Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and other officials urged donations to a food bank drive as they invited the public Tuesday to the 2013 Holiday Lights Festival.
Stothert will switch on the lights at 6 p.m. Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day, in a ceremony at the Gene Leahy Mall downtown, she said at a press conference previewing the festival.
And people should be able to gaze at the lights while strolling on new sidewalks beside a newly renovated lagoon in Gene Leahy Mall.
Crews were to begin refilling the lagoon Wednesday or Thursday morning, Omaha Parks Director Brook Bench said. Contractor All Purpose Construction has used favorable weather and had big crews working long hours to make up for time lost during spring rains.
They now expect to have the $1.8-million project mostly completed by the Thanksgiving deadline.
“Their goal is to have the (construction) fence all down, and the walks and trail around the edge done,” Bench said.
The exception: A boardwalk with supports that were rotted out won’t be replaced before spring.
Officials on Tuesday urged people to join in the “Shine the Light on Hunger Campaign” to benefit people served by the Food Bank for the Heartland.
Proceeds from the $5 admission to the ConAgra Foods Ice Rink will be donated to the food bank. The ConAgra Foods Foundation will match that up to $100,000.
People also can donate nonperishable food in blue barrels at the rink and other designated locations and make donations at Baker’s supermarkets.
Last year, the effort garnered $305,000 and 145,000 pounds of food, enough for 1.1 million meals, said Chris Kircher, ConAgra’s vice president for corporate affairs. This year’s goal is 1.2 million meals.
The festival is produced by the Mayor’s Office and Downtown Omaha Inc. and sponsored by ConAgra Foods, KMTV 3 and Star 104.5 FM. It is funded almost entirely by private donations, Stothert said.
Holiday lights also will be placed in north Omaha, around 24th and Lake Streets, and in South Omaha, along 24th Street from L to Q Streets.
In South Omaha, a lighting ceremony is planned for 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at La Plaza de La Raza, 24th and N Streets.
In North Omaha, a ceremonial tree lighting is planned for 5 p.m. Nov. 29 near 24th and Lake Streets.
A free holiday concert will follow the mall lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Vocalist Mary Carrick and the Nebraska Wind Symphony will perform holiday classics and sing-alongs.
“There’s a lot of tremendous holiday fun ahead of us,” Stothert said.
Holiday Lights Festival schedule:
CenturyLink Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony 6-6:30 p.m. Nov. 28, Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam Streets.
Holiday Lights viewing Every evening 5 p.m.-1 a.m. through about Jan. 5.
Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert 7 p.m. Nov. 28, Holland Performing Arts Center, 13th and Douglas Streets, free.
Pacific Life Sounds of the Season Choral groups performing at Gene Leahy Mall and the Old Market, 7-8 p.m. Saturdays from Nov. 30 to Dec. 28.
Wells Fargo Family Festival Noon-5 p.m. Dec. 8, downtown venues, free.
ConAgra Foods Ice Rink ConAgra Foods Campus, 10th and Harney Streets, Dec. 13-Jan. 5, admission includes skate rental.
New Year's Eve Fireworks 7 p.m. Dec. 31, Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam Streets, free.