The third annual Light Up Downtown event is set for Saturday, Dec. 1 and features a jam-packed schedule of dynamic attractions to officially kick off the holiday season in Downtown Grand Rapids.

Festivities this year spotlight a unique combination of the community’s traditional and contemporary attractions, complemented by numerous live performances and free family friendly activities all around Downtown.

One special feature of this year’s event is the return of the locally iconic Breton Village Holiday Train. A long standing holiday tradition for many Grand Rapidians, the train was first created and maintained by Herb DeVries and his family before coming in to the care of the Mulder family.

The train this year will have a brand new home at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Community volunteers – including members of the Grand River Valley Railroad Club – invested hours restoring the train and will operate it while on display. Members of the DeVries family and representatives from the Ford Presidential Museum and Foundation will officially open the train at 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 1. After the opening visitors can view the train daily – at no charge – in the lobby of the Ford Presidential Museum, which also will offer free admission every Sunday throughout the month of December.

Light Up Downtown 2018 also will feature more lights strung through Downtown than ever before – 150,000 bulbs – as event organizers expand the holiday décor to deck out Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Pearl Street and the Monroe North neighborhood.

Specific program highlights include:

5:00 p.m. Starting at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

  • Celebrate the Breton Village Holiday Train
  • Pet reindeer from the Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm
  • Play with the Sled Dogs of Team Evergreen
  • Listen to holiday songs performed by The Caroling Company
  • Check out live ice-carving by Ice Guru Randy Finch
  • Meet and greet the cast of the Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
  • Enjoy free hot chocolate provided by the Salvation Army
  • Participate in winter-themed activities provided by community partners

5:30 p.m.

  • Light Up Ah-Nab-Awen Park
  • Free professional photos with Santa Claus
  • Drumline parade led by Genesis Percussion

6:00 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle

  • Performance by the synchronized ice skating team Lake Effect Flurries
  • Sled Wings adaptive hockey exhibition
  • Experience cultural holiday traditions with GR cultural clubs
  • Enjoy free Dunkin’ Donuts donut holes and hot cocoa and cookies from the Salvation Army
  • Create a craft with community partners
  • Mingle with Crash from the Whitecaps and the Salvation Army Brass Band
  • Sign up for winter recreation classes such as ice skating or karate
  • Angel Tree Toy Drive led by Salvation Army and WOOD TV 8

6:15 p.m

  • Walking tours of the holiday lights led by Grand Rapids Running Tours begin at Ford Presidential Museum

6:30 PM

  • Light Up Rosa Parks Circle

Special guests throughout the evening include Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City Manager Mark Washington, and emcees Quinn Matthews of GR Live and Gabriella de la Vega of WYCE’s El Mundo Musical and Andy Rent of 100.5 The River.

Light Up Downtown 2018 is a collaborative effort of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and other partners.

Stay tuned to the Facebook event for the latest information and updates.