Detroit Tree Lighting to Feature Star-Studded Lineup

A televised-only event this year, the annual celebration will feature appearances by musician Smokey Robinson, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen, and comedian Tim Allen
detroit tree lighting
Photograph courtesy of Downtown Detroit Partnership

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced new orders last night that include the shut down of movie theaters, indoor dining, and in-person learning at high schools and colleges from Nov. 18 through Dec. 8. As Michiganders prepare to take what officials are calling a “three-week pause,” it’s becoming clear that this holiday season will look different than past years. Luckily though, staying home doesn’t have to mean missing out on holiday cheer.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership, WXYZ, and the DTE Foundation have reimagined this year’s Detroit Tree Lighting experience. Instead of welcoming crowds to Campus Martius Park to watch the tree light up, the annual celebration will instead air as a special televised-only event on WXYZ at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.

“Detroit’s Annual Tree Lighting is Detroit’s most cherished tradition for families across the state of Michigan,” says Robert Gregory, chief planning and public spaces officer at the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “Now more than ever before, we need joy, comfort, and hope this holiday season.” He promises that this year’s event will be the “best show yet.”

The pre-recorded Light Up the Season tree lighting special will feature a star-studded lineup. Santa Claus will do the honor of flipping the switch to illuminate the more than19,000 lights weaved across the Christmas tree. There will also be performances and appearances by Motown musician Smokey Robinson, U.S. Olympic figure skater Karen Chen, actor and comedian Tim Allen, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and ice dancing duo Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko.

Smokey Robinson detroit tree lighting
Smokey Robinson will perform in the pre-recorded “Light Up the Season” tree lighting special on WXYZ. // Photograph courtesy of Downtown Detroit Partnership 

Locals are still welcome to visit Downtown Detroit at their leisure to see the lights in person and enjoy shops and restaurants (which may only offer carryout and outdoor dining service during the “three-week pause”). At this time, outdoor activities — such as the family-friendly Children’s Tree event on Nov. 20 in Beacon Park — are still expected to take place at parks throughout the Downtown area through early January. Required mask wearing, social-distancing guidelines, and other COVID-19 safety measures will be in place.

“This year, we’ll stay at home with a cup of hot cocoa and our families to enjoy the tree lighting,” said Lynette Dowler, vice president of Public Affairs at DTE Energy and president of the Foundation. “We then invite families from across Southeast Michigan and beyond to come Downtown this season to safely experience the dazzling holiday lights and hand-crafted ornaments on Beacon Park’s Children’s Tree, make memories, support local businesses, and more.”

In its 17th annual celebration, Detroit’s tree lighting has become a holiday tradition. The tree lighting joins other local events that have pivoted to televised-only events this year, including the 2020 Ford Fireworks and the upcoming America’s Thanksgiving Parade.

For more information about the tree lighting and other Downtown Detroit events, visit