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Night lightfor the Academical Village

Wayne Russell is a man not easily shaken from the task at hand. Even as a naked student on a bicycle rode down the center of the Lawn on a chilly late afternoon, Russell gave the incident little more than a shake of his head as he went about his work.

There was no time to waste -- the University's second annual Lighting of the Lawn is just days away and Russell, the University's electrical maintenance supervisor, and his two man crew still have thousands of lights to hang before the switch can be thrown Thursday night at 9.

Sponsored by the Fourth-Year Class Trustees, tomorrow evening's event is expected to draw somewhere around 4,000 University and community members. With 13,500 lights rimming Mr. Jefferson's Academical Village, at a price tag of $10,000, the event's organizers hope this year's Lighting will prove even more successful than last year's.

But a lot of that depends on Russell.

Stringing together and wiring over 3,400 feet of white holiday lights around the Lawn poses a mammoth task by any means but, on Monday, Russell exuded an air of calmness.

"We're confident, we're not feeling the pressure," Russell said as he glanced skeptically at the overcast skyline, admitting that the weather was his biggest concern. With snow showers expected today and ice tomorrow morning, Russell, along with the event organizers, are crossing their fingers that they will not have to push the lighting to its rain date.

But in the meantime, Russell and his crew push on.

"We're going for the standard package this year," Russell said, referring to the design created by last year's fourth-year class president Portman Wills and Ralph Himelrick, Russell's predecessor who retired last year after capping his 50 year electrician career with the first Lighting of the Lawn. Himelrick's vision set off Jefferson's neoclassical vision with one-line outlines of the Pavilions, balconies and residences along with double-lights around the columns.

Although Himelrick has now retired and spends his days hunting, fishing and making furniture at his home about twenty minutes from the University, his influence over the Lighting of the Lawn project continues today -- his grandson, Brandon Good, is a part of Russell's electrical team this year. "He's good for another 40 years or so," Russell said, cracking a wide smile.

The relatively simple white lighting scheme gives a classy look to the Lawn without overusing lights and looking gaudy, Russell said. But the logistics of the plan is anything but simple.

In an effort to preserve the historic Lawn buildings, Russell's team was not allowed to use any nails in securing the lights. All 3,400 feet of lighting will be secured to the buildings using nothing but plastic ties and pieces of white wire.

In addition, the thousands of lights will, in part, be powered from a new circuitry scheme created by Russell's office, located underneath the individual Lawn rooms. The new scheme made power outputs more accessible for this year's event. In total, the 13,500 lights will use 45 amps of power at 120 volts, which Russell added, "really isn't that much. It's like having seven to eight coffee pots going at the same time."

There was talk this year of including more lights and extending the lighting scheme to include Cabell Hall and some of the South Lawn buildings, but budget constraints did not allow for the addition.

While Russell and his team work to finalize the lighting and wiring, Fourth-Year Trustees also are finalizing details for tomorrow night.

At 7 p.m., numerous a capella groups will take the steps of the Rotunda to sing holiday songs while various receptions take place along the Lawn.The Academical Village People, the O-Tones, the Virginia Belles and the Spinal Columns each will perform. Class councils will hold receptions at different points along the Lawn, andeach school will hold receptions in Lawn Pavilions. Nursing and Architecture are the only schools not represented tomorrow evening because of academic scheduling.

The actual ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8:30 tomorrow night with an appearance by men's basketball coach Pete Gillen. Like last year, Gillen will read a specially prepared poem for the occasion entitled "Two Weeks Before Break," by Brooke C. Bakun and Eston E.Melton IV. The actual lighting will begin at or around 9.

"We're really trying to make this an event for all of Charlottesville," Fourth-Year Class President Kemper Steele said. To this end, the trustees have worked to contact local civic groups, churches, community service groups, and even Charlottesville Mayor Maurice Cox to invite them to the event.

"It will definitely be the people who will make this event," Steele said.

"Wayne is great," he added. "And I hope the event is as great as Wayne and his work. I also hope no one kicks the plug out tomorrow night."

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