Nutter Kicks Off Philly’s Holiday season at 22nd Annual Tree Lighting Celebration

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, City Representative Desiree Peterkin-Bell and other guests turned on thousands of multicolored LED lights of official holiday tree this evening at the City of Philadelphia’s 22nd Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration inside the City Hall Courtyardin Center City.

Mayor Nutter shared the stage at the City Hall Courtyard with a lineup from the entertainment fields of music, dance and theater to ring in the winter holidays. The Holiday Tree Lighting was headlined with performances by singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, a product of Philadelphia who has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards. The event also featured an array of other Philadelphia talent. The Holiday Tree Lighting, which unofficially ushers in the holiday season in Philadelphia, was free and open to the public.

“The tree-lighting ceremony is a Philadelphia tradition, signifying the start of the holiday season each year with a festive celebration of family, fun and exceptional talent,” said Mayor Nutter. “This year, the LED lights on our environmentally-friendly tree will shine brightly just like the star of our show, Philadelphia’s own R&B powerhouse, Jazmine Sullivan. But most importantly, the tree-lighting serves as a reminder to all of the spirit of the season.  From my family to Philadelphia, happy holidays!”

Mayor Nutter was joined by City Representative Peterkin-Bell and Dyana Williams, Radio One’s 100.3 WRNB host — the program co-emcees. The 2015 City of Philadelphia Holiday Tree celebration was filled with two hours of exciting, family-friendly holiday entertainment.

Performing in the pre-programming festivities (from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) were: Philly Parks & Recreation Holiday Ensemble; cast members from “A Christmas Story, The Musical” playing at the Walnut Street Theatre; Philadelphia New Sound Brass and DANCE4LIFE


The Philly Parks & Recreation Holiday Ensemble performed a mix of “No Place Like Home,” Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls.” The group is part of a city program providing cultural activities that allow youth of various backgrounds and interests to interact through creative expression. Its mission is designed to enhance the cultural experiences and development of new cultural programs citywide.

Cast members from “A Christmas Story, The Musical” playing at the Walnut Street Theatre performed “Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana” from their current hit show. (The Walnut Street Theatre, founded in 1809, is the nation’s oldest theater and a National Historic Landmark.)

New Sound Brass performed an uplifting version of Louie Armstrong’s popular “What a Wonderful World” and followed it up with holiday favorite “Jingle Bells”. The Philadelphia based brass band that offers a fresh and soulful twist on various styles of music. This multi-cultural unit draws influence and inspiration from its diverse background to produce a sound that has been described as “Philly Soul spoken through brass.”

DANCE4LIFE, of Wilmington Delaware performed “What Christmas Means to Me.” DANCE4LIFE is part of the DANCE4LIFE School of Arts and Training Institute harnesses the dynamic power of human creativity and fuses it with the structure and discipline of movement education. This allows its’ students to explore dance in a setting that is open to individuality and expression. Performing during the official City Hall Tree Lighting Ceremony (from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.) were: Drexel Hill’sArielle Baril, The Philly POPS Festival Brass Quintet; South Jersey’s Ashlee Keating, South Philly’s Carol Riddick & the Philadelphia Boys Choir, and singer-songwriting sensation Sullivan, a Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts graduate who grew up in the city’s Strawberry Mansion section.

Arielle Baril, a talented 12-year-old opera singer from Drexel Hill, crooned “O Holy Night.” She began her professional career in June 2015 performing on NBC’sAmerica’s Got Talent, making it to the semifinals.

Southern New Jersey native, Ashlee Keating, is an actress and rising pop recording artist who performed “Santa is Coming to Town” in the tree lighting ceremony . She will portray the leading role of Samantha Cole in Raymond Mamrak’s “The Mint” (2015) and also played the role of Stella in Michelle Danner’s “The Bandit Hound” (2014). Ashlee will release her debut album in 2015 and has been writing music and recording with some of the industry’s best

Singer-songwriter Carol Riddick, of South Philadelphia, performed “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” She began performing professionally as a teen, touring with Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff. She has since worked and collaborated with national and international music luminaries including Philadelphia’s Jill Scott and The Roots. She currently is promoting her debut album, Moments Like This.Riddick will be collaborating with Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated Philadelphia Boys Choir, which has cultivated a devoted following worldwide. Established in 1968, Philadelphia Boys Choir achievements include world tours, recordings with internationally renowned orchestras and soloists such as Luciano Pavarotti, television appearances, and praise from critics and audiences worldwide.

