By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 07, 2018 at 10:27 AM

The 20th annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights festival kicks off on Nov. 15 and brightens Downtown for the duration of the holiday season. As always, a big launch ceremony is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Pere Marquette Park on Thursday, Nov. 15.

But today, the first groups of students from area schools visit Cathedral Square Park to decorate trees as part of the square’s transformation into "Community Spirit Park."

One hundred schools and nonprofits will each decorate a tree in the park with handmade ornaments that represent each group’s unique theme or wish for the season. Nearly 2,800 students will take part in the decorating this year.

I stopped over and caught groups from two South Side MPS schools – Ulysses S. Grant, 2920 W. Grant St., and Academy of Accelerated Learning, 3727 S. 87th St. – decorating their trees.

AAL's theme this year is "Light Up the World With Kindness" and U.S. Grant's is "Christmas Wishes."

Here are some images of AAL decorating their trees:

Here are some photos of U.S. Grant working on theirs:

Roosevelt Middle School and Louisa May Alcott Elementary are among the other schools on hand to decorate trees today. Other school groups will decorate trees through next Wednesday, ahead of next Thursday’s Holiday Lights Festival kickoff.

As always the festival brings light installations to three parks Downtown: Cathedral Square, Pere Marquette ("Candy Cane Cove") and Zeidler Union Square ("Santa’s Lighted Lodge").

For complete details on the displays, related events and the annual Jingle Bus tour, visit

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.