Macy's (Wanamaker's) Holiday Light Show

Philadelphia has about 1/7 the population of NYC, and so (speaking now as a snobby NY'er) it made a good "starter" city for me, since, although I grew up in rural Maryland, I had many a teen adventure in Philly (including missing the last bus after a Blue Oyster Cult concert at the Spectrum and walking all night and sleeping on a park bench, but that's a story for another time/venue). But somehow, even though I've loved sound and light shows as long as I can remember, I missed the fact that Philly also has a history of holiday light shows going back to at least the mid-fifties. So when an ex-girlfriend, who grew up in south Jersey, told me about the Macy's Holiday Light show, I was intrigued, and so this year I stopped by to see the show on the day after Christmas (I also went to see the just-opened, amazing Comcast Experience and the show at the Franklin Institute). The light show was apparently part of a long line of innovations from Wanamaker's, documented by The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ here. 

The building is amazing, and the show still draws good crowds:

And it has a kitschy charm:

Unfortunately, though, while Macy's updated the lighting to LED's in recent years, the sound was awful, and the show had a lot of speech segments that were completely unintelligible, at least on the upper level from which I watched the show.  In addition, the show has the saddest finale I've ever seen in any holiday show, with snowmen melting and the narrator saying, "bye bye" (I think):


After that, the live organ comes in (funeral for the snowmen?) and that, at least, sounds great:


So if you're in the area, it's worth checking out, and if you're a true control geek, you should check out the historic controls info featuring Larry Kerecman of Control Dimensions on this page.  Apparently, it's controlled by a Horizon system? Oh, and reading that, I just realized that the unintelligible narration is by Julie Andrews!

And, I definitely have to give credit to Macy's for the most surreal holiday window I've seen.  Yes, it's a monkey riding an elephant to the north pole with a letter to Santa.  Does anyone know what this means?

Saw these window washers outside too:

More photos and videos here.