Special showings of “Let it Snow” take place at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s Planetarium at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Young visitors can also participate in hands-on ornament making. Admission is free with the donation of a new toy per person benefiting Toys for Tots; otherwise, regular admission prices apply.
LASM’s store will be open for shoppers as will the LSU Museum of Art Store, located in the Shaw Center for the Arts. Several groups will be selling snacks and soft drinks.
Forum 35’s Reindeer Run & Jingle Bell Jog 5K and 1-mile fun run get underway at 7 p.m. beginning at 300 North Blvd.
“We’re once again excited to see the Reindeer Run & Jingle Bell Jog during the Festival of Lights,” said Forum 35 President Jessica Trepagnier. “We’re thrilled this year to partner with Guaranty Media to bring an expanded event, including a Kids Village sponsored by Aetna Better Health of Louisiana, and lots of activities for the whole family.”
Registration for the Jingle Bell Jog is $20 in advance, $35 on race day; registration for the Reindeer Run is $35 in advance, $45 on race day. To register or for more information, go to guarantymedia.com or redstickreindeerrun.com.
Meanwhile, 85 South, showcasing comics DC Young Fly, Karlous Miller and Chico Bean, starts at 7 p.m. in the River Center Arena. This is a ticketed event.
Between the two events, up to 5,000 people are expected to be downtown Friday evening, according to a news release from the River Center, which is advising all attendees to plan an early arrival to give themselves ample time to navigate traffic and parking.
"It is advisable to use alternative routes into the downtown area including Convention Street, Florida Boulevard, Highland Road and River Road," the release also said.
Parking lots/garages within walking distance of the River Center include: River Center East & West Garages, corner of St. Louis and Government streets; Belle of Baton Rouge Mayflower Street Parking Garage; Belle of Baton Rouge River Road Parking Garage; Third Street Garage, corner of Third and Convention streets; and Lipsey Parking Lot, corner of St. Philip Street and South Boulevard.
In addition, construction on the River Center's Theatre for Performing Arts has begun on St. Louis Street. for safety reasons, the area around the theater is blocked off and patrons will need to use alternative walking paths during construction, the release said.
The holiday fun continues in the days leading up to Christmas with performances by the Baton Rouge Symphony, Baton Rouge Ballet, ice skating at the River Center, screenings of “The Polar Express” at the LASM Planetarium and Christmas Eve Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral. For a complete listing of downtown events throughout the holidays, visit downtownbatonrouge.org.