Colonial Williamsburg fills with lights, music for the holidays

Lights, pageantry and a spin on the ice are all part of Colonial Williamsburg’s line up to usher in the Christmas season.

Grand Illumination

This year’s Grand Illumination focuses on both the traditional 18th century Christmas and adds Colonial Williamsburg’s restoration era of the 1930s.

Set for Dec. 3, the event officially begins at 4 p.m. with evening-long musical performances on Palace Green and Courthouse Green. In addition, Raleigh Tavern’s restored porch and The Farmers’ Holiday Ox Cart will feature performances presented by the Gentlemen of the College.

The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums Senior Corp will perform 18th century seasonal regimental music at Capitol Circle, said William Schermerhorn, creative director for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Signature Events.

Candle lighting in sequence along Duke of Gloucester Street will follow.

Performances by swing bands showcase the 1930s historic restoration. It was during this time that New York Philanthropist, the late John D. Rockefeller, Jr., revitalized the area when Bruton Parish Rector, the late Dr. William A.R. Goodwin, urged him to do so.

“They were the visionaries for all this (referring to Colonial Williamsburg),” Schermerhorn said smiling.

The main show is an 18th century-style pyrotechnic display that will be fired at 8 p.m. from the Capitol, the Magazine and the Governor’s Palace,” he said.

The evening concludes with the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums Procession along Duke of Gloucester Street.

Schermerhorn, a 1982 College of William and Mary graduate, is no stranger to planning big Christmas events. He began his career in 1983 with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and served as director for more than 15 years.

Williamsburg Community Tree Lighting

The reading of Clement Clarke Moore's classic poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," (commonly known as "'Twas the Night before Christmas") along with the story of Williamsburg's first Christmas tree will take place Dec. 21. at 5 p.m. near the Courthouse on Duke of Gloucester Street.

The event includes caroling and candles being lit by attendees passing a flame until lights fill Duke of Gloucester Street. The countdown to the 35-foot tree lighting will be led by Mayor Paul Freiling.

The evening concludes when Father Christmas arrives in the Randolph carriage to the stirring sounds of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums.

Hosted jointly by Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation since 1959, the event previously was on Christmas Eve.

Schermerhorn explained the change was made to encourage more children to on hand.

“We felt more families would be able to attend. We are aware many spend Christmas Eve with extended family and friends. And with Christmas Day being on a Monday this year, we feel more people will be leaving town taking advantage of the long weekend,” he said.

No tickets or reservations are required.

A Spin On The Ice

Work off the holiday pounds by taking a spin on Colonial Williamsburg’s Liberty Ice Rink.

The outdoor rink, located on Duke of Gloucester Street, opened last month and will remain open until Feb. 20.

“A cold crisp day is perfect weather to get exercise on the ice. Especially in the evening, with the lights, it’s a festival atmosphere,” said Jeff Duncan, Vice President of Real Estate for Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

During the week recorded music will play but on weekends around Christmas, local church choirs will perform. There will be hot chocolate and hot dogs for sale during skate time.

Duncan said skate rental is $3 and admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children and a ticket is good for the entire day.

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