Pittsburgh Light Up Night returns in 2021

What’s become the traditional kickoff of the holiday season in Pittsburgh is set to return.

Pittsburgh Light Up Night is back in 2021 — just in time for the 60th anniversary of the city’s first Light Up Night.

After pausing the event in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership promises a “refresh” on the holiday celebration.

Though details were slim in the Sept. 16 announcement, organizers did announce one big change: Light Up Night is moving to Saturday — Nov. 20. Traditionally, the event has been held on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

The Holiday Market at Market Square will celebrate its 10th year in the city and will kick off Nov. 19.

Also new to Light Up Night this year is a new title sponsor: Highmark.

If you know anything about Downtown Pittsburgh and the holidays, you know that the iconic Horne’s tree that dazzles all season long at the corner of Penn and Stanwix streets is now home to Highmark.

“Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night is a tradition for our community. Our sponsorship of the event complements the lighting of the region’s most iconic and historic Christmas tree affixed to our building at the corner of Penn and Stanwix Streets,” Highmark Health Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Dan Onorato said in a statement released by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “We‘re excited that the move to Saturday will now make this signature event even more family-focused and welcoming to all.”

Did you know? Pittsburgh’s first Light Up Night was not tied to the holiday season. The city’s first “light up” event was held April 9, 1959, in honor of the Pirates.

It eventually moved to the holiday season. But Light Up Night took a nine-year hiatus beginning in 1973 in an effort to conserve energy.

Light Up Night returned in 1982 to help lift morale as the steel industry collapsed. Just a few years later, though, Gimbels — one of the last remaining Downtown department stores — would close.

Before COVID-19, Light Up Night, in recent years, recorded crowds of at least half a million people. In the ’90s, as the Downtown retail district began to implode, the event would see 25,000 to 50,000 people.

But something happened since then: The Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership has grown the event — along with the help of many other groups — which has attracted plenty more people to the city.

Gone are the days when Kaufmann’s would celebrate its grand window displays. (I wonder if any consideration has been given to pay homage to this tradition?)

Even once Kaufmann’s became Macy’s, the building would have festive events on nearly every floor.

And who can forget the Arcade Bakery thumbprint cookies with the iconic Kaufmann’s mile-high icing?

Gone are the days when people used Light Up Night and the holiday season to shop Downtown. Now, people shop online or at Target (guilty as charged).

Light Up Night has changed with the times to let Pittsburghers continue to usher in the holidays.

Hourglass / Image by Eduin Escobar from Pixabay

‘Something wicked this way comes’: Popular possession storyline returns to ‘Days of our Lives’

What’s old is new again in Salem.

Picture it: Salem, 1994: The town’s popular therapist, outstanding mother and all-around do-gooder, Marlena Evans, becomes possessed by the devil.

“Three decades later, he’s coming back to finish what he started…”

The popular daytime drama (and my favorite show) will revisit the storyline.

“Fans can look forward to twists and turns you’d never suspect as well as familiar faces returning to save the day (or not)…. this time around, the devil knows no bounds and no one in Salem is safe,” NBC said of the upcoming storyline, Deadline.com reports.

In the original possession storyline, Salem villain Stefano DiMera, having been obsessed with Marlena Evans, hypnotized her in an attempt to get her to fall in love with him. But the hypnosis led to Marlena becoming possessed by the devil.

Then, on Dec. 24, 1994, Marlena Evans levitated in what is considered one of the most iconic moments in television history.

Ultimately, the story concluded many months later when John Black — then a priest but later her husband — performed an emergency exorcism.

See more from that original storyline below:

And, no, this is not a one-episode stunt, Carlivati said.

By the way, Pittsburgh “Days of our Lives” fans, don’t forget: ‘DAYS’ moved to 1 p.m. weekdays on WPXI.

Flight 93 National Memorial: ‘A common field one day. A field of honor forever’

One week shy of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I visited the Flight 93 National Memorial for the first time.

Located along Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway), this “common field” became a “field of honor” on Sept. 11.

United Airlines Flight 93 left the Newark International Airport in New Jersey at 8:42 a.m. en route to the San Francisco International Airport. The flight was originally scheduled to depart at 8 a.m. It pushed back away from the gate at 8:01 a.m., but, due to the amount of flight traffic, had been delayed in departure.

Forty-six minutes after takeoff — just over the Ohio line from Pennsylvania — hijackers stormed the cockpit, eventually taking control.

Passengers and crew had learned, through phone calls, what had already transpired in New York City and Washington, D.C.

After flying over the Pittsburgh region, passengers and crew attempt to take over the flight at 9:57 a.m.

