Lighting of the Lawn gears up for 16th showing

Co-chairs target inclusivity as this year’s theme

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This December marks the 16th annual Lighting of the Lawn. 

Celina Hu | Cavalier Daily

Lighting of the Lawn is one of those traditions students think about more and more as the holiday season approaches — discussing the lights show, speculating who will read the fourth-year poem and estimating how early they will need to arrive to ensure a good view. However, for this year’s co-chairs, the 2016 Lighting of the Lawn is something they’ve been talking about since the night of last year’s event.

“As soon as it was over we certainly had some ideas about things we wanted to change,” event co-chair Matt Golden, a fourth-year College student, said.

Every year, Lighting of the Lawn is given a general theme. One of the things Golden and his co-chair, fourth-year Curry student Katie Kozlowski, decided to focus on for this year’s event was an overall theme of inclusivity.

“A lot of times at U.Va. it can [be] so stressful and [feel] like there’s so much pressure to be involved in everything,” Kozlowski said. “This event really gives you three hours to just sit and focus on being together and being a part of U.Va.”

In addition to different Lawn rooms hosting private receptions for their extracurricular groups and friends, Golden and Kozlowski will be sending out a mass email to invite all students to an open reception in Pavilion X. This reception will be sponsored by a number of organizations, including ADAPT and Hoos Got Your Back, whom Kozlowski pointed to as positive role models in the U.Va. community.

“We want everyone to know that they can go into this Pavilion,” Kozlowksi said. “Last year, they had one open Pavilion but it was not as well marketed so this year we’re excited that we’re making it well-known to everybody.”

The speaker for the fourth-year poem was also selected with the theme of inclusivity in mind.

Kozlowski has had a running countdown on her phone since April with the number of hours, minutes and seconds left until the start of Lighting on the Lawn. This helps remind her and Golden of all the work they have to do — including planning receptions, booking the sound and stage, working on stage permits and coordinating hanging lights, which has become around a 20 hour time commitment this late in the season.

The two have had help from an executive team made up of other trustees members and a committee that pulls from students on all the class councils, from first-years to graduate students. Such a large sample for this committee is an expansion from previous years.

Additionally, Golden and Kozlowski are in charge of obtaining all the funds for Lighting of the Lawn. So far, they have raised $35,000 — about a 50 percent increase from previous years. They plan to use this increased money to make the program more inclusive.

In order to get the event funded indefinitely, LOTL’s chair of fundraising is applying for funding from the strategic investment fund. With the bicentennial fundraising through Alumni Hall in the next three years, the committee is trying to earn an allotment of half a million dollars to Lighting of the Lawn to ensure it is endowed for future generations.

“I think it goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and the set of common ideals we have today,” Golden said. “U.Va. was started as a place where everyone could come together and live with the professors, share their academic knowledge and be one big community. I think that’s one reason that this event has stuck around.”

Following a tense semester, Golden said he hopes Lighting of the Lawn can remind students of the importance of community.

“I know right now a lot of people in the University community feel like there’s a lot of tension, especially before finals and after the election. But we would like U.Va. to continue to serve its purpose as a way to bring the community together,” Golden said. “We’re really pushing to make sure that everybody who’s in the U.Va. and Charlottesville community has a spot on the Lawn as one of us and can be a part of it.”

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