‘Brighter Than Ever’: A 20th Lighting of the Lawn for the History Books

December 6, 2021 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

Jubilant students, faculty and staff gathered on the University of Virginia’s Lawn Monday evening for the 20th anniversary of Lighting of the Lawn, a beloved tradition launched by students to forge unity after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

This year’s theme, “Brighter Than Ever,” was chosen by student organizers who said this year is special because it’s the first in-person Lighting of the Lawn since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of all large in-person events last year.

Fourth-year student Caitlin Kreinheder, this year’s Lighting of the Lawn marketing chair, said the theme was chosen to reflect the feeling of emerging after a long, dark period. (Last year’s event was virtual.)

The evening’s temperatures started out at an unseasonably warm 63 degrees, with wind gusts portending a cold front blowing leaves across the Lawn. The crowd began gathering soon after sundown and sipped complimentary mulled cider as student organizers wearing illuminated Christmas light necklaces hurried about, making last-minute touches.

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Smriti Gupta, a post-doctoral research fellow, attended her first Lighting of the Lawn with Aamina Arhan; her 5-year-old son, Mohammad; and 5-year-old Atiya. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Heartier fare was for sale from food trucks on the South Lawn near the Homer statue, where hungry folks loaded up Filipino BBQ, chicken adobo tacos and spring rolls.

The program began at 7 p.m. with introductory remarks by this year’s Lighting of the Lawn co-chairs, fourth-year students Emma Sisk and Zach Steele. Then came the festive entertainment.

One by one, 16 student groups took to a stage erected in front of a darkened Rotunda to perform for the ever-growing crowd. The University Singers kicked off the evening and were followed by the K-Edge Dance Crew, the Virginia Dance Company and more.

As the performances came to an end, members of the audience joined in for a rendition of “The Good Old Song.” Then, the moment of truth: Music began to pulse and long strands of lights affixed to the exterior of Rotunda began coming to life, triggering a 15-minute dance party.

More than 11,000 lights adorning the Rotunda and Lawn are powered by solar energy and were strung by UVA’s Facilities Management team. Sun Tribe, a solar company based in Charlottesville, provides the four solar panels used to power the lights, supplying 1,300 total kilowatts of power. The Lawn will remain illuminated for the remainder of the month.

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications
Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications
Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications
Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
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Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

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Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications