The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is a holiday festival that takes place annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving along Chicago's Magnificent Mile. It is hosted by the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association. The Lights Festival began modestly in 1949 when members of The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association installed a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree, decorated with over 1,500 lights and a six-foot star topper, into the Water Tower Park. In 1959, the Saks Fifth Avenue store replaced its historical holiday decorations with Italian white lights, stringing them on the branches of the elm trees in front of the store. The trend was continued by neighboring stores and has grown in both popularity and scope into the Lights Festival we know today.
The festival is focused on the illumination of more than one million lights on two hundred trees along North Michigan Avenue, from Oak Street on the North to Wacker Drive/the Chicago River on the South. Other activities include live stage shows, the Christkindlmarket, and street entertainers. While other celebrities (Betty Grable ) have hosted the events, Disney's Mickey Mouse has acted as master of ceremonies in recent years. After the lighting procession, shopping hours are extended to start the holiday season.
Michigan Avenue is a major north-south street in Chicago which runs at 100 east (except for one private block that runs at 125 east) south of the Chicago River and at 132 East north of the river from 12628 south to 950 north in the Chicago street address system. As the home of the Chicago Water Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and the Magnificent Mile, it is a street well known to Chicago natives as well as tourists to the city. Michigan Avenue also is the main commercial street of Streeterville. It includes all of the Michigan Boulevard Historic District and most of the Michigan–Wacker Historic District, including the scenic urban space anchored by the Michigan Avenue Bridge.