Redding Up A Good Cause

Sometimes, we get serious here.  Especially when it comes to talking about HIV/AIDS. That's why we're taking a few moments to remind everyone that December 1 is World AIDS Day across the planet and invite people of all backgrounds to take part in the second(PITTSBURGH) RED World AIDS Day activities, begining Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the City-County Building and other locations throughout Downtown — even in Market Square.

Now with Mayor Ravenstahl starting off the activities at 10:30 a.m. with a speech about the seriousness of fighting HIV/AIDS, we don't have to tell you about the consequences of these diseases. But we do want to remind everyone that despite all the advances against these diseases, they still bring sickness and sadness to so many people around the world. So, we really want to let you know about some ways to get involved in helping save lives not just around the world, but right here in Pittsburgh.

One of the easiest — and most "tasteful" — things to do is visit the Starbucks in the Square for one of the company's hand-crafted beverages. Along with a much-needed midday refueling, the purchase will add a nickel to the kitty to fight AIDS. Okay, maybe five cents doesn't seem like a lot of money, but in just one year, Seattle's best coffeemaker brewed up enough java to fund more than 7 million days of medical care for people with AIDS in Africa. We think that's justifiable grounds for at least one stop for a cuppa Joe.  They also have specialty merchandise that supports the cause.

While World's AIDS Day is a remembrance of those lost to the disease, it's also a celebration of life. All week long, portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display throughout the city, including the City-County Building and Fifth Avenue Place. Most important, free, confidential  HIV/AIDS testing will be available at 201 Grant Street from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1.

Of course, you can show your support in a very visible way by wearing a red ribbon, which will be available Downtown tomorrow. Pick one up at a Starbucks location like Market Square (while supplies last) or at 10 a.m. at the City County Building where Starbucks will be giving away coffee and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh students will be giving away red ribbon cookies.  There is a suggested donation of $1 for coffee and cookies with all proceeds to (Pittsburgh)RED.

If they run out of ribbons at the Market Square Starbucks, well, just look up at the spire of the Highmark Building, which will be lighted up in red for the occasion. And, please, remember that after World Aids Day is over, the battle against HIV/AIDS — and to save lives — goes on every day in our own community.  So wear some red tomorrow, grab a ribbon and find out what you can do to be aware, be safe, and support your neighbors currently living with HIV/AIDS.



Keep On Glowing In the Square

Okay. We'll admit it. We're still basking in the afterglow of this past weekend's amazing, two-day and night 50th Anniversary Light Up Night Celebration. After all, this year's bash was the biggest, brightest and most brilliant Light Up Night ever. If you were there, then you were plugged into all the fun, food and festivities that stretched from One Oxford Center all the way to the Clemente Bridge. And at the center of it all for this special extravangana was the most electrifying place of all — the new Market Square. 

From start to finish, this will be one party to remember for the ages. Actually it was a blowout for all ages, with activities for everyone from the young to the young at heart.  Whether you rocked to the performances of No Bad Ju Ju and Jeff Jimerson on the Main Stage or jumped to your own beat in the Tiger Bounce House, the Square was one high-volt place that blinked, twinkled and glittered even before Mayor Luke Ravenstahl — with the help of Colcom Foundation VP John Barsotti and his sons — flipped the on switch for the first-ever Season of Lights holiday display. 

So, just in case you weren't one of the hundreds of thousands of people who streamed through the Square over the weekend, we're posting a few photos to show you what you missed — like Santa, the world's biggest marching band, the horse-drawn carriage parade, fireworks and Lynn Smith and Fred Bell getting hitched in front of thousands of friends and family. And we're going to go easy on the words here, because we really do believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. But we do want to thank Duquesne Light, PNC, Colcom Foundation, Northwest Savings Bank, Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Hotel, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and all the generous sponsors who supplied the inspiration and illumination to power up a Light Up Night that glowed like 24-karat gold in the most livable  — and brightest — city around. 


Bright Lights, Big City

It's almost time for Downtown's biggest and brightest party of the year — the one-time only, two-day and two-night megawatt-palooza 50th anniversary celebration of Light Up Night, powered by the good people of Duquesne Light. Starting tomorrow at 4 p.m.,  the fun, food and festivities start in Market Square and on the Roberto Clemente Bridge with musical performances by Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, Etta Cox and Al Dowe, No Bad Ju Ju, The Stickers, Johnny Angel and the Halos, the young talents of CAPA and other Pittsburgh favorites. By time the old clock in the Square strikes 6, every avenue in the city will be an Electric Avenue. 

And since everyone knows that Downtown is the Center of the Season, the Square will be the heartbeat for so many holiday happenings during Light Up Night. An almost-instant tradition since its glowing inaugural run in 1960, Light Up Night will shine even brighter in 2010 with so many exciting new attractions that promise to perennial crowd pleasers from the start.

Now we're not playing favorites, but we don't have to check our list twice to predict that the most dazzling attractions for years to come will be the absolutely awesome Market Square Season of Lights display. Designed by Blachere Illuminations — they're the bright ones who lit up the Eiffel Tower and DisneyWorld's Cinderella Castle — the Market Square Season of Lights combines decorations on buildings and lamp posts in the Square with a towering 33-foot tall "sphere tree" lit by over 27,000 LED bulbs. From Light Up Night and into next January, the Market Square Season of Lights will delight visitors to the Square with synchronized eight-minute shows every half hour set to everyone's favorite holiday tunes. Be sure to be there when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Jolly Old St. Nick — with help from our generous friends at the Colcom Foundation — flip the on switch to illuminate this electrifying Light Up Night rookie of the year.

While they might not be little toy soldiers, student musicians from five area high schools will keep in step during the Highmark Light Up Night March as they parade through the city to the Square, just in time for the Seasons of Light debut. Of course, the Unity Tree will blaze at the corner of Fifth and Stanwix, and weary walkers can catch a free ride on the horse-drawn carriage trips that start at Oxford Center. And the first half of Light Up Night will end with a sky-high display of pyrotechnics of fireworks from the world-renowned Zambelli Internationale.

Okay, that's just part one of the 50th Anniversary Light Up Night fun. On day two, the activities start early in the day when everyone's favorite beagle glides across the ice as Snoopy laces up his skates to celebrate his 60th birthday — that's 420 in dog years — at the PPG rink. The Square will continue to rock all day long with the tuneful stylings of Jim Jimerson and Airborne, Joe Negri and Vanessa Campagna and other talented performers.

The weekend of fun keeps on rolling along with the city's first-ever Duquesne Light Horse-Drawn Candlelight Carriage Parade with over 20 carriages and more than 150 majestic steeds hoofing their way through Downtown's wonderfully bedecked streets. From Cinderella's pumpkin carriage to antique fire trucks, this will be one parade to remember. You'll even see the famous Wells Fargo Stagecoach, a fixture in parades across America since 1958 — that's two years before Light Up Night was a twinkle in the eyes of Jacques Kahn, the legendary Pittsburgh ad man and civic booster who masterminded the city's favorite holiday tradition.

Finally, Santa and Mrs. Claus will celebrate the season with a super stage show in the Square that will fill even the biggest Grinch with the Spirit of Christmas. After the 25-minute song and dance revue, the Big Guy and his Missus will do the honors as Lynn Smith and James Bell tie the holiday knot in a special Light Up Nuptials ceremony, sponsored by 96.9 BOB FM. To make sure you don't miss a minute of the fun this weekend, check out the Light Up Night schedules for Friday and Saturday. And get ready to get your glow on!


Full Circle In The Square

 What a difference a year makes. Anyone who's witnessed the amazing transformation of Market Square over the last 365 days knows exactly what we're talking about. Which is what sent us on a trip down memory lane to November 2009, when the remaking of Downtown's favorite meeting spot was starting all over from, well, Square one.

Okay, can you believe that just 12 months ago, on Light Up Night last year, the Square looked the scene in the photo over here? After enjoying the Farmers Market, the Thursday free concerts, the Carnegie Library Reading Room and other happenings this summer and fall in the "new"  Square, it's almost impossible for us to remember the "old" Square and what it looked like during construction. But we dug through the archives to unearth a few photos from last year to show you just how much everything's changed — for the better.

Before the work crews could install the beautiful terrazzo surface in the main part of the Square or carefully place by hand each Belgian block in the streets around the Square, they had to remove every last bit of the old roads and sidewalks and start from scratch, including replacing old water lines and laying new pipes for various utilities (remember all those deep holes all over?). We spent a lot of time watching the guys tool around in the Square in their grown-up Tonka toys. Now, of course, with so much heavy equipment in the Square, we all had to deal with some detours on our way to the Nicholas Coffee Co., Oyster House and other fave spots in the Square. Somehow we all managed to find our way around the yellow "caution" tape and orange traffic cones.

But look at the Square now. In just a few days, tens of thousands of happy holiday well-wishers will gather there for our extra special 50th anniversary Light Up Night spectacular. Along with all the treasured Light Up Night festivities and traditions, this year's celebration will get off to an electrifying start when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl flips a giant switch to turn on the amazing Market Square Season of Lights display in the Square. We want to thank the good folks at the Colcom Foundation for plugging in their support of this colossal collection of brilliant blinking and twinkling decorations — including a 33-foot tall "sphere tree" that will brighten up the Square through the holidays and into the new year.

It's been a year of change in the Square. And we want to thank everyone — the work crews and the craftsmen, the merchants and especially everyone who visits the Square every day — for being patient and supportive during the long haul. We think the new Square was well worth the wait. And, remember, we'll see you in the Square — and everywhere else Downtown — this Friday and Saturday for the biggest, brightest and best Light Up Night ever.


It's Dee-Lightful!

