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Light Up Louisville festivities, parade return with extra emphasis on safety and security

Hundreds gathered for the popular event that included some extra precautions to keep attendees safe.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After a one-year COVID-19 hiatus, Light Up Louisville was back on the streets of downtown Friday night to kick off the Christmas season.

Hundreds gathered for the popular event that included some extra precautions to keep attendees safer from the virus -- and other potential dangers that could arise.

Given the recent tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin, there was even more focus on safety and security, all while giving people the proper experience.

It was the moment some were waiting for since last November. For William Smith, his 18th Light Up Louisville parade.

"The spirit for Christmas," Smith said. "I love Christmas with all my heart."

Dedicated as anyone to the show, Smith and the rest of the city was forced to skip it in 2020.

That all changed Friday night for first grader Aria Turner and her group of girl scouts. 

"It's just a bundle of fun," Aria said.

Families across the Metro loved what they saw.

"It's very refreshing. A lot more normalcy," Stephanie Treece-Smith said.

"It feels like it always has been, like it never even stopped," Marissa Coleman said.

Some changes were still made for COVID, like a one-way parade loop and canceling photos with Santa. But security arguably played a bigger role in most people's minds.

"Of course we saw what happened in Wisconsin, where that man drove through and killed some people. It definitely doesn't look like it's going to happen here," Coleman said.

Just earlier this week, six people were killed and dozens were injured in Waukesha, Wisconsin when a man allegedly sped his SUV through a Christmas parade.

RELATED: List | Light Up Louisville, parades and other holiday-themed events for 2021

It's led Metro leaders in Louisville to take another look at their safety protocol prior to lighting up the trees downtown.

"We had several meetings this week to work through a couple of different contingencies," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. "You can see too on the perimeter of the event, we have these setups, so it'll be very difficult for any vehicles to penetrate these."

Dozens of Louisville Metro Police officers and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office deputies posted all around, and through, the crowds. LMPD had a bomb squad unit close by, and even had some officers elevated high up on top of buildings just in case.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have at least a little bit of fear, but the way I see it is you can't live in fear forever," Treece-Smith said.

The night went smoothly, allowing folks to marvel at the display many deeply missed.

It's a celebration Smith sees as a sign for better days to come.

"It touches my spirit," Smith said.

We'll see events like Lights Under Louisville and others through the holiday season. You can find all the details here.

RELATED: From stump to Square: How this year's Louisville Christmas tree came to be

WATCH: Louisville Christmas tree cut, taken to Jefferson Square Park

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