Dec. 6, 2007 — On a crisp December evening with temperatures hovering in the mid-30s, members of the University of Virginia and Charlottesville communities bundled against the cold and celebrated the seventh annual Lighting of the Lawn Thursday night.
Several of the University's a cappela singing groups entertained the crowd with holiday songs before the nearly two miles of lights strung along the historic buildings were illuminated.
Prior to flipping the switch, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge read the fourth-year class poem from the steps of the Rotunda.
Written by Taylor Tate, Suzy Natz and Lauren Tilton, the poem elicited the biggest cheer of the night for the stanza that concluded, "We're Gator Bowl-bound!" in recognition of U.Va.'s pending New Year's Day football bowl game in Jacksonville, Fla., against Texas Tech.
The poem concluded: "Let's light up the Lawn and make T.J. proud."
After the crowded counted down from 10, the lights came on and the crowd joined in singing "The Good Old Song," led by the U.Va. Pep Band.
"This is always a highlight of the semester," said Allie McKee of the Lighting of the Lawn Committee. "Students look forward to it and there is always a great turnout."
"The times when we can all come together are rare," McKee said. "When else can we get all these people together on one night? Not to mention that the Lawn is stunning."
"The students get a big kick out of it," said Wayne Russell, the electrical maintenance supervisor who was in charge of setting up the lights.
He estimated the Lawn lighting uses about 21,600 bulbs. He said the lighting uses about the same electricity as "three to four coffee pots."
About a half-dozen Facilities Management employees installed the lights, he said, fitting it in between other jobs over the past several weeks. "We catch it when the weather is good," he said.
This year, for the first time, the event was linked to a specific charity. People attending the lighting were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy as a donation for Toys for Tots.
The Lawn lighting was started by students in 2001 as a way of bringing the community together after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The event has now become a holiday tradition supported by numerous members of the University. Primary sponsors are the Class Councils, the Parents Committee and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer.
The lights will remain on from around 5 p.m. to about 8 a.m. each day through Jan. 1.