Category Archives: Kaufmann’s

WPXI’s annual holiday parade canceled amid COVID-19

The hits just keep on coming due to the global pandemic.

We learned that Pittsburgh’s annual holiday season parade is canceled due to COVID-19.

WPXI announced the decision to cancel the parade today.

The parade, which would have celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, was first organized by longtime department store Kaufmann’s and known as the Celebrate the Season parade.

It then was a product of Macy’s before that department store company pulled out of Downtown Pittsburgh.

Since then, WPXI has organized the parade.

WPXI says it is planning to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the parade later this year.

Miniature Christmas villages offer big holiday charm

Whether it’s a bird’s-eye view of a Charles Dickens’ village, a seaside New England town or Christmas in NYC, small-scale winter villages offer a big-scale holiday charm under a tree, above a cabinet, in a display case or sprawled across an entire room.

I can’t pinpoint when I first fell in love with small villages. My uncle and grandfather introduced me to trains, and while they were great, I was more into the buildings and scenery around those displays – the little people and vehicles and storefronts.

Add to this my love of “SimCity” and “Sims” video games and the perfect recipe for enjoying small-scale villages is born!

I just love the idea of creating a storyline for the village, as townspeople move about in the days leading up to the holiday.

When I was younger, we placed a farm/rural village under the tree with some old-school buildings from my uncle. I mixed in some of my MicroMachines and had one eclectic little town.

Over the years, my village matured with Lemax pieces and some others (St. Nicholas Square from Kohl’s, etc). A number of my buildings and accessories came from Kmart, which used to have a great collection each holiday season.

I recently discovered that one of my buildings is a Norman Rockwell piece that was sold at Ames (of all places). I need to do some digging to find more about the history of that line.

But the crown jewel of mini villages is Dept. 56, with its vast array of quintessential New England pieces, its “A Christmas Carol” village, its NYC village collection and, more recently, its pop culture collections (think “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon,” etc).

I own one Dept. 56 building – the Heinz house. (It’s a ‘Burgh thing!)

As much as I love the attention to detail on Dept. 56 pieces, it’s difficult for me to pay the prices (even second-hand prices!) of those items. They are gorgeous and I envy folks with them, but they’re not in my budget.

But I love my hodgepodge collection of mostly Lemax pieces that also offer such attention to detail on buildings and within figurines.

The centerpiece to my village under the tree is the Wegmans grocery store building. I love Wegmans, so it was an obvious move to make that the center of town – right next to the village gazebo and choir singers.

My village under the tree usually also includes the Daily Gazette building, the Wegmans Farmhouse and typically the post office or pub (though, either made an appearance this year!).

New this year is The Secret Santa Christmas Gift Shoppe, complete with Santa standing outside the shop making his list and checking it twice.

The Norman Rockwell piece offers a glimpse into the dining room of a family about to celebrate a meal together.

A second village is placed above the cabinets in the kitchen and is kept up all year to keep a little Christmas magic going! (The village also offers some very nice soft lighting.)

The village above the cabinets includes three houses that I believe are from a collection that was part of Christmas Around The World. Foley’s Pharmacy (which I think is either a Kmart or Lemax piece) and a brewery (from St. Nicholas Square at Kohl’s) round out the businesses, which are centered around a choir group and tree.

A lighthouse at the end of the display offers a New England feel, complete with a snowman in a yellow rain slicker!

I haven’t officially named the villages, but I do tend to refer to them as Christmas Village (under the tree) and Christmas Village Heights (above the cabinets) – or, simply, The Heights.

I’m unsure how many village buildings I own, but I do know that of the 11 that are placed (12, if you include the house that’s always up in my bedroom), there is a good chance my collection has about 30 buildings.

Small compared to some folks, whose collections are well into the hundreds!

I’m in several Facebook Groups related to mini villages and get to see all of the hard work people put into their displays. Some people convert entire family rooms or basements into their Christmas villages, while others are content with a few pieces on the mantel.

I’m so inspired by the people in these groups, though. This is not just a hobby for some of them, but a true passion. (And, if for nothing else, these groups offer a place where every single person commenting is pleasant – unheard of on Facebook!)

Ask any village collector if their village collection is every complete and the answer is simple: nope!

I always tell myself not to buy any new pieces, but each year that’s a struggle. I, so far, have limited myself to just one new building (The Secret Santa shop). But I’ve purchased a few more figurines and accessories than I usually do a year.

One building I need for my village is a department store. But not just any department store. I’d like a Gimbels (from the Dept. 56 “Elf” collection), a Davidson’s Department Store (from Dept. 56), Dayfield’s Department Store (from the Dept. 56 “Christmas in the City” collection) or the dont-call-it-Macy’s “Department Store” (from the Dept. 56 “Miracle on 34th Street” collection).

Of course, I’d prefer having a Kaufmann’s Department Store (preferably the current building, but the Carnegie Science Center’s addition of the previous building would do!)

A recent quote in an Erie Times-News story about a couple who collects and displays Dept. 56 pieces resonated with me.

“I have a little stool in front of the big display,” Jeff Taylor said, “and sometimes I go out there and sit on that stool and just stare at the scenes. It’s just a great place. It’s very soothing. You look at it and you can almost see the people moving.”

Erie Times-News; Dec. 1, 2019

I’ll sometimes turn off the lights to the tree and keep the village lights on just to enjoy the scenery. I added four battery-operated lighted village trees this year and sat with just those on to illuminate the village.

Amazing what giant stories the mind can create from a tiny village.

Take a holiday walking tour of Downtown Pittsburgh

Rossilynne Culgan, author of “100 Things to Do in Pittsburgh Before You Die,” is offering three guided walking tours throughout the holiday season featuring nine holly jolly stops along the way.

Culgan’s tour is $25 per person and includes a copy of her book, plus some other fun.

The tour includes the PPG Place ice rink, the City of Pittsburgh’s gingerbread displays and more.

Her tour is inspired by her 2017 holiday walking tour she published in The Incline.

Your ultimate guide to Pittsburgh area holiday events

I curated this epic list of Pittsburgh area holiday events to help guide you through the season! I did it for my actual full-time job since It’s Christmas 365 actually costs me money instead of making me money, haha.

The list has sooooo much in it. Take a look. Share with others! Reach out to me with events I missed. Or if you hit up any of these events, let me know! You might even see me there!

The Light Up Night post to make your Pittsburgh Light Up Night merry and bright

You’re going to want to bookmark, print or take notes because this is going to be one epic post to help you get through a Pittsburgh Light Up Night that’s merry and bright.

First thing’s first: Light Up Night is an amazing way to kick off the holiday season. Do not let traffic, crowds or other factors prohibit you from heading Dahntahn for the fun!

Light Up Night is my ultimate favorite night of the year in Pittsburgh. (If you want the history of Light Up Night, go here.) I miss the Kaufmann’s windows and walking around the various floors to see what’s happening. But there still is a lot to enjoy.

So… how do you have a fun and happy experience at Light Up Night?

Here’s how:

Plan ahead. You’ll want a plan for Light Up Night because there literally is so much going on that if you decide on the fly, you’ll waste more time! Read on for how to make the most of your time!

Bundle up. It’s going to be festive out, so you’ll want the scarves and gloves, hats and heavy coats for Friday night.

Be merry. It’s going to be crowded. Other people do exist.

And now, here are some ways to take it all in on Light Up Night:

The first official ceremony takes place at noon with the creche at the U.S. Steel Tower. You probably won’t be around for that, but I needed to give you the heads up if it’s something you want to see.

As for the evenings where everything else happens:

Get the most out of Light Up Night!

With so much going on at Light Up Night, it’s difficult to figure out what to check out. Here are my suggestions to help you have a great Light Up Night experience.

Everything I know about is bulleted here. But the bolded ones are my suggestions. See below the bullets for descriptions, timelines, etc.

  • 4:45 p.m. – Allegheny County Courthouse Trees and Tower Lighting
  • 5:15 p.m. – City-County Building Tree Lighting
  • 5:30 p.m. – PPG Plaza Tree Lighting and American Cancer Society Tribute of Light ceremony
  • 5:45 p.m. – One Oxford Centre Tree Lighting
  • 5:45 p.m. – Market Square’s Season of Lights Countdown
  • 6 p.m. (to 9:45 p.m.) – Celebrating the Music of Fred Rogers + appearances by Daniel Tiger (EQT Plaza – 625 Liberty Avenue)6 p.m. – The Nox Boys (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
  • 6 p.m. – Beauty Slap (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
  • 6 p.m. (to 9 p.m.) – Santa Spectacular features the Entercom (former CBS Radio) stations helping to light the tree at Point State Park. Event includes Farkleberry Cookies, glimpse of the Mckeesport Model Train Display, food vendors, music, light show. [this event is not officially part of Light Up Night]
  • 7 p.m. – Highmark (Horne’s) Tree lighting and rooftop fireworks plus a Jumbotron show
  • 7 p.m. – Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
  • 7:30 p.m. – Tribe Eternal (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
  • 7:45 p.m. – Santa Spectacular fireworks (Point State Park) [this event is not officially part of Light Up Night]
  • 8:30 p.m. – Adam Lambert (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
  • 8:30 p.m. – Krunk Movement (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
  • 9:30 p.m. – Fireworks Finale (Ft. Duquesne Boulevard between 6th Street and Stanwix Street)

If you’re able to kick off Light Up Night at 5 p.m., your first stop should be to the City-County Building’s tree lighting at 5:15 p.m. This tree is beautiful, the lighting is amazing and – NEW THIS YEAR – the City-County Building is home to the gingerbread display (PPG Place booted it for private rentals in the Wintergarden, boo!).

