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Everything you need to know about Light Up Night: fireworks, Joan Jett and street closures

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
This weekend marks the festival's 61st year.

Holiday activities in Pittsburgh will kick off with the annual Highmark Light Up Night festival Saturday. Pittsburgh Police say they expect large crowds downtown.

Road closures for the tree lighting festival will begin Friday night. Streets along Fort Duquesne Boulevard from Stanwix to 7th will be blocked off starting at 6 p.m.

Nearly 50 Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus routes will be detoured in part of downtown and the North Shore Friday evening and Saturday as a result.

In a statement Friday, PRT said riders will be able to catch most detoured bus routes along Smithfield Street. Two-car trains will also operate on the Blue and Red lines, with additional trips downtown and to the North Shore beginning at noon.

Due to the popularity of Light Up Night and the University of Pittsburgh football game at Heinz Field at noon on Saturday, PRT says riders should allow for extra time when traveling.

Pittsburgh Police bulk up security, anticipating large crowds

In a statement this week, the city’s department of public safety said police officers, EMTs and river rescue teams will be on hand throughout the full day of festivities.

“Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officers assigned to 12-hour shifts will be working closely with their local law enforcement partners – including Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Police, and Port Authority Police to help provide security Downtown,” the City of Pittsburgh’s department of public safety wrote. “There will be a Mounted Unit presence with as many as 17 horses from the Pittsburgh Police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Allegheny County Police Department. Temporary light towers will also be in place in high-traffic areas to ensure safe corridors.”

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Evening events include tree lightings at city hall and Fifth Avenue Place, fireworks and a performance from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

The full line-up is available here.

Traditionally held on Friday, Light Up Night moved to Saturday in 2021, which organizers with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said proved popular with families and visitors from around the region.

This weekend marks the festival's 61st year. The event, which began in 1960, was held for 59 straight years before being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.