Santa Claus flips switch during Holiday Lights Festival Thursday evening

MILWAUKEE --The switch was flipped on Thursday, November 15th, and downtown Milwaukee's holiday lights went bright during the annual Holiday Lights Festival at Pere Marquette Park.

The tradition is now 14 years old, and the excitement that surrounds it is contagious. People young and old filled Pere Marquette Park Thursday evening for their first glimpse of Santa and to see the lights for the first time.

Wrapped in Green Bay Packers' gear, Karen Drescher was one of hundreds on hand at Pere Marquette Park in downtown Milwaukee Thursday evening. 

"Tonight is perfect. This particular (holiday lights display) is the big start off for me. I love it. Anywhere there's fun, I'm there," Drescher said.

Festivities began at 5:45, with Santa Claus flipping the switch for the holiday lights display at 6:30 p.m.

A holiday-themed fireworks display topped off the night.

The festival marked the official start to Milwaukee's holiday season and featured dancers, live music, specialty acts and of course, a visit from Santa Claus.

After the lighting, the Jingle Bus was on hand to take people to view different holiday lights displays around downtown Milwaukee -- one at Cathedral Square and another at Zeidler Union Square. These buses run Thursday through Sunday (through December 30th) from the Grand Avenue Mall and cost $1.

With less than a week to go before the Holiday Lights Festival, the first grinch(es) of the season struck. Eight electrical cables were stolen from Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Park in downtown Milwaukee.

It appeared the thieves stole the cables for their copper.

"Milwaukeeans would never let the Grinch steal Christmas in Milwaukee would they? Milwaukeeans are very protective of our parks. They take ownership of the parks and we know everybody kind of watches out. I always think about if somebody steals something that isn't yours, they must need it more than you do. In this particular case, I don't think they needed that copper wire more than we did for the parks," Beth Weirick with the Milwaukee Downtown Business District said.

Weirick said fortunately, the cords were already replaced.

"It was wrong. It was a criminal act, but the show is going to go on," Weirick said.

If you have any information that could help locate the suspects who stole the cables, you're urged to call the Milwaukee Police Department at (414) 935-7212.

CLICK HERE for more information on the 2012 Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival!