A brief history of Pittsburgh Light Up Night

The Incline — a digital news site in Pittsburgh — offered a brief history of Pittsburgh’s biggest party: Light Up Night.

The Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership told Incline that the first “Light Up” event happened April 9, 1959, in honor of the Pirates.

The event took a nine-year break beginning in 1973 in an effort to conserve energy. Light Up Night returned in 1982 to help lift morale as the steel industry collapsed. By the way, a few years later, Gimbels closed.

What was most surprising to me was how few people used to attend! The PDP told Incline that 25,000 people attended each year before 1998 when about 50,000 people showed up.

The low turnout makes sense as the 90s saw major changes in Downtown’s retail sector. (Anybody remember the failed “Fifth and Forbes” plans?) It was also a time when suburban shopping malls really solidified their dominance over Downtown.

But something happened since then … the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership has grown the event — along with the help of many other groups. Last year, half a million people celebrated Light Up Night.

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