KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you needed a sign that the holiday season has arrived, here’s a big one.

Hundreds gathered around Crown Center on Friday night to watch Mayor Quinton Lucas flip the switch on the Mayor’s Christmas Tree.

Dazzling lights and colors lit up the sky in Kansas City, kicking off the holiday season.

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lightning brought hundreds from near and far to Crown Center. Some were celebrating 50 years that the entertainment district has held this event. Others were simply taking in the 100-foot-tall Douglas fir.

“I love it so much. It’s like the movies, definitely like the movies,” said Alex Morgan, visiting from Scotland.

“It was really cool seeing all the Christmas decorations,” said Joseph Surles.

“We just saw that it was out, so we thought that we would come down and see what everything’s about,” Dustin Dierenfeldt said.

Crown Center has transformed into a winter wonderland. Kids were playing on the Candyland Express on Friday as Nutcrackers kept a close eye from above.

Others tried their luck at ice skating.

“It’s really fun to glide on the ice and just — if you fall down, it hurts. But then you just get back up and have more fun,” said Kate Hiser from Liberty.

All of the holiday fun led up to the big countdown, the flip of a switch and the massive tree lighting up the sky.

But Friday night’s celebration is more than holiday cheer. The tree symbolizes the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, which raises money for Kansas City residents in need throughout the holiday season. It helped raise more than $70,000 last year.

“A hundred and heck almost 50 years ago people cared about families in need,” Lucas said. “It’s great that we’re still doing it today, and that, as much as anything, is what the Kansas City Christmas tradition is all about.”

If you’d like to support the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund this year, there are a couple of ways to do that. One is to donate online.

The other is to stop by the 2nd level of the Crown Center Shops to buy an ornament, which are designed by Hallmark artists and made from last year’s tree.

This year’s tree will be up until Jan. 2, hopefully putting people in the Christmas spirit for weeks to come.

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