Disco balls and glowsticks illuminated Grounds Friday night as students and community members gathered to enjoy the “Disglow” themed Lighting of the Lawn. The annual event is a celebration designed to “foster unity and inclusion” among the University and greater Charlottesville communities, who were brought together through song and dance.
The event began with opening remarks and a performance by the University Singers, who sang “Virginia Hail, All Hail,” and set the tone for the evening's holiday festivities with a rendition of “Carol of the Bells.”
Several a capella, instrumental and dance groups took the stage throughout the night. Performances ranged from traditional Christmas classics such as “Jingle Bell Rock” to global genres, including contemporary Indian songs and Afrobeats.
Performances included the Virginia Gentlemen, Silhooettes and the University’s only musical group for inept singers, the No Tones. Dances included performances by the Afro-Hoos, the University Salsa Club and Virginia Di Shaan.
For students living on the Lawn, LOTL brings celebration right to their front door. Tichara Roberston, student council president and fourth-year College student, lives on the Lawn and said the student performances were a particularly special part of the night for her. Not only did she perform as part of the No Tones, but she was also able to support and enjoy her friends’ talents during her final year at the University.
“This one is a special one,” Robertson said. “I think that the Class of 2024, because it's our last one… that changes how I’m taking this one compared to the other ones. I think me living on the Lawn also changes my perspective — they're coming into my home. And it's been nice just seeing [the event] sort of develop over time.”
In the past, LOTL has had themes including “Finding Our Light,” “Illuminate’ and ‘Brighter Together.’ According to a statement on the LOTL website, this year’s “Disglow” theme is in keeping with the past years’ emphasis on LOTL as a beacon of hope that uplifts the community amid hardships.
LOTL first began to bring students, faculty and local residents together the winter following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Over the years, the University tradition has adapted to meet the community’s ongoing needs. Last year’s event, held just weeks after the Nov. 13 shooting that killed three students, served as one of the first times students could come together in the wake of tragedy.
Irene Wang, a first-year student in the College, said the event allowed different corners of the University, from undergraduates to post-doctoral students, to experience tradition together.
“It's really cool to see how everyone enjoys the performances,” Wang said. “I see all my friends here, all the people from all the different clubs and everything, and it's really great to see everyone come together.”
LOTL is not limited to just bringing students together. The event is open to the public, for Charlottesville community members and past alumni to enjoy as well.
Jack McQuarrie, Class of 2009 alum and previous Charlottesville resident, returned to the University from Washington D.C. for the event. McQuarrie said LOTL was always an enjoyable tradition with the core element of featuring music and student talent, but its audio and visual components have significantly developed since his time at the University.
“I came to a couple of [Lightings of the Lawn] but it was never like this,” McQuarrie said. “It was a lot less established, so it's very cool to see what it's turned into.”
The event is organized by the LOTL executive committee, who have been preparing for the event since the beginning of the semester. Robertson said her perspective as a student leader has given her a greater appreciation for the planning of the event.
“[Being student body president] made me appreciate the work of the people of the Lighting of the Lawn committee a lot more because I’m able to see the output and I know, in my head, how much work was put into it,” Robertson said.
Students and community members alike continued to enjoy the performances, food trucks and refreshments. A short poem was read before students put their arms around one another for a traditional singing of ‘The Good Old Song.’ A countdown to the extended light show began, and the night was concluded with over 20 minutes of music-coordinating lights.
Third-year College student Alp Ekmekcioglu attended the last two LOTLs before this year, and said the light show and music this year seemed like popular choices which many students enjoyed.
“The basic concept [of LOTL] remained the same, but … I feel like it was a lot more enjoyable, honestly,” Ekmekcioglu said. “I like seeing all the a capella groups come together and show off their singing and the light show. I feel like overall it proceeded really smoothly and it was really worth it staying for two and a half, three hours.”