After the lighting, I’d recommend not going in to see the gingerbread displays since they’ll be there through the holiday season. You can visit them any day, so why do it when it’s co crowded!

After that, you should make your way to PPG Place to watch the American Cancer Society’s Tribute of Light ceremony. The East End Kids actually begin performing at 5 p.m., but the tree lighting usually is between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. (By the way, at 4:45 p.m., the RMU Island Sports Center Skaters will perform “Rockin’ Christmas” on the ice rink. That’s always a fun show.)

I’ll note (for full disclosure) that for several years, I helped on stage with the tree lighting and have been a long-time volunteer with the American Cancer Society.

OK, so after that, you have some time to quickly stroll the vendors at Market Square and get a quick bite to eat. There usually are food trucks at Gateway Center. I don’t recommend a sit-down place because they’ll be busy and you’ll waste time! YOU CAN EAT WHEN YOU LEAVE!

You also could stop by Steel City to see Eat’n Park’s Smiley!

So after PPG Place, make your way to Fifth Avenue Place, where there is entertainment and Mr. McFeely! Plus, it’s a great spot to warm up, look at the few stores there and maybe head to the food court upstairs for a quick bite to eat.

Then you can head outside to watch the Horne’s Tree light up. This lighting does happen pretty quickly, so make sure you’re there on time!

Afterward, head over to Point State Park for the Entercom Radio’s Santa Spectacular. It is not affiliated with Light Up Night, but still offers festive fun!

They’ve got music (obv) and a light show, plus the big tree lighting and fireworks!

The overall event typically ends around 8 p.m., which leaves you time to make your way to the Main Stage on Fort Duquesne for the Adam Lambert show.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of non-holiday music at LIGHT UP NIGHT. But, it is what it is, and it has to be part of the draw to get people to town now without the major department stores that once brought crowds.

The area for the stage gets very crowded. But there are screens set up along the road so you still can get in on the stage action.

So your best bet is to find a good spot for the fireworks, which kick off at 9:30 p.m.

Now, you’re probably wondering about the other events, like the vendors at Market Square and the gingerbread displays.

You’ll need to come back to experience the holidays even more! There are plenty of events happening at the Holiday Market at Market Square throughout the season. Plus, the City-County Building will have the gingerbread displays. There are several theater shows and concerts that are holiday-related.

There’s so much to do in Downtown Pittsburgh for the holidays. Subscribe to the It’s Christmas 365 newsletter for more holiday events and tips for enjoying them!

If you got this far and want more info, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram! And do let me know if you’re Downtown so we can say hi!

Have ‘A Very Merry Pittsburgh’ with Heinz History Center’s holiday exhibit

Pittsburghers love traditions – especially during the Steelers season and the holiday season.

And, as the years go by, the beginnings of holiday traditions that made Pittsburgh’s once-vibrant Downtown shopping district shine are nothing but a memory.

Horne’s, Kaufmann’s, Gimbels all had extravagant holiday season traditions: windows, tree lightings, amazing interior decorating, Santa.

While those landmarks and many of the events are gone, the memories will live on through a very special exhibit at the Heinz History Center: “A Very Merry Pittsburgh.”

It’s the second year for the unique display (it first appeared in 2017).

The display, which opens Nov. 16, features:

  • The original Santa’s chair from Kaufmann’s Santaland, the giant mailbox where Pittsburgh area children used to mail wish lists to Santa
  • Holiday window display items and other memorable objects from Kaufmann’s, Horne’s and Macy’s
  • An interactive retro toy display showcasing toys from several generations
  • Gifts and toys dating to the 1840s, which show the evolution of gift-giving for the holidays

And, of course, Santa! The History Center welcomes Santa on select days and times.

I visited this exhibit during its premiere year in 2017 and took my mother, who fondly recalled so many toys and items from Kaufmann’s and Horne’s. I loved getting a chance to see old window display pieces up close and to learn more about those pieces.

This is a must-see exhibit for any Pittsburgher!

More details:

A Very Merry Pittsburgh opens Nov. 16 and continues through Jan. 5. The exhibit is included as part of a regular admission ticket to the Heinz History Center.

Santa will be at the History Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following days: Nov. 16, 17, 23, 24, 29; and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24.

The History Center is located at 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District. You’ll want to block off several hours to visit the History Center because of all of the wonderful exhibits, including pieces from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the massive Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, and so much more! Or, just get a membership and return multiple times throughout the year!

Get event listings and more holiday fun in the It’s Christmas 365 newsletter!