The Lighting of the Lawn Committee, made up from students in all the Class Councils, has decided upon several changes to be made in order to make the Lighting of the Lawn a more accessible and inclusive experience for all students.
The University will be hosting the 18th annual Lighting of the Lawn Dec. 5, a highlight of the school year that was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Lighting of the Lawn has long been an opportunity to bring together both the Charlottesville and University communities, with over 15,000 attendees each year celebrating the holiday event.
This year, the Committee has brought about changes to ensure that the 2019 event is “the brightest one yet.” New LED string lights will illuminate the Lawn, Pavilions and the Rotunda, and the Committee has made sustainability a main priority in this year’s event.
Ally Bollettino, marketing chair for Lighting of the Lawn and third-year College student, said that this year, electricity for the light show will be supplied entirely by solar power to reduce resources. This change follows the success of last year, which saw the introduction of some solar power.
“We have been coordinating with Facilities Management to make LOTL more environmentally friendly and to make it a Zero-Waste Event,” Bollettino said. “We will have composting stations, provided by the UVA Sustainability Office, and attendees will have the ability to bring their own empty water bottles and fill them at the water stations provided on the Lawn.”
The program for this year’s Lighting of the Lawn includes performances by a cappella, dance and community groups. A poem written by University students will be read, followed by the student-designed light show. Local food trucks, free cookies, hot chocolate and cotton candy will also available.
Along with sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity of the event is a key concern for the Committee.
“This year, we have an ASL interpreter on the stage to interpret the speeches, as well as a sitting area near the stage for anyone who is unable to stand during the event,” Bollettino said.
Also new this year, a Lighting of the Lawn app was launched which contains important security information, event maps that include entry points, restrooms, emergency services and accessibility information.
Security remains a concern with metal detectors being used at the event and bags not being allowed into the event unless absolutely necessary, such as for medical supplies.
An alternate viewing location will be held in Newcomb Theatre and the performances and light show will be livestreamed.
Abby Wierschem, a fourth-year College student, was particularly responsive to the priority of sustainability that the changes to Lighting of the Lawn reflect.
“I feel like that really represents the student body as well as it being something important amongst my peers,” Wierschem said. “I also know President Jim Ryan is trying to create a more sustainable campus. It’s really exciting to see these changes beginning.”
In terms of the security measures, Wierschem said that “it is definitely important for students to feel like they can enjoy being with one another, while also feeling they are being taken care of.”
Wierschem said she would download the app and thought it adds convenience to the experience.
“It’s mobile so you don’t have to find a sign to figure out what to do,” Wierschem said.
As a transfer student, Wierschem will be attending the Lighting of the Lawn for the first time this year and is most excited for the light show and “just being with people that I enjoy spending my time around and watching my friends perform.” She’s excited to attend an event where the purpose is “coming together and putting differences aside to celebrate the holidays and the people you care about.”
“Over the last couple years, the Lighting of the Lawn Committee has made a huge effort to make the event accessible to everyone in the Charlottesville community,” Bollettino said. “We hope that all of these changes will make Lighting of the Lawn a more accessible and inclusive event to everyone in the Charlottesville community while also reducing the amount of waste and environmental impact generated by the event.”