The long bend along the Scioto River through Downtown will be transformed into a stream of color Friday when officials light the tree at City Hall, the Scioto Mile Promenade and Bicentennial Park along the river, as well as Columbus Commons.
The lighting ceremony at Bicentennial Park, 233 Civic Center Dr., has struggled to draw people in recent years since the death of the Columbus City Center mall.
More than 80,000 LED lights will blanket 60 trees at City Hall, Bicentennial Park and the promenade. A light show also has been designed for the fountain in Bicentennial Park.
At least 100,000 multicolored lights will cover 127 trees, four displays and the fountain along S. High Street at Columbus Commons, which will host free carousel rides and hot chocolate from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
“It’s something we can grow over the years as well,” said Alan McKnight, director of Columbus Recreation and Parks, which manages the Scioto Mile. “The goal is to encourage folks to come on Downtown to enjoy the lights.”
Downtown retail is sparse compared to the heady days of City Center or when Lazarus served as a Christmas beacon for holiday shoppers.
But restaurateurs such as Yavonne Sarber are hoping the lights lure customers to their businesses. Sarber owns the de-NOVO bistro and bar at 201 S. High St., across from Columbus Commons.
“We’re really optimistic about what Downtown is doing, and that park in particular,” Sarber said.
In 2005, the Capital Crossroads Special Improvements District brought a Ferris wheel and ice-skating rink to State Street during the holiday season. But the two attractions drew 19,000 skaters and riders, far less than anticipated.
The outdoor rink returned outside the Statehouse in 2006, but fell victim to warm weather and low attendance.
Friday’s activities begin at 5 p.m., with the lighting ceremony beginning at 6 p.m.
The Columbus Children’s Choir and the Alliance Men’s Chorus will perform traditional carols. Santa Claus will make his entrance in a pedicab. Mayor Michael B. Coleman and Santa will lead a walking tour that will depart Bicentennial Park and end at Columbus Commons.
McKnight said the lights along the promenade and Bicentennial Park are being paid for with an endowment that was part of the $44 million cost for the Scioto Mile, a public-private effort.
The lights will remain up through Jan. 15.