What started with a single strand of Christmas lights strung over a store entrance in 1925 has turned into a living legend as the most spectacular holiday lighting display in the nation.
A local tradition for 86 years, Plaza Lights is a 15-block holiday spectacle on the famed Country Club Plaza, featuring thousands of glimmering, jewel-colored lights that accentuate every dome, tower and window of the Spanish-inspired shopping district.
EARLY HOLIDAY BEGINNINGS:
The first Plaza Lighting Ceremony took place in 1930.
Putting up the lights is no small task. Starting after Labor Day each year, a crew of four electricians from Capital Electric begins stringing the lights while the weather is still warm.
Special trucks with lifts let workmen reach tall places. To ascend the domes and towers, workers use ropes and shoes just like mountain climbers to keep their footing.
As Thanksgiving approaches, midnight “light runs” test the lights to guarantee they all come on at once. During the holiday season, workmen are kept busy replacing the many thousand bulbs that burn out. Removal of the lights begins right after the holiday season ends, this season on Jan. 13.
All lights are down by March and taken into the shop where they are checked, coiled, tied, wrapped and cataloged for storage until the next year’s event.
The only time the Plaza lights were not in operation occurred in 1973 when President Nixon called upon all Americans to curtail the use of Christmas lights to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports.
PLAZA LIGHTS FUN FACTS:
♦ The Plaza Lights started with a string of 16 lights over a doorway in 1925. The first Plaza Lighting took place in 1930.
♦ Tower lights are always one color. For example, The Time Tower, at Broadway and Ward Parkway, is always red.
♦ The lights don’t stay up all year long. The hard-working crew from Capital Electric begin hanging the lights in August and take them back down starting in mid-January through the beginning of March.
♦ The big switch on the stage at the Plaza Lighting Ceremony really does turn on all the lights.
♦ The child chosen to help turn on the lights from the audience is always chosen at random.
A lights test occurs on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (the day before Thanksgiving) from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
♦ The only time that the Plaza lights were not in operation occurred in 1973 when President Nixon called upon all Americans to curtail the use of Christmas lights to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports.
♦ Guests that have been invited to turn on the Plaza Lights include: George Brett, Trent Green, Kate Spade, “Fastest Man in the World” Maurice Green, Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Eric Stonestreet, Walter Cronkite, Derrick Thomas, Marcus Allen, Buck O’Neil and Oleta Adams.
♦ All of the Plaza’s parking garages are free and open to the public.
♦ Best viewing options for the Plaza Lights include Halls rooftop, which would allow you to see the actual ceremony. Other roof tops with good views during the season of lights include McCormick & Schmick’s, Starker’s Reserve Restaurant, The Intercontinental Kansas City Hotel and the second floor of Barnes & Noble.
♦ The Plaza’s shops have extended hours during the holiday season.
♦ The best time to take a carriage ride on the Plaza is during the holiday season. Two carriage companies operate all-year. Surrey’s Carriage Company at 816-531-2673 and Pride of Kansas City at 816-531-1999.
The Plaza Lights are one of Kansas City‘s most favorite traditions and is the official kick off of the holiday season. The famous ceremony, which began as 16 lights hung over a doorway, now includes over 80 miles of lights with 280,000 multi-colored bulbs outlining and illuminating the buildings and towers of the Country Club Plaza.
LIGHT IT UP:
The first official Plaza Lighting ceremony began in 1930, and now draws thousands to the Country Club Plaza on Thanksgiving night.
The streets are full of folks who come to celebrate at Kansas City‘s favorite shopping and dining destination. The KCP&L Plaza Lights shine daily from 5pm to 3am, Thanksgiving through Sunday, January 17, 2016. All Plaza parking garages will be open and accessible throughout the KCP&L Plaza Lights season.
THE 86TH ANNUAL KCP&L PLAZA LIGHTING CEREMONY:
Thursday, November 26th, 2015
Main Stage at Nichols Road & Pennsylvania, by Brio Tuscan Grille
5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
5:00–6:00 p.m.: Pre-show performances and giveaways from KCP&L from the stage
6:00–7:00 p.m.: KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony (broadcast LIVE on KSHB-TV)
6:54 p.m.: Flip of the Switch
7:00–8:00 p.m.: Post-ceremony concert