Christmas in July

Rochester, Michigan: The Big, Bright Light Show


In 2005, Rochester Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was looking for a way to drive sales to our downtown merchants during the critical holiday season. We knew that we could not compete with the advertising budgets of the big-box stores and local malls, so we had to create something that would make Downtown Rochester a must-visit holiday destination. We chose to focus on creating a unique experience, something we hoped would attract visitors from across the state.

Launched in 2006, The Big, Bright Light Show started with 500,000 LED (light-emitting diode) holiday lights that blanketed four blocks of Downtown Rochester's Main Street. On opening night, more than 30,000 people filled the streets to see the show. More than a million visitors found their way to Downtown Rochester during the 35 days of the show. Merchants reported an average 29 percent increase in business compared to the same period the previous year.

In 2007, we expanded the show to include one million lights covering eight blocks of Main Street and several side streets, while new event areas on the east and west sides of downtown drew traffic to our off-Main Street businesses. The new events included the Snowflake Spectacular – a dazzling display of 60 giant snowflakes that flash to the beat of holiday music every 15 minutes; Candy Cane Lane – featuring larger-than-life animated displays of giant toys; and the Dancing Tree of Lights – every inch of our traditional Christmas tree is wrapped with holiday lights that "dance" in sync to music.

To further our mission of supporting small, independent businesses, The Big, Bright Light Show is funded by the Rochester DDA; Rochester City Council; corporate sponsorships; and The Big, Bright Light Show Membership Program, supported by residents. 

Every element in the light show is LED, making the event affordable and energy efficient. This initiative also motivated our merchants to extend their hours, seven days a week, a goal that had previously seemed unattainable.

Since 2006, The Big, Bright Light Show has been featured in The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press, Hour Detroit Magazine and on Fox News, CNN, and Good Morning America.

Since the beginning of the show, we have been overwhelmed by the letters, e-mails, and phone calls from residents, visitors, and merchants. Some say we have restored their holiday spirit; others say how proud they are to live in Rochester. Most importantly, people have taken ownership of both the event and the downtown. We couldn't have hoped for a better outcome and believe that The Big, Bright Light Show will become even bigger (and brighter) in the years to come as it solidifies its place as a new Downtown Rochester holiday tradition.

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