Holiday Lights Festival


Decorating Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha with holiday lights to celebrate the new millennium and kick off an annual holiday festival.


Collaborating with the chair of Omaha’s millennium celebration in 1999; teaming up with ongoing partners including Downtown Omaha, Inc. Foundation and the Mayor’s office; securing sponsorships to support a series of family-friendly events.

Drawing 60,000 celebrants to the inaugural-year events and continuing the annual tradition with a full schedule of holiday activities every year to the present – now drawing more than 100,000 guests regionally.

VGA transformed a long-discussed concept of decorating Omaha with holiday lights into a reality when Vic Gutman approached the chair of Omaha’s millennium celebration to propose a legacy gift of holiday lights to the city to serve as a centerpiece for an annual holiday festival.

In 1999, the dream was realized when the city presented an unforgettable Millennium Lights celebration with the opening ceremony alone drawing over 60,000 people. The following year, the lights were given to the city as the focal attraction of the Holiday Lights Festival.

The Holiday Lights continue to fill the Gene Leahy Mall and its surrounding area—40 blocks covering most of downtown—from Thanksgiving through the first week in January. The Festival also features a full schedule of holiday activities including the Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony, the Making Spirits Bright concert at the Holland Performing Arts Center, a special Family Festival, and the region’s largest holiday fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.

Also part of the Festival is the Shine the Light on Hunger which was introduced over a decade ago and sponsored by Conagra Brands Foundation. The campaign is a rallying call to leaders, businesses, and families throughout the local community to support front-line hunger relief efforts and provide meals for those in need. All proceeds benefit Food Bank for the Heartland and the work they do to support and empower the community.

VGA manages all of the Holiday Lights Festival events, which attract a combined total of 100,000 people over a six-week period, and directs the fundraising campaign. VGA also promotes the Holiday Lights Festival through a comprehensive and strategic marketing campaign.

“The VGA staff is very professional, knowledgeable, and extremely goof at executing events on time, within budget, and delightful to the intended audience.”
Barb Coonce, Executive Director Downtown Omaha Inc.