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Plaza Lighting Ceremony: Eight things to know before you go

More than 1,600 nonlocal visitors voted the Country Club Plaza Season of Lights as their favorite holiday experience. The Plaza also was awarded the favorite shopping district and the Best of Kansas City.
More than 1,600 nonlocal visitors voted the Country Club Plaza Season of Lights as their favorite holiday experience. The Plaza also was awarded the favorite shopping district and the Best of Kansas City. THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Here’s your guide to the 86th annual KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony, a Thanksgiving Day tradition.

1. What time should I get there?

If you want to experience the moment the lights turn on with the accompanying fireworks, get in a spot by 6:50 p.m. The switch will be flipped at 6:54 p.m.

Pre-show performances start at 5; Hembree, The Snow Globes, Isaac Cates and Ordained, Brad Cunningham and more will play from 6-7 p.m.; Hembree will play a post-ceremony concert.

2. Who’s flipping the switch?

Kansas Citians know her as Gillian Flynn, best-selling author of “Gone Girl”; Bishop Miege High School graduate; and grand marshal of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March.

3. Where do I park?

According to the Country Club Plaza website, recommended parking garages include Valencia Garage (by Gap and H&M) on the north side of 47th and Pennsylvania; Neptune Garage (behind American Eagle and Houston’s) on Wornall near 46th Street; Seville Garage (near The Capital Grille and Bank of America) behind the main stage on Jefferson and Nichols Road; and the Plaza III garage near Victoria’s Secret on Pennsylvania.

 

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4. What’s the weather forecast?

The National Weather Service has predicted a 100 percent chance of rain throughout the day, with a thunderstorm possible between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and winds reaching as high as 24 mph. Rain totals of at least an inch can be expected.

Rain could turn to freezing rain and drizzle Thursday night.

5. How long will the lights stay on?

The lights will be on every night until 3 a.m. They will be turned off on Sunday, Jan. 17.

6. How did the ceremony start 86 years ago?

Charles Pitrat, head of maintenance for the Nichols Co., is credited for first stringing lights across the doorway of the Plaza’s first building, the Suydam (now the Millcreek) at 116 W. 47th St. Nichols Co. owned the Plaza at the time. The tradition officially became an event in 1930, and the only time the Plaza lights were not turned on was in 1973, when then-President Richard Nixon called for curtailing the use of Christmas lights to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

7. Who else has flipped the switch?

We love to have our sports heroes and homegrown celebrities turn on the lights. Here’s a look at who has thrown the switch:

2014 Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and manager Dayton Moore; 2013 Rob Riggle; 2012 Matt Besler, Jimmy Nielsen and Kei Kamara; 2011 Eric Stonestreet; 2010 Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones; 2009 Jason Sudeikis; 2008 David Cook; 2007 Hometown soldiers from each branch of the U.S. military; 2006 Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier and Clark and Tavia Hunt; 2005 Dick and Carol Vermeil; 2004 Mickey and Minnie Mouse; 2003 Kate Spade; 2002 Trent Green; 2001 Tony Gonzalez; 2000 Maurice Greene; 1999 George Brett; 1998 Paul Rudd; 1997 Marcus Allen; 1996 Buck O’Neil; 1995 Roy Williams; 1994 Derrick Thomas; 1991 Oleta Adams; 1990 Lee Greenwood; 1989 Dee Wallace; 1983 Nicolette Larson. Others: Walter Cronkite, Tom Watson, William Christopher.

8. Are the bulbs energy efficient?

Yes. In 2014, 85 percent of the bulbs were LED (light emitting diode), and Plaza officials planned on switching to 100 percent this year. Patrons can even buy burnt-out bulbs that have been repurposed as ornaments sold at Plaza businesses. Rally House sells them for $9.99 each, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Here is a look back at the ceremony in 2009:

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