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Free holiday performance — Bellevue’s Snowflake Lake — now running through Christmas Eve

A drummer performs next to a group of dancers at Snowflake Lane last year.  - Allison DeAngelis/staff photo
A drummer performs next to a group of dancers at Snowflake Lane last year.
— image credit: Allison DeAngelis/staff photo

No other street in the country lights up with music, dance and celebration like Bellevue Way for the nightly free celebration that is Snowflake Lane at The Bellevue Collection.

Already a coveted and beloved regional holiday tradition, this year’s celebration kicks off on Nov. 25 in downtown Bellevue and continues each night until Christmas Eve. Each night Bellevue Way is magically transformed into an extravagant winter wonderland. Falling snow, colorful lights, enchanting costumed and adorned characters and lively musical dance performances set to holiday classics with a twist, mark this much-anticipated tradition.

This 20-minute nightly outdoor show, which starts at 7 p.m. and is free to the public, draws up to 10,000 spectators each night to the streets surrounding The Bellevue Collection, the Pacific Northwest’s largest shopping and entertainment destination featuring Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square and Bellevue Place.

Nearly 250 of the area’s most talented teen performers become the stars of the show, entering weeks of rehearsals from late October through November to prepare for the nightly event. Auditions for the show’s Toy Soldier Drummers, Jingle Belle Dancers, Snow Storm Drummers, Jingle Elves, and Snow Princesses are competitive but fun.  For every performer cast, two are asked to try again next year.

Dressed in lavish costumes, Snowflake Lane performers treat holiday revelers to a jolly good time with professionally choreographed song and dance numbers produced by one of the world’s most celebrated creators of musical revues, Greg Thompson of Greg Thompson Productions. Posing for snapshots and handing out candy, to the delight of those who line the streets from Bellevue Way to Northeast 8th Street each night, is all part of the act for these one-of-a-kind Snowflake Lane characters, who have become holiday fixtures in the lives of so many over the years.

Kemper Freeman, jr., CEO and chairman of Kemper Development Company and the visionary behind The Bellevue Collection, the retail heart of Seattle’s Eastside, envisioned creating an engaging holiday experience in Bellevue and found his inspiration on New York City’s Fifth Avenue and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

“Until you experience Snowflake Lane in person, you just cannot understand how special this event has become for the thousands of people who line the street each night,” Freeman said. “Bellevue has been our family’s home for several generations and being able to give back to this community with Snowflake Lane has been so rewarding and joyful for us. It warms our hearts to see the faces of the children as they experience the dancers, costumed characters, the music and especially the snow. We don’t get a lot of snow around her so having it fall each night during the show is a real treat to behold.”

“During the weeks of intense preparation, the performers give their hearts and souls to the Snowflake Lane production night after night,” said Jennifer Leavitt, vice president of marketing for The Bellevue Collection. “Every year we look to infuse new characters, dances and performances into the show so that it stays fresh and exciting for the people who come year-after-year while keeping the traditional favorites that everyone loves.”

This gift to the community costs Freeman, a life-long Bellevue resident, and his family an estimated $1.5 million annually, including wages for each teen performer, whose contribution to the community Freeman says, is priceless. “Each year they amaze and delight. Because of them, Snowflake Lane has become a special holiday tradition, especially for families with small children who dream of becoming Snowflake Lane performers when they grow up.”

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