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 A line forms at Sanders following the debut of the Big, Bright Light Show.  When asked what they were going to get, patrons said ice cream, and that everything is good, but the hot chocolate is the best.

A line forms at Sanders following the debut of the Big, Bright Light Show. When asked what they were going to get, patrons said ice cream, and that everything is good, but the hot chocolate is the best.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Big, Bright Light Show shines during 14th annual kickoff

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 4, 2019


ROCHESTER — Thousands of people huddled together on the sidewalks, eager to take in Rochester’s Big, Bright Light Show Nov. 25.

But even before the switch was flipped, downtown was packed for Lagniappe, which comes from the Creole term for “a little something extra.”

Downtown Development Authority Director Kristi Trevarrow said a former downtown business owner brought Lagniappe to downtown Rochester in the 1970s as a way for Rochester merchants to celebrate the holiday season by giving back to their customers in the form of discounts, giveaways and other special offers.

Over at Bizzy Buzz, owner Pamela Walther was enjoying the added exposure — and foot traffic — for the shop during its second year of Lagniappe.

“I just remember getting slammed last year, and it’s been full this time as well,” she said. “I’m hoping for some good kickoff to the holiday season sales. It helps the artists, who all have a monthly fee that they pay for their space, so the more sales that they have (the merrier).”

This year for Lagniappe, Bizzy Buzz gave out free samples of chocolate cherry coffee from Benjamin Twiggs, chocolate-covered coffee beans and cherry yogurt-covered pretzels, along with coupons for $5 off a $50 purchase, good through February. Other downtown businesses thanked shoppers for their support by giving out glow rings, free samples, coupons, treats and more.

At 7 p.m., eyes of all ages lit up with excitement as the buildings in downtown Rochester glimmered with more than 1.5 million points of holiday light for the debut of the 14th annual Big, Bright Light Show.

“When that switch gets flipped and everything lights up in an instant … it’s a magical feeling,” Walther said.

Friends Ally Austin, Kara Vyletel, Jennifer Ju and Tyler Cummings met for a home-cooked meal and then walked downtown just in time to see the lights go on.

“We got here at like 6:50 p.m. and saw the lights, so now we are going to walk around,” Austin said. “The lights are very pretty. I see why so many people come out.”

Vyletel, of Royal Oak, said she thought the lights were cool.

“I’m such a sucker for Christmas and all the holiday décor and stuff,” she said. “I’ve never been out here, so it was a really cool experience to see. Definitely a sight. It’s worth it.”

David and Taylor Wagenbach and their nearly 7-month-old daughter, Iris, went to the event for the first time this year, after moving to Rochester from Illinois last January.

The couple said they saw the lights passing through downtown last year and learned about this year’s kickoff event via Facebook.

“It’s neat to see the lights all turn on, because we’ve never seen that before. It reminded me of a Hallmark movie or something,” David Wagenbach said.

The couple said they were surprised by the crowds and the traffic, but they plan to make coming to the kickoff a tradition.

“We wanted to come out for the kickoff and start a new tradition for our family,” said Taylor Wagenbach.“We love how all the businesses get set up and have free things like hot chocolate and cookies. It’s a fun event for the family and a great way to support local shops.”

Throughout the evening, Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm — along with his team of police officers, Rochester firefighters and volunteers from the city’s Community Emergency Response Team — was patrolling the sidewalks, making sure the crowds and traffic were under control.

Although downtown was still packed after the lights went on, Schettenhelm said the overall event was “going great.”

“There’s a big crowd, and everybody seems to be having a great time. There are a lot of smiles on faces, and we enjoy it too,” he said.

The buildings along Main Street, beginning at the South Bridge and extending north to Romeo Road, as well as on Fourth Street, from Walnut Boulevard to Water Street, will continue to be lit 5 p.m.-midnight through Jan. 5. The Big, Bright Light Show is presented by Fox Automotive.

For more information, call (248) 656-0060 or visit