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Lighting of the Lawn set for Dec. 6

November 30, 2021

Facilities Management has been supporting the annual event for 20 years

Electricians stand with student volunteers on the stairs of the Rotunda
Central Grounds Zone Senior Electricians Gary Mason and Kody Dean and Electrician Apprentice Charlie Henderson pose with student volunteers who assisted with the installation of the Rotunda lights. (Photo by Dave Roberts/Facilities Management. Attendees were following CDC COVID guidelines.)

Facilities Management teams spent the past few weeks preparing for UVA’s 20th annual Lighting of the Lawn, set for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6.

In the weeks leading up to the event each year, the Central Grounds Zone Maintenance team electricians and Facilities Management roofers work with student volunteers to sort, move and install lights along the Lawn balconies, on the Pavilion columns and on the Rotunda. Starting in 2020, lights were also added to the northside of the Rotunda facing the street in order to make the lights more easily visible to the greater Charlottesville community.

This year’s theme is “Brighter Than Ever” and will feature dozens of student groups, including a cappella performances, a poem read by surprise guests and a unique music and light show set to debut at about 9:30 p.m. This year’s event is open to UVA students, faculty, staff, and their families, but it is closed to the broader public, recognizing the potential risk posed to children who are not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus. The program will be livestreamed.

In addition to the installation of the lights, Facilities Management also provides power for audio equipment, installs fencing and barricades and assists with the setup of the solar panels which will power all of the lights on the day of the event.

The setup includes 11,000 total LED lights and 1,120 feet of rope light. All of the lights were replaced in 2019 for the first time in seven years. In 2020, an additional 560 feet of rope light was purchased for the northside of the Rotunda.

Facilities Management staff members spend a total of approximately 575 hours supporting the Lighting of the Lawn event each year, including about 350 hours supporting setup of the event and about 225 hours on security support, which includes the installation of fencing and temporary lighting around the perimeter.

FM staff and students carrying a bundle of lights
Facilities Management staff and student volunteers carry lights across the Lawn to be installed on the Rotunda in early November. (Photo by Dave Roberts/Facilities Management)

Central Grounds Zone staff members were crucial to the success of the first Lighting of the Lawn event, which was founded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to foster unity. A group of students came up with the idea and enlisted the support of Facilities Management to make it a reality.

Electrician Supervisor Wayne Russell and Zone Maintenance Senior Supervisor Randy Spencer, who were both Central Grounds Zone electricians in 2001, recently recalled their efforts to support the inaugural event in a UVA Today story.

“The night of the event, we had multiple electricians stationed at different locations to just plug drop cords in. And then we heard the countdown and if I recall, at the end of their presentation, I think [the students called out] ‘Let there be light!,’ Spencer said. When they said that, everybody simultaneously plugged their drop cord in, and we energized the lights and that was the first Lighting of the Lawn.”

About the author

Jane Centofante
Communications senior generalist
UVA Facilities Management
(434) 982-5846