Hundreds of University of Virginia students and community members gathered Thursday night in the Academical Village for the 18th annual Lighting of the Lawn, a beloved student-run event that was met with chilly, clear weather that provided the perfect backdrop for the sparkling lightshow.

Students Erik Toor and Leah Palombi, the Lighting of the Lawn co-chairs, said student organizers chose the theme, “Illuminate,” so that attendees would not only to celebrate “with the people who make your life brighter,” but use the moment as a time of reflection.

The evening opened with welcoming remarks from Toor and Palombi, who stood on a stage erected in front of the Rotunda. Then the entertainment started, opening with the Albemarle High School Minutemen, a local all-male singing group. Other community group performances included the DMR-Broadway Kids Choir and the Charlottesville Ballet. UVA a capella and dance groups rounded out the show, which featured 20 different performance troupes.

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The Rotunda never looked better.

Husband and wife Shreakar Bradhan and Sanjeeta Shrestha and their daughters, 5-year-old Sriya and 7-year-old Srija, experienced their first Lighting of the Lawn since moving to Charlottesville from Nepal three months ago. The boisterous girls happily twirled on the Lawn, giggling excitedly while wearing glow sticks on their heads like halos.

Bradhan is a post-doctoral student studying economics at UVA. “We’re just excited to see all of the lights,” Shrestha said. “This is our first time, so we don’t know exactly how it goes, but looks like there are lots of surprises, too.”

Nearby, a second family was also new to Lighting of the Lawn. Telambria Tinsley of Charlottesville came to see her older daughter, Minaya, perform with a local children’s dance group. “We’ve heard of it, but we’ve never been here before,” she said.

It was a great night for Telambria Tinsley of Charlottesville and daughter Amira.

Her other young charge, Amira, was by Tinsley’s side at the free hot chocolate and cookie station.

Asked how old she was, Amira declared loudly, “I’m 3!”

“No, you’re not. You’re 4,” her mother corrected.

“I forgot!” she replied.

Popular UVA dance group X-Tasee Dance Crew put on a great show.

Following the performances, Charlottesville Vice Mayor Heather Hill; UVA English professor Elizabeth Fowler; Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Kevin McDonald; and Sheri Winston, the associate director of major events for the Rotunda, took to the stage to read a poem.

In turn, they addressed the first-, second-, third- and fourth-year classes.

McDonald had these plum words to address the third-year students:

“When the Class of ’21 arrived, we celebrated 200 years
And the Charlottesville Concert, it moved us to tears
We’ve grown a lot since our first time on Grounds
Now we all use Lime scooters to get around.”

With the poem done, it was time to sing as one. Attendees wrapped their arms over one another’s shoulders and swayed as they sang “The Good Ole Song.”

The No Tones, known for not having an ear for music, belted it out.

About 9 p.m. all the lights along the Lawn dimmed and the student-created light show got underway. For the next 15 minutes, lights adorning the Rotunda pulsed to the beat of several music tracks.

Thursday’s was the brightest Lighting of the Lawn to date, with all-new LED lights powered entirely by solar energy. The Lawn will remain illuminated by holiday lights for the rest of the month.

As usual, the Homer statue was wrapped in holiday lights.
The group The New Dominions and Choose sang their hearts out.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications