The Salvation Army flipped the switch on its Tree of Lights Friday night, marking the beginning of its annual holiday campaign in Omaha.
The goal for this year's Red Kettle Drive is $3.1 million. More than $3 million was raised last year.
Proceeds are used to support more than 20 of the Salvation Army's social service programs, including food pantries, housing, utility assistance, behavioral health services and opportunities for youths and senior citizens. All money raised through the drive stays in the community.
The public was invited to Friday night's ceremony, which featured brief remarks, snacks and beverages, and musical entertainment.
In addition, Santa and his reindeer paid a visit as well as Scrooge and Jacob Marley from the Omaha Community Playhouse cast of “A Christmas Carol.”
The tree sits in front of the American National Bank, on the northeast corner of 90th Street and West Dodge Road. The tree weighs more than 6,000 pounds, stands 75 feet tall and is illuminated by 80,000 LED lights and 655 giant LED starbursts.
New this year will be special effects lighting in recognition of the Salvation Army's 125th anniversary in 2013. The new lighting is the same used on the tree in New York City's Rockefeller Center, according to Travis Freeman of Brite Ideas Decorating, who designed the tree.
The red kettles and bell ringers will begin appearing around Omaha on Saturday. The campaign continues through Dec. 24.