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Lighting of the Lawn 2023 to feature “Disglow” theme, extended light show

The event will feature performance groups, a reflective poem reading and a longer light show than the year prior

This year’s light show portion of the event will be longer than that of LOTL 2022, although the exact duration has not been announced.
This year’s light show portion of the event will be longer than that of LOTL 2022, although the exact duration has not been announced.

The University will feel the disco fever at the 22nd annual Lighting of The Lawn event, which will feature a colorful light show, concessions and performances from a cappella and dance groups  Friday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s event is “Disglow,” and attendees are encouraged to wear disco costumes and bring glow sticks.

Frances Carraway, co-chair of the LOTL committee and fourth-year Architecture student, said LOTL executives decided on the theme of “Disglow” early in the semester. This year’s theme will have a new focus on audience participation, a change from past years, Carraway said.

“We wanted to make the theme a little more [interactive],” Carraway said. “We thought that ‘Disglow’ would be a good way for people to be able to dress up.”

The a cappella and dance performances, which have included acts from X-Tasee Dance Crew and the University Singers in previous years, will be followed by a poem reading and a group singing of the “Good Ol’ Song.” Poetry reading is an annual tradition at LOTL — typically, student-selected University leaders narrate a holiday-themed poem.

The night will end with the presentation that gives the event its name — a light show programmed in tune to a series of songs selected by the LOTL committee. This year’s light show portion of the event will be longer than that of LOTL 2022, although the exact duration has not been announced.

Riley Lorgus, co-chair of the LOTL committee and fourth-year College student, said that this change was made in response to community feedback. Some students reported last year’s light show felt too short, especially following LOTL’s 20th anniversary show in fall 2021, which featured an extended light show of roughly 22 minutes.

Lighting of the Lawn first began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks with the goal of bringing together the University and Charlottesville communities. The event has grown in the years since, with many a cappella groups, like the Virginia Gentlemen, performing regularly. Sam Wells, Virginia Gentlemen president and fourth-year Batten student, said that a cappella groups help provide an atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration at the event.

“We spend weeks preparing our songs, and we’re just excited to show them off and come together as a University,” Wells said.

Last year’s LOTL took place weeks after a shooting at Culbreth Garage resulted in the deaths of students Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr. and left two others injured. Lorgus said last year’s LOTL event highlighted the tradition’s mission of uniting and uplifting the surrounding community.

“Lighting of the Lawn was the first event where the University community and the entire Charlottesville community could really come together and hold each other close,” Lorgus said. 

This year’s light show will include the numbers 1, 15 and 41 — the football uniform numbers of the deceased students — which were also displayed at last year’s LOTL.

“We wanted [the numbers] to serve as a reminder and let everyone know we’re not going to forget the tragic events that happened,” Lorgus said. “It’s a way to uplift [Devin, Lavel and D’Sean] and continue to uplift the community.”

Fourth-year College student Evie Weinstock said last year’s LOTL tradition felt like a particularly important moment in the wake of November’s shooting. 

“Before I even came to U.Va., people had mentioned it as one of the greatest community events,” Weinstock said. “Last year was my favorite Lighting of the Lawn, just because it was so meaningful for us as a community to be together in that time.”

This year’s LOTL marks the second in-person event since the pandemic, during which the event took place via Zoom. Weinstock attended the virtual LOTL as a first-year student and said she has attended the event every year since.

This year, the LOTL committee had to replace the strings of lights used for the lightshow, an expensive process that takes place roughly every seven years. Lorgus said the committee fundraises an average of $80,000 for the event each year with the help of the Office of Advancement and the Alumni Association, and that the light replacement cost roughly $10,000. Additionally, he said that committee members signed up to help hang lights in early October, working alongside University Facilities Management.

“We provide [Facilities Management] a lot of hands and a lot of labor to one, help them out and show our thanks, but too, to drive down our costs so we can make LOTL as cost-efficient as possible,” Lorgus said.

The LOTL committee also produces merchandise for the event each year, and LOTL  2023 is no exception. Anran Zhao, LOTL marketing committee member and third-year College student, said that the committee is tasked with designing and ordering merch, as well as publicizing the event.

“The marketing committee’s job is advertising the event to the Charlottesville community and to the student body, as well as helping design some of the merchandise,” Zhao said. 

LOTL is free to the public, and can also be viewed online via livestream.


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