Quite a cast of characters will help Lisa Nutter, the mayor's wife, officially light the city's holiday tree early Wednesday evening at JFK Plaza, better known as Love Park.
Santa. At least a half-dozen musical acts. A wizard and an elf king from the world of the new Hobbit film. Assorted marching/dancing/leaping units, including the Sixers Dream Team and Flight Squad. Plus dignitaries and several pageant winners.
The 38-foot tree, with its 5,800 LED lights, stands in the middle of a sprawling holiday scene, with the 60-plus shops of the Christmas Village lining most of the plaza's walkways.
The free event, open to all, is slated to get underway, weather-permitting, by 5 p.m. with performances of classic holiday songs.
As the switch is thrown to illuminate the tree about 6 p.m., glow sticks given to the crowd will add to the spectacle.
Santa will ride in on a fire truck shortly after that.
The plaza's other major prop, a giant yellow noodle, would seem an unrelated advertising stunt, but Kraft, promoting its Macaroni & Cheese - and giving out free boxes from 3 p.m. through the ceremonies - paid fees to Fairmount Park to defray costs of the tree. Other handouts: wrapping paper and T-shirts proclaiming the cheesy slogan, "You Know You Love It."
Musical acts include bassist Gerald Veasley, singer-songwriter Kevonna Rose, Christian Tizon/SAP Sounds, Grammy-nominee Frankie Negron, Craig Hayes & Company Choir, Star Search runner-up Greg Raposo, and Forever Plaid, the singing group of the Walnut Theatre production of Plaid Tidings.
Lord of the Rings characters Gandalf and Legolas may add an air of Hobbit movie magic, but don't expect to see the actual actors, Ian McKellen or Orlando Bloom.
The Conestoga Angels Precision Marching and Drum Corps will led a procession to the park shortly before 5 p.m. The Grupo Fuego dance company will also perform. The current Miss Philadelphia Lauren Bilski, Mrs. Pennsylvania Susan Huntley and Mrs. New Jersey Robin Vitale will also be on hand.
Weather seemed unlikely to postpone the event till Thursday, since only morning showers were mentioned in Wednesday's forecast.
Last year, the tree was first moved to Love Park from Dilworth Plaza, next to City Hall, because of an ongoing construction project.