In a new twist on an old tradition, the Festival of Light will open Friday at Constitution Plaza, but will migrate across town to Bushnell Park, where visitors can see the giant Christmas tree and sip free hot chocolate.
Starting at 5 p.m., Mayor Pedro Segarra, cast members of the Hartford Stage Company's "A Christmas Carol," and Sonar, the Wolf Pack's mascot, will lead a procession from Constitution Plaza to Bushnell Park, passing through State House Square on the way.
During the march, they will be joined by Pucky, a mascot for the Connecticut Whale, and Santa, who will be riding a Zamboni ice-grooming machine. The public is invited to walk with the group or cheer them on along the route, which includes Asylum and Trumbull streets.
Festivities at Bushnell Park will begin at 5:45 p.m. and include a ceremonial lighting, holiday music, a U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive and free hot chocolate. There also will be an audience sing-a-long with Concora To Go, a professional a cappella quartet.
A manufactured "green" Christmas tree, introduced at last year's Festival of Light, will be used again this year, instead of a live one, organizers said.
To prepare for a new outdoor ice skating rink at the park, a professional skating demonstration will be performed on synthetic ice. The ice rink will be open from Dec. 10 to Jan. 6 and feature free skating and free skate rentals, organizers said.
"Hartford will be seen in a whole new light — literally," Segarra said. "I invite families to visit again and again to rediscover Hartford and enjoy our shops, cultural centers, theaters and restaurants."
The Festival of Light has been a city tradition since 1963, when it was created to draw people downtown. Last year's event attracted about 3,000 on opening day, said Kate Bolduc, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, which organizes the festival. This year, Bolduc said, she's hoping for a crowd of 5,000 to 7,000.
Close to a million lights will be featured in this year's festival, Bolduc said. In addition to Bushnell Park and Constitution Plaza, the city has joined with Riverfront Recapture to put lights along the riverfront.
The Bushnell Park Carousel will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 26 through Dec. 18.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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