CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival® invites visitors to kick off the holiday season with two days of family fun—November 18 and 19! On Saturday evening, November 19, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® will lead an unforgettable tree-lighting parade down North Michigan Avenue, illuminating more than one million lights from Oak Street to the Chicago River.
"Each year, BMO Harris Bank looks forward to bringing together friends and families from all communities across Chicagoland to participate in the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival holiday festivities," said Justine Fedak, SVP, Marketing, BMO Harris Bank. "We've been part of this magical celebration for over a decade now and it's our diverse neighborhoods coming together on this very special occasion that makes it my favorite event of the year!" Beginning on Friday afternoon, November 18 at 4:00PM, Lights Festival Lane (401 N. Michigan Avenue) promises an interactive wonderland of free, holiday-themed activities. BMO Harris Bank presents an immersive virtual reality experience at the BMO Dome, inviting visitors to "Show Your Light" by writing a holiday message using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. All written messages will be projected on the 30' tent. The beautifully-lit BMO Dome will be the focal point of a special dedication at 5:00PM to celebrate the 25 th anniversary of Lights Festival. The moment will feature live music; Hubert the Lion and friends from BMO Harris Bank; a giant cheesecake from The Eli's Cheesecake Company; and an address from the event's founders. The fun continues Saturday morning, November 19 at 11:00AM. Santa Claus will greet festivalgoers at a brand-new Santa Chalet presented by the Illinois Office of Tourism, complete with wintry animals provided by Brookfield Zoo. The BMO Harris Bank Kids Zone tent will be full of larger-than-life games provided by the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, along with free face painting. Guests can enjoy interactive activities from the Disney Store, Museum of Science & Industry and more; and sample treats from local favorites like Garrett Popcorn Shop and Connie's Pizza. Subaru will have a display at Lights Festival Lane featuring the all-new 2017 Impreza. Guests can get their photo taken with a professionally carved ice scene and help themselves to holiday-themed giveaways. Saturday's festivities lead up to the much-anticipated tree-lighting parade, the country's largest evening holiday celebration. The parade begins at 5:30PM as Grand marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse join classic characters from Walt Disney World®, including newcomers Woody and Jessie from Toy Story; and lead more than 40 magnificent floats, helium-filled balloons and five marching bands from across the country down the route. "25 years ago, our hope was the lighting of the trees would become a holiday highlight and mark a new chapter for North Michigan Avenue," says Marc Schulman, founder of the event in 1992. "None of this would have been possible without the strong volunteer leadership of The Magnificent Mile Association. Now, it's the most magical moment of the year!" Audiences can expect crowd favorites to return, including the larger-than-life Hubert the Lion balloon from BMO Harris Bank and the world-famous scent of Garrett Popcorn Shop's popcorn infused from the shop's float. In the spirit of sharing light in the community, Northwestern Medicine invites organ transplant recipients and donors, as well as their family members, to ride on their float. Santa soars down the parade route on a float from the Illinois Office of Tourism to officially signal the start of the holiday season. This year, BMO extended an invitation to several inspiring Chicagoans to join them on the BMO Harris Bank Community Float along the parade route. The invitation extends from civic and religious leaders to the most innocent who have been victims of gun violence in their own backyards and have overcome adversity so bravely.