Seriously, this is late fall? With temps in the mid 60s? Well, maybe the calendar puts us deep in the middle of autumn. But about the only hints of winter heading our way we've spotted in the Square the past few days are the workers who are assembling the first stages of Pittsburgh's first Market Square Seasons of Lights display created by Blachere Illuminations.

Now, not that we're counting, but crews were busy the past few days decking out the square with the first few hundred or so of the 143,268 lights that will brighten up the Square through the early part of January, thanks to the generosity of the Colcom Foundation. Along with decking the lamp posts around the Square with boughs of twinkling lights, the installers were busy raising the signature piece of the Season of Lights — the 33-foot tall "sphere tree" and its more than 27,000 energy-efficient LED bulbs.  Every night through its run, the Seasons of Light display will dazzle visitors to the Square with extremely awesome choreographed and synchronized shows set to everyone's favorite holiday tunes.

So, there we were, in the Square during the Thursday Farmers Market — which is extended into December — enjoying a few pierogies and buying some fresh veggies and a couple of fresh-baked pies for dinner. Everywhere we looked,  everyone in the Square was catching some amazingly warm rays during what seemed like a citywide long lunch break. Still, we couldn't help but imagine the electric winter wonderland that's in store for Downtown when we flip the "on" switch for the Market Square Season of Lights.


Farmers Market In The Square Extended

Let's just say that the Farmers Market in Market Square has a way of growing on you. Which is why we're really happy to tell you that the bounty of fresh foods — plus bushels of pastries, Greek treats, pierogies and other goodies — will continue to take root in Market Square through the end of the year.

After talking with the vendors we added another six weeks or so to the selling season. Some of you may remember that the year before construction we went through December too, with one of the longest outdoor market seasons in the City.  Last year we cut it short due to construction in the Square, but this year we're back!  And that means you'll be able to stock up on supplies for Turkey Day and other special occasions throughout this holiday season.

Speaking of the holidays, friends of the Farmers Market might just notice that a few special festive touches in the Square as work crews begin installing the 143,268 lights that will twinkle, blink and dazzle everyone who visits the Square during our very first Market Square Season of Lights extravaganza, funded by Colcom Foundation. The amazing LED display will flash and sparkle and add an extra-special glow to the Square — with synchronized shows every evening — through the holiday season and into the new year.

Now, we're certainly basking in  this week's hot spell and even spotted more than a few folks dining al fresco in the Square during lunch. But keep in mind that after this Wednesday, our Clean Team will be moving most of the tables and chairs from the center of the Square to the storage room to make way for Light Up Night festivities on November 19 and 20. After that, a few of the tables and chairs will return for the winter, so you still have a brief escape from the office and good people watching!

So whether you're looking for some local veggies for the holiday dinner table or an afternoon treat to satisfy your sweet tooth, the Farmers Market in the Square is where you ought to be.


There's More In Store For The Square — And Beyond

Now that the Mayor and other local luminaries snipped the yellow ribbon last week to officially mark the grand reopening of Market Square, we want to make sure that you know there are plenty more developments happening in the Square and beyond its four corners. And a lot of it's happening right now. 

Even though the City of Pittsburgh, the URA and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership put their finishing touches on the Square's stunning transformation over the past 18 months, many other private and public projects are ready to leap from the drawing board and into reality. That's why we're letting you get this sneak peek at what's in the works in and around the Square. 

Of course, you can see plenty of action in the Square itself as the old Jenny Lee building gets a much needed makeover and Fat Tommy's pizzeria will sport a new look soon, too. Plus, more exciting businesses will set up shop in the Square in the months ahead. Even though Bourbon Street's a few hundred miles a way, NoLa will bring a taste of the French Quarter to Pittsburgh when this exciting eatery opens just in time for Mardi Gras. For a some South of the Border cuisine, we say ole to the new Chipotle and its aways fresh approach to Mexican fare. For saltier appetites, the Penn Ave. Fish Co. brings the catch of the day to its new Forbes Avenue location, and Winghart's Burgers and Whiskey Bar will serve two of America's favorites in the Square very soon. And that's just for starters. 

Everyone knows that Downtown is Pittsburgh's newest neighborhood. Well, Market Square might just be the fastest growing enclave in the center of it all. Square dwellers are already enjoying the best of urban living at MarketSquare Place, the site of the old New Diamond Market and Murphy's building. For a more intimate habitat, the Residences at Market at Fifth offers cozy living space on Graeme Street, one of the shortest roads in all of Pittsburgh. Of course, you can rise above it all in the sky-high condos in the glass towers of Three PNC Plaza, lean out the window watching an event from the two apartments above Primanti's, or enjoy the views from the Dahlmeyer Building on Liberty, where another amazing restoration project is shaping up fast. And when we look into our crystal ball, we see even more retail and residential projects in the work in the very near future. 

And don't forget that we're extending the Farmer's Market in the Square through the end of the year and the Seasons of Light holiday display that will dazzle and delight visitors each night well past New Year's Day. You know, when you think about it, there's always something new taking place in the Square.