The pandemic has forced the cancellation of beloved traditions across the country in 2020. In Chicago, the country’s third-largest parade — the marquee element of the city’s annual BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival — was called off this year. Although the parade won’t be making its way down North Michigan Ave., Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile will still shine bright all winter long with illuminated trees — and a special virtual experience will take the place of in-person festivities.
Viewers at home around the country will get to participate in the Chicago tradition and watch the tree lighting when the festival kicks off with a special broadcast on ABC7 in the Chicago area this Sunday, Nov. 22 from 6-7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 29 from 4-5 p.m. and available on abc7chicago.com.
Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, typically the parade’s grand marshals, will be delivering a special greeting from Walt Disney World and the broadcast will feature performances by an impressive lineup of stars. Chicago native and Grammy- and Academy Award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson will headline the one-hour broadcast along with country band Rascal Flatts.
Other performers include Tony and Grammy Award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley; Disney’s a cappella group DCappella; Caroline Bowman and Austin Colby from Disney’s Broadway Musical Frozen; folk, soul, pop duo Johnnyswim; Disney Channel star Kylie Cantrall; American Idol winner Laine Hardy; and international global pop group Now United. ABC 7 Eyewitness News Anchors Cheryl Burton and Alan Krashesky will serve as hosts of the pre-recorded special.
“So much has changed in our world this year, but our city’s holiday spirit will shine through,” said Eric Smith, vice chair for BMO. “Generations of Chicagoans enjoy this event each year, and this year they have new ways to do that in addition to a great broadcast to watch from the comfort of their homes. We’re proud to be sponsoring this event for the 15thconsecutive year and to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Chicago communities for the whole nation to see.”
Vistas of North Michigan Ave., lit with one million lights, will be broadcast to audiences across the country as the special is nationally syndicated throughout the holiday season to more than 90% of markets nationwide.
New this year, the Magnificent Mile Association will feature festive window displays from 15 cultural and community partners in open storefronts along North Michigan Avenue. Events partners impacted by COVID-19, including Christkindlmarket, EXPO Chicago, Get Growing Foundation (formerly Flower Show), and the Osaka Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International will each get a home for the holidays in a decorated window.
Connecting passersby to a broader swathe of Chicago, communities clustered around the Invest South/West footprint will showcase their cultural traditions, artists in residence, and local businesses in 11 individual window displays anchored by a 7.5’ holiday tree.
“We want to ensure that Chicagoans from all corners of the city feel welcome on The Magnificent Mile,” said Gail Spreen, Chair of the Lights Festival. “There will be no gathering this year, but there will still be plenty of holiday cheer!”
Watch at abc7chicago.com on Sunday, Nov. 22 from 6-7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 29 from 4-5 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Better.