Lucky viewers gather at DC’s President’s Park for National Christmas Tree Lighting

The lit tree is seen during the 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting on The Ellipse south of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 30, 2022. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)(AFP via Getty Images/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

The show that is the National Christmas Tree Lighting is going on as planned Thursday, after the 40-foot Norway spruce was toppled by gusty winds Tuesday.

The National Park Service said it happened around 1 p.m., and NPS quickly replaced a snapped cable in order to get the tree from Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia back in place and upright by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

None of the 58 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree were damaged, but about 20 ornaments fell from the tree as it was blown over, according to the park service. Crews have installed concrete blocks and more cables to further secure the tree ahead of Thursday night’s lighting.

Those attending the lighting had already started pouring into D.C.’s President’s Park early Thursday afternoon.

The National Christmas Tree is in position for Thursday night’s lighting, after a gust of wind knocked the tree over earlier in the week. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)
Hundreds of people started filling in to the National Christmas Tree Lighting in downtown D.C. on Thursday afternoon. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)
Only those lucky enough to win a lottery for tickets can attend Thursday night’s lighting. Everyone else will have to wait for the CBS Special to air in mid-December to see the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s event.

How to watch the lighting

It’s too late to grab a ticket. The lottery for tickets to the event closed Nov. 8 and lottery participants were informed on Nov. 15 if they got tickets.

That means, if you weren’t a lucky winner, you’ll have to exercise some patience. CBS will air a special National Christmas Tree Lighting show at 8 p.m. on Dec. 15.

But, you’ll only have to wait a few days to see the fully lit tree up close. The park will open to the public Dec. 2.

Who’s performing?

This year’s lighting will be hosted by American country artist Mickey Guyton, who’s a four-time Grammy Award nominee and the 2022 TIME Breakthrough Artist of the year. She’ll also perform.

Guyton will share the stage with the likes of Glee actor and singer Darren Criss, jazz singer Samara Joy, R&B and jazz artist Ledisi, singer Reneé Rapp, singer St. Vincent, guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe Walsh, and actor and singer Dionne Warwick.

The event will also feature the U.S. Coast Guard’s Guardians Big Band.

Special appearances

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will light the National Christmas Tree at Thursday’s ceremony, as they did last year. The president also delivered remarks at last year’s ceremony.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff will be in attendance as well. The lighting ceremony will include remarks from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

The tradition of the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony began in 1923, and was first celebrated by then-President Calvin Coolidge.

Traffic advisories

The lighting brings a slew of road closures to downtown D.C. each year, which have become notorious for their impact on evening commuters. However, WTOP’s Dave Dildine reports the effect of the closures has dwindled since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In recent years, they have not had the extreme impact observed in the previous decade before the pandemic. Traffic downtown was certainly very slow last year during the ceremony, but the widespread, crippling gridlock that developed in the 2010s, when downtown offices were more crowded, hasn’t materialized.”

The following streets are closed to vehicle traffic until 7 p.m. Thursday:

  • 17th Street from H Street, NW to Independence Avenue, SW
  • 15th Street from F Street, NW to Independence Avenue, SW
  • Jefferson Drive from 14th Street to 15th Street, SW
  • Madison Drive from 14th to 15th Street, NW
  • Constitution Avenue from 14th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • C Street from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • D Street from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • E Street from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • F Street from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • G Street from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • New York Avenue from 17th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue from 14th Street to 18th Street, NW

The following streets are posted as Emergency No Parking until 7 p.m. Thursday:

  • 17th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue, NW
  • Constitution Avenue from 14th Street to 18th Street, NW
  • 15th Street from F Street to Constitution Avenue, NW

Below is a map of all of the closures.

On top of the lighting, fans driving to see Dave Chappelle’s 7:30 p.m. comedy show at Capital One Arena will also be clogging the streets of downtown D.C. The arena is advising those attending the show to allow for extra travel time and consider alternate routes due to these street closures.

The Maryland Transit Administration is also telling Commuter Bus passengers to anticipate moderate to severe delays in the D.C. area Thursday due to the lighting. Certain buses will operate on modified schedules and routes, according to the MTA.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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