Just moments later — at 10:03 a.m. — Flight 93 crashed into a Stoneycreek Township, Somerset County, field.

Though the exact destination is unknown, experts and published reports suggest the hijackers were ultimately aiming for the Capitol. The crash site is just 18 minutes in air from Washington, D.C.

The actions of the Flight 93 passengers and crew are at the heart of everything within the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Upon entering the site, visitors come upon the Tower of Voices, soaring 93 feet into the air. This unique monument holds 40 wind chimes, representing each of the passengers and crew onboard Flight 93.

“The Tower of Voices provides a living memorial in sound to remember the forty through their ongoing voices,” the National Park Service says of the tower on its website.

After viewing the tower, visitors can get back into their vehicle and take a roughly 3.5-mile drive to the visitor’s center.

Inside, visitors can gain a better understanding of the day’s events, timeline of the flight and other related pieces of history through a permanent exhibition featuring audio and visual artifacts.

I offer a warning that the exhibit can trigger memories of that morning and might be difficult for some visitors.

The National Park Service recommends budgeting at least 45 minutes to view the exhibit. It’s important to note that no photography is permitted inside the exhibit, according to signs posted in early September 2021.

And, as of September 2021, for health and safety measures, face masks are required inside the visitor’s center.

In addition, a bookstore offers books and other items relating to the site.

Outside of the visitor’s center, visitors can see an overview of the crash site, Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names and the boulder denoting the impact site.

After stopping there, visitors have a choice between walking a path or driving to Memorial Plaza.

Two trails — the 1.2-mile Allée Trail and the 0.7-mile Western Overlook Trail — allow visitors to walk to Memorial Plaza. The Western Overlook Trail follows the path the plane took.

At Memorial Plaza, visitors can walk to Wall of Names, which lists the names of passengers and crew members.

On the walk to the plaza with the Wall of Names, visitors will see the large boulder.

While the impact and legacy of Flight 93 is the focal point of this national site, other work continues to reforest what once was a coal mine.

After visiting the national memorial, I recommend a short drive to an unsuspecting Sept. 11, 2001, memorial.

Just about 9 miles from the entrance to the national memorial site is the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel & United Airlines Crew Monument.

This little white church sits just outside of the small, rural town of Shanksville, which became the epicenter of emergency response crews, journalists and others in the days and weeks following Sept. 11.

The church is located at a quiet intersection, near a cemetery and surrounded by corn fields. If you’re driving too fast and not paying attention to your GPS device, you’ll miss it. Look for the large bell tower.

There is little information online about this memorial site but a friend who had been working on 20th anniversary special coverage for a Western Pennsylvania newspaper suggested I visit.

On my visit, a family of three was making their way through the tiny chapel-turned-museum.

Chapel volunteer Connie Hay so graciously took her time to explain items inside the chapel, providing details about how the items arrived and a brief story behind them. She showed me a small room off of the main space that provides a photo and short biography of each passenger and crew member, and allows people to light a candle in their memory.

One of the items on display includes what became the first memorial of Flight 93.

Outside of the chapel is a monument dedicated to the Flight 93 crew members. The plaza is flanked by flags from each state. Off to the side is a piece of steel from the World Trade Center — etched in the shape of “UA 93.”

Connie told me the site sees an increase in visitors as Sept. 11 nears each year, including visits from United crew members. On the Saturday before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Connie told me they anticipated a bigger increase.

The site is a short drive that is certainly worth the trip. If you’ve got time, take a gander around the tiny town of Shanksville and head to the elementary school to see an outdoor statue given to the school after the attacks.

If walls — or springs — could talk at Omni Bedford Springs

If walls (or natural springs) could talk.

As I meandered the lavish Bedford Springs resort grounds on a recent early September visit, I couldn’t help but think of the history that (pardon the pun) just keeps flowing through the place.

The property — which dates to 1796 when Dr. John Anderson purchased 2,200 acres for a mineral springs resort after learning about the springs from nearby indigenous people — have played host to the likes of politicians (Aaron Burr, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun); business magnates (Henry Ford and department store innovator John Wanamaker); actors and those seeking the reputed medicinal benefits of the natural springs.

Pittsburgh socialites such as the Fricks, Mellons and Heinzes also made use of Bedford Springs.

Hotel historical records suggest as many as 13 future, current and past presidents visited Bedford Springs over the last 225 years — from Thomas Jefferson in 1819 to George W. Bush in 2012.

