Updated: 11/24/10 7:43 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The 97th annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony kicked off Wednesday evening in Daley Plaza. CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports that not even the rain was enough to keep people away on Thanksgiving Eve.
Crowds began gathering for the event in the Loop at Washington and Dearborn at around 4 p.m. Holiday musical performances began at 4:30 p.m., and the switch was flipped at 5 p.m. Applause and cheers followed, along with a fireworks show.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding Reports
It will be Mayor Richard M. Daley’s last ceremony before he retires from office next year.
“This is for all the families of our great city and surrounding communities,” said Daley.
Hundreds braved the drizzle and cold temperatures to help ring in the holidays at Daley Plaza.
A Chicago man even popped the question to his girlfriend at the tree lighting ceremony.
Karl Gabbey surprised Atsuko Anegawa by getting down on one knee in the rain and proposing.
“I think it went well. She said yes,” said Gabbey.
“I had no idea what he said. I was just in so much shock,” said Anegawa. “And the whole way here I was yelling at him that it’s raining, that we should be inside.”
The tree has already been in place for some time. The 70-foot blue spruce was provided by John Colomer of McHenry and his family.
The tree stood in a lot that was set to be cleared for development and had to be cut down.
A single tree was also used in Daley Plaza last year, but in years before that going back more than half a century, the city erected an 85-foot conical tree composed of scores of smaller trees. The tree the year before last was made up of 113 smaller trees.
But a 2008 report by CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reported showed the city paid more than $300,000 for city workers to build the frame, decorate the tree, and dismantle it over the course of six weeks.
Following Zekman’s report, the city decided to scrap the compound tree for a single one.
Daley Plaza is also home to the Christkindl Market, a German Christmas festival, which will be open through Christmas Eve.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez and Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding contributed to this report.