Grand Illumination brings fireworks, new events to Colonial Williamsburg

Staff writer

It’s that time of year again. The Grand Illumination, perhaps the biggest and brightest night on Colonial Williamsburg’s calendar, returns with spectacular shows of holiday lights and sounds Dec. 2.

And while fireworks are the main event, there’s plenty of seasonal fun with a colonial-era flavor to be had, ranging from musical performances to illumination ceremonies.

“Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination is an experience unique in the world, and one that must be seen firsthand to be appreciated,” Bill Schermerhorn, Colonial Williamsburg creative director of signature events, said. “The evening culminates with free fireworks followed by a stunning torch-lit march of the Fifes & Drums on Duke of Gloucester Street.”

As evening sets in, visitors can enjoy the warming light of burning cressets, hot cider and decