Tree lighting ceremony dazzles huge crowd at Union Square

The annual tree lighting ceremony at San Francisco’s Union Square dazzled a huge crowd Friday night.

Shoppers and other visitors arrived early to hunt for bargains and see the show.

The audience consisted of both locals and visitors. Ant they say the shopping was good, but the ceremony was even better.

Around 7pm, the 83-foot tree lit up to the delight of an estimated crowd of more than 10,0000 people.
"It's the spirit of the season. The people here, the tree lighting – it's a celebration here in San Francisco," said Bruce Colville of San Francisco. 

For many, the tree lighting ceremony signals the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.
For this visitor from Illinois, San Francisco union square is the place to be.

"Stores are everywhere and I like shopping. I'm impressed," said Linda Lambert from Rockford, Illinois.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 69 percent of Americans plan to shop this Thanksgiving weekend. Retail experts predict consumers will spend up to four percent more than last holiday season.  

"We're going to be spending more this year because we have more to spend this year. It's been a good year for us," said Mejia. 
A good year and hopefully a safe one.

Security was on the minds of some shoppers, whether it be the threat of terrorism or theft.
Police say be alert. 

"It's a situational awareness of where you're at. You can become a victim at any time and at anyplace," said Police Captain Michael Redmond. 
Some shoppers say this has been a difficult year with hurricanes and other disasters, 
that black Friday festivities are needed.
"Why not? We need to celebrate. We need to smile sometimes," said Colville.

Even well after 10pm on Black Friday, there were still plenty of people at Union Square, despite most stores being closed. 

Each night, the lights on the Christmas tree at Union Square will go on at sundown.