Circle of Lights tradition kicks off holiday season for families

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Each year for more than five decades, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument has been turned into a tree of lights during the holidays.

And every year thousands of people gather downtown to watch the tree light up for the first time during the Circle of Lights celebration.

When those thousands of lights come on, that’s when the holidays start for many Hoosiers.

Unlike last year, the weather was perfect for a big celebration.

4,700 colored lights along 52 strands of garland were set to turn Indy’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument into a massive Christmas tree.

Jennifer Knox’s family came to watch the annual lighting, like they do every year.

“I would say 10 years,” she said of how long she’s attended the event. “It’s a great start to the holiday season.”

This is the first time her young son experienced the family tradition because he’s now old enough to brave the temps.

They arrived hours before the event started to beat the crowds.

“We came down early so we could get our parking,” she said.

Others who showed up early weren’t planning to stay for the 8 p.m. lighting, but wanted to still be a part of the tradition.

“We wanted to come and at least get a taste of the beginning of the Christmas season,” Maria Goana said.

Goana is from out of town and has never been to Circle of Lights before.

“From Chicago, actually,” she said, “I’m visiting my sister who lives in West Point.”

Coming from Chicago, the Indy crowds didn’t scare her away at all. She said the circle felt cozy.

“The statues, it was really nice to see all the statues, and the toy soldiers that surround the area, I thought that was cute,” she said.

For the Knox family, watching the lights will be just the beginning of their holiday season.

“We put up our tree at home last night and then this is the big start, and we’ve got a whole bunch of other Christmas activities planned,” Knox said. “Like Lights at the Brickyard and Christmas at the zoo, all that kind of fun stuff.”

The lights were flipped on about 8 p.m. Friday with help from Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett and the big guy himself, Santa.