The Philly POPS Festival Brass Quintet performed a riveting medley of holiday classics. The quintet is part of the famous Philadelphia POPS, the largest standalone pops orchestra in the U.S. The POPS orchestra, now in its 37th season, celebrates this distinctive musical heritage through an expanding repertoire of innovative concert presentations and a robust set of educational and engagement initiatives.

Right before and immediately after the spectacular lighting of the holiday tree, the crowd was entertained by festive holiday performances (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland”) by show-stopping Sullivan. (See Sullivan biography in this press packet).

ABOUT THE TREE…By the Numbers

The 2015 City of Philadelphia holiday tree is a 45-foot-tall 40-year-old Canaan fir tree from Strathmeyer Tree Farm outside of Gettysburg. Canaan (pronounced “Ka-naan”, with emphasis on the last syllable) is pretty new to the Christmas tree industry. It is similar to both Fraser and balsam firs in appearance. This similarity ultimately has led to a great deal of confusion. With roots dating back to the early 1900s, this variety was named “phanerolepis” — which actually means conspicuous scales. The full scientific name for the tree is Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis. In the mid 1930’s, Canaan fir, with the cone scales, officially was recognized from both balsam and Fraser fir as a separate species.

This balsam fir is found from Labrador to Ontario and from the coast of Maine to the higher mountains of Virginia and West Virginia in the Canaan Valley. It thrives in a cool climate with abundant moisture and deep, well-drained soils.

The Holiday Tree Lighting event sponsors are Philadelphia’s 6abc, Kindy’s Factory Outlet, TastyKake, both in South Philadelphia, Wawa and Sautter Crane Rental in Northeast Philadelphia and. Sautter Crane Rental lent its services to install the tree inside the City Hall Courtyard and Kindy’s Factory Outlet provided the holiday decorations including 4,000 multicolored LED lights and 500 ornaments. An oversized festive wooden holiday train surrounds the base of the tree.

For the second year, WPVI-TV (6ABC) was the Holiday Tree Lighting’s official media sponsor. It showcased the event with a live 30-minute special hosted by Rick Williams, Cecily Tynan and Erin O’Hearn. The 30-minute special, seen live on 6abc and, was broadcast and web streamed to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Greater Delaware Valley.

At the close of the ceremony, Mayor Nutter presented remarks and led the crowd in the much-anticipated countdown leading to tree lighting. As the focal point of the ceremony, the 45-foot-tall holiday tree presents a towering presence of glimmer lights at the center of the City Hall Courtyard. The holiday tree is located in the precise geographical center of Pennsylvania founder William Penn’s originalPhiladelphia city plan.

The tree is adorned with more than 500 ornaments (mostly red, green and gold holiday balls and candy canes) and thousands of LED lights (mostly red, white and green lights) as well as a four-foot-tall silver tinsel star complete with 100 small white LED lights at the top.

The City of Philadelphia’s 2015 Holiday Tree will be on display in the City Hall Courtyard now through early January 2016. The Courtyard will be open for visitors, from 6 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. Once the holiday season is over, the holiday tree will be recycled by the city.

The City of Philadelphia holiday tree returned last year to the City Hall Courtyard for the first time since 2008. The Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony was held at City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza in 2009 and 2010. Due to the nearly three years of renovations at Dilworth Park (formerly DilworthPlaza), the Holiday Tree lighting was held at LOVE Park, from 2011 to 2013. Dilworth Park reopened in September 2014 after undergoing a more than $50 Million renovation project that has completely transformed the west side of City Hall.

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