The city will be leaving the lights on as the annual Festival of Lights Tree Lighting and Holiday Celebration runs for two days for the first time Dec. 6 and 7. And no one’s forgetting forgetting that stART at the Station pulls into Union Station Dec. 8, making it what’s being called a three-day “Wicked Winter Weekend” in Worcester.
“It’s the idea of people walking around the area,” said Che Anderson, Worcester’s deputy cultural development officer, about one of the goals of the weekend.
On Worcester Common from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday there will be live music — including up-and-coming singing star Nicole Michelle presented by 1HeartRadio — free ice skating at the Worcester Common Oval (skate rentals $5), a heated beer tent, “food truck rodeo,” a visit from Santa, the tree lighting, face painting, street performers, and more. On Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. there will be more skating (ending at 6 p.m.) on Worcester Common as well as Cirque de Light with a stilt walker and LED performer, face painting, and a light show from 5 to 7 p.m. by LuminArtz. There will also be activities going on both days at the Worcester PopUp, 20 Franklin St. (and at the Printer’s Building, 44 Portland St. on Saturday). All of Friday and Saturday’s events are free admission.
The illumination will point the way to stART on the Street’s 14th annual gifting-themed arts and crafts festival stARt at the Station 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said that the Festival of Lights is “a signature event ... Learning that stART at the Station was scheduled for the Sunday following the Festival of Lights, we made programing the Common and other downtown spaces a priority to create a completely immersive experience.”
Anderson said that to connect the two events, “We did some brainstorming and decided to extend the Festival of Lights to a second day.”
The Festival of Lights has been growing in popularity, Anderson noted. “Every year we think it can’t get any bigger.” Part of the appeal has come from popular musical performers at the event in recent years such as Sam James (“The Voice”) and Jessica Cabral (“American Idol”). Last year’s headliner was breakthrough pop artist Brynn Elliott.
“I’m so excited, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now,” said Nicole Michelle, 17, of Pelham, N.H., who has been been making a name for herself since winning a local contest in 2014 to sing at a New England Revolution soccer game. She’s been called a “vocal prodigy” and has gone on to perform at venues such as the Cape Cod Melody Tent and is currently recording an EP of all original songs that will be released in 2010. She sings on the soundtrack and has an acting part in the family drama movie “Bernie the Dolphin 2” that will be released Dec. 17.
On Friday Michelle said she’ll perform “a variety of my favorite Christmas songs and a few of my own songs just to make sure people get to know me.”
Her singing has evolved to an “R&B type of pop,” she said. After she graduates from high school in June “I’m going to be spending all my time on music.”
“I never really expected it,” she said of her career trajectory. “At first I was just doing my thing singing. Things just happened. I fell in love with performing, singing. Small events became huge events. I never really expected it but I think it was meant to happen.”
Also performing Friday at the Festival of Lights will be musical acts and choral groups from Worcester Public Schools, and the Hanover Theatre will present a preview of its upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol.”
All of the components that now make up the Festival of Lights, including 10 food trucks stationed on Front Street, have “added to the allure of the event,” Anderson said.
The Worcester PopUp, which opened year-round in 2018, is another new element. On Friday at the Worcester PopUp there will be local art vendors, story time and crafting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and ice sculpting, “glow-in-the-dark ice hands-on activity,” giveaways, performances, more crafting, and hot chocolate and cookies from 4 to 8 p.m.
On Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the PopUp and at the Printer’s Building there will be a Vendor Market featuring local artists and crafters selling jewelry, potter, prints and more.
The light show on Worcester Common will include illuminating City Hall, interactive light projections, and immersive sound. “It’s pretty cool to see,” Anderson said.
You can get an early start on stART at the Station from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday by shopping ahead of the crowds for a $10 donation. Admission is free after 11 a.m. (For more information visit www.startonthe street.org)
The Festival of Lights could well become an annual two day happening, Anderson said. “I’d love to have all the properties light up their buildings.”
The event is rain or shine, but say what you like about Monday and Tuesday’s snow it likely will give the weekend’s events a certain holiday look, Anderson noted.
“I am happy to see some snow. It feels more like the holiday season now,” he said.