In a sign the holidays are near, the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival returned Saturday to Michigan Avenue.
While in-person festivities were canceled last year because of the pandemic, this time around hundreds of families lined the streets to see the dazzling performers and bright floats go on by.
“Everyone is so excited just brings that much more energy to the whole event and the fact that we have the most weather,” said Gail Spreen, event chair.
Organizers say they hope the return of the festival brings a sense of normalcy and provides a financial boost to the local economy.
“We’ve all been through a hard time, and we all deserve to come back and come back downtown to the city that we love,” said Dan Russel, chairman of the Magnificent Mile Association.
The festival has become a tradition for many families, including Jeffrey Stuart and his grandkids.
“There was a blizzard one year, and we drove through the blizzard and got here, and we stayed in hotels down here every year,” he said. "This is the first year we’re not staying in the hotel.”
Stuart lives in Elmwood Park and said every year his family sits in the same spot—spending time together and creating memories.
“Just stick with your tradition and enjoy it,” he said. “When these kids grow up and when I’m on my death bed—they’re going to remember, oh you use to take us here every year, and they’ll have pictures.”
This year's parade featured more than 60 floats, including two new ones designed by Chicago Public School students.