In an effort to escape the brutal summer heat of the nation’s capital, the Supreme Court, in 1856, informally convened at Bedford Springs. While there, the court worked on the Dred Scott Decision, which gave more support to the anti-slavery movement and, ultimately, paved the way for the Civil War.

The Navy, during World War II, used the hotel and grounds as a training school and — later — as a holding facility for Japanese diplomats.

But it is James Buchanan who might be the resort’s most well-known frequent guest. As president, Buchanan used Bedford Springs as the summer White House between 1857 and 1861. His first visit was made in 1821.

In 1858, Bedford Springs made history as Buchanan, serving as president at the time, received the first transatlantic telegraph on Aug. 12, 1858. The telegram was sent from Queen Victoria to Bedford Springs.

Anderson’s family, in 1887, sold Bedford Springs to a group led by Pittsburgh attorney Philander Knox, who would eventually become secretary of state, serving from 1901 to 1904.

That group sold it again in 1896 to Delaware industrialist Samuel Bancroft.

In 1895, one of the nation’s first golf courses was laid out. Ten years later, in 1905, Bedford Springs became the site of one of the nation’s first indoor swimming pools.

In 1984, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

But just two years later, in 1986, the property closed.

It sat vacant until 1998 when it was purchased for $8 million by a group of 10 investors under the Bedford Resort Partners Limited name.

Over the course of a $120 million effort to reopen the property, an eighth spring was discovered (Eternal Spring) in 2006. The property reopened to overnight guests in July 2007 and was purchased by the Omni Hotels chain in 2009.

Among amenities the resort offers is a 30,000 square foot spa — Springs Eternal Spa — that pays homage to the springs.

Along with an 18-hole golf course (built by Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross) and two pools (the 1905 indoor pool and a new outdoor pool), the property offers a 24/7 fitness center; 25 miles of hiking trails connecting hikers to many of the springs; a plethora of outdoor activities; five onsite dining options (the 1796 Room is temporarily closed and the Turtle Shell at the outdoor pool is seasonal); and several onsite shops.

Guests can spend hours looking at all of the artifacts, photos and decor around the lobby, nearby rooms and hallways — including a desk Buchanan used, guest logs and images from when the Navy used the property. Behind the front desk is a 39-star United States flag.

Rocking chairs, lounge chairs, sitting chairs and benches scattered throughout the resort let guests lose track of time watching hotel life go by, watching wildlife, reading a book or taking a nap.

Of the five buildings of guest rooms, my particular room was in the Springs Eternal House. The charming room offered antique furniture and vintage decor. The granite vanity and marble floor in the bathroom provided such an exquisite feeling.

Being accustomed to slim, trendy and functional furniture in other hotels, this was a nice change. The surroundings didn’t feel too fancy (think: Grandma’s house where you can’t touch anything) or too old (think: Old motel). And, it should be noted, that with so much to do at the resort, the rooms quite literally are for resting. I wasn’t in my room except for late evening, through the night and early morning.

Omni Bedford Springs links

Things to do, see, experience in and near Bedford County

What if we could provide a targeted, non-invasive treatment for breast cancer?

Sounds incredible, right?

I’m participating in the Race To Beat Women’s Cancers 5K, which supports women’s cancer research and patient care at Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, to help support research to find better treatments and reach a day when cures are possible.

Please consider making a donation to join this effort to fund research.

It is estimated that more than 927,000 women will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021. More than 281,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. These numbers are staggering.

Add to these numbers are the women who are going through treatment or have ended treatment and are still dealing with the effects or surgeries related to having been diagnosed with cancer.

Researchers in Pittsburgh are making tremendous strides in the detection, treatment and prevention of women’s cancers — including breakthrough therapies for breast, ovarian and cervical cancers that are in large-scale clinical trials right now.


Research is changing the way breast cancer is treated.


And, with your support, the research at the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation can go further.

By focusing on women’s health, the health of all people here in Pittsburgh and around the world can be improved.

What are Magee scientists doing right now?

  • Uncovering new prevention and treatment approaches in more than 20 clinical trials.
  • Working to solve for treatment resistance in the most common form of breast cancer.
  • Examining the vulnerabilities in triple negative breast cancer to find a more effective cure for this aggressive disease.

For more than two decades, Magee-Womens has dedicated clinical research studies and clinical trials to improving the health care of people everywhere — with research done right here in Pittsburgh.


One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.


Magee-Womens Research Institute collaborates with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to help reduce the incidence of and death from women’s cancers by supporting research aimed at translating novel discoveries into improved patient care.

This great work can continue to impact lives here in Western Pennsylvania and around the world — with your support.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for supporting the important research and patient care at Magee-Womens.