17th Annual Lighting of the Lawn Returns to Original, Healing Roots

The lawn filled with people and lights at the lighting on the Lawn

Be the Light.”

That is the theme for this year’s Lighting of the Lawn, a beloved and rollicking University of Virginia tradition that ebulliently marks an end to the semester and the start of the holiday season. The three-hour event will take place Nov. 30 on the terraced, grassy expanse at the center of UVA’s historic Academical Village.

Starting at 7 p.m., a cappella groups, dancers and others will perform on a stage in front of the Rotunda. The finale will be a fantastical light show with the Rotunda as the centerpiece. With the allure of an arena concert, hundreds of strands of lights strung around the Lawn will pulse in syncopation to several of this years’ most popular musical tracks, bringing revelers to their feet.

Diane D'Costa, the marketing chair for Lighting of the Lawn, said the theme was chosen to unify the UVA community as it did at its founding in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks 16 years ago. “Since then, the event has evolved quite a bit, but this year we hoped to truly embrace the original intention of Lighting of the Lawn, due to our similar needs for unity, support and positivity, given the specific context and challenges of this year,” she said.

Before the light show, members of the UVA community can get into the spirit of this year’s theme by sending special messages to one another. “In the week leading up to the event, we are selling ‘light-grams’ for members of the University community to send their peers, faculty or others with messages of how they are ‘being the light,’” said Holly Stevens, an executive co-chair for this year's event.

Lighting on the Lawn team members with sell the “light-grams” for $2 from Nov. 27 through 29 at a table on the Lawn, where stickers and shirts also will be sold. All proceeds go toward putting on the event, D’Costa said. 

“We hope this personal touch recognizes the positivity people provide already, while inspiring additional positivity and support within the community leading up to and following Lighting of the Lawn,” D'Costa said.

All that Shimmers: More Than 11,000 Light Bulbs Will Light the Night

“Almost 25 students helped us install lights along the Chinese railings on the East and West Lawn and on the main columns of the pavilions,” said Dave Roberts, UVA Facilities Management Central Grounds electrical supervisor. “About 15 students helped us carry the lights to the Rotunda so we could install them on the Rotunda portico and columns. We also placed rope lights over the Rotunda dome.

“All in all, we will use 560 feet of rope lighting, 2,800 feet of Christmas lights and over 11,000 bulbs,” Roberts said. “Students will use 23 controlled circuits for their lighting show.

“Lighting of the Lawn would not be possible without the strong student participation,” he added.

Stevens’ Lighting of the Lawn co-chair is Denny Smythe, a fourth-year media and American studies major.

“We have a wonderful lineup in place with lots of great performances that will be clearly outlined in our new app this year, with a map of places to go and things to see,” she said. The app is set to go live Nov. 28 and can be found here.

Security Details

“Due to the security changes this year, we hope that there will be an incentive to get to the Lawn earlier than usual in order to ensure a great spot, to witness the fantastic light show run by Andrew Shanes of the Drama Department,” Smythe said.

Security for Lighting of the Lawn will be similar to security at other large-scale events this fall, including football and basketball games, concerts, and the Bicentennial Launch event:

  • Access to the Lawn and Rotunda will be restricted beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30. All those in Cocke Hall, Old Cabell Hall, New Cabell Hall, and Rouss/Robertson Halls will need to leave via rear exits after 4:30 p.m.
  • Attendees will access the Lawn through entrance points located at Garrett Hall on the west side and Rouss/Robertson Halls on the east side. Walk-through and hand-held metal detectors will be used to screen guests at all entrances beginning at 6 p.m. Pavilion and Lawn residents may enter through Patterson Alley on the west side and Key Alley on the east side.
  • Each attendee may carry onto the Lawn a clear bag that does not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by12 inches. One small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap also is permitted.
  • Exceptions will be made for items necessary for medical reasons, after proper inspections.
  • Empty, refillable water bottles are permitted.
  • Guests may bring a blanket as long as it is not in a carrying bag.
  • Prohibited items include alcoholic beverages, animals (except service animals), folding chairs, tents, glass, sticks and poles (including athletic equipment), drones, weapons, fireworks and explosives.

Student with Backpacks

Attendees who are coming from class and are unable to leave their bags at home may bring them, but will be required to enter through a designated line at Garrett Hall on the west side or Rouss/Robertson Halls on the east side, where each bag will be hand-screened. To expedite entry to the Lawn through security checkpoints, guests are strongly encouraged to leave backpacks and other bags at home.


Lighting of the Lawn will take place rain, snow or shine. For those who cannot attend the program, there will also be a live stream of the event.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

Office of University Communications