The University of Virginia’s Rotunda took center stage Thursday night at the 15th annual Lighting of the Lawn ceremony.

Thousands of students and community members – most wrapped up in warm clothes as temperatures plummeted toward freezing – attended the event, which featured a parade of musical and dance acts building up to the final illumination.

At the climax of the evening, the Rotunda and the Academical Village buildings were lit up with more than 12,000 low-energy LED lights and seven sets of 150-foot rope lights along the Lawn balconies, the Pavilion columns and on the Rotunda. There are also 132 strings of lights and rope lights connected by hundreds of yards of cords linking 18 different lighting zones.

Once the Lawn was lit, fourth-year student Andrew Burrill, one of the event organizers, led the crowd in “The Good Ol’ Song,” followed by a light show designed by professor Lee Kennedy, who teaches lighting design in the drama department, and Kevin Seitter, a 2015 graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and three-year veteran of the lighting event.

Blue, green, pink, purple and orange lights, synchronized to music, flashed across the pavilions and the Rotunda, emphasizing the new marble capitals carved in Carrara, Italy, the refurbished south portico and restored clock, all part of the extensive and ongoing renovation of the University’s centerpiece.

The light show was prefaced by a performance from the X-Tasse music group, whose members performed in the dark with lighted gloves, creating their own light show.

One of the highlights of the evening was the class poem, written by fourth-year students and read onstage by University President Teresa A. Sullivan, popular economics professor Kenneth Elzinga and Lawn resident Larry Sabato, University Professor and director of the Center for Politics.

Themed “How the Grinch Stole Wahoowa,” the evening’s performances brought the University and the local communities together. As part of that, a cappella groups The T-Tones from Charlottesville High School and The Minutemen from Albemarle High School, as well as the local community troupe Dreams Made Real Adventures, joined UVA student singing and performance groups onstage.

Allen W. Groves, UVA associate vice president and University dean of students, whose remarks opened the evening, noted some challenges the students and the University have faced.   

“It is often said that you can judge the strength of a community by how it handles challenge and adversity – and we certainly experienced that last year,” Groves said. “I’m proud of how this community responded then, and the genuine and continuing efforts that were made to make our community a better place for all as a result.”

First held in 2001 as a way for the community to help heal following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Lighting of the Lawn has become a UVA holiday tradition.