PHOTOPHILE- High lights: UVA illumination draws thousands

UVA was set ablaze, so to speak, by nearly two miles of lights.

An event that began six years ago to bring the UVA community together after the terror of 9/11 has become a Lawn-filling extravaganza. The seventh annual Lighting of the Lawn took place under a clear but below-freezing sky on December 6.

Celebrants began assembling shortly after 6pm in front of the Rotunda and braved freezing temperatures for nearly three hours until Leonard Sandridge, University Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and 2008 Class President Christin Devlin led the countdown to the ceremonial flipping of the switch shortly before 9pm.

Despite the cold, spirits were warm, as thousands of students, their families, and Charlottesville residents enjoyed a cappella performances from 16 University singing ensembles prior to the lighting. Libations were provided for the event by 55 Lawn receptions hosted by various student organizations and by private Pavilion receptions hosted by departments of the University.  Little mention was made of the event's somber origins as a tribute to the victims of September 11, 2001. Instead, the event has taken on a life of its own as a celebration of the holiday season.

This year, for the first time, the event benefited a specific charity; attendees were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy as a donation for Toys for Tots.

The lights were installed by several UVA employees in spare hours between other projects over the the past several weeks. The lights will remain on daily from around 5pm to about 8am through New Year's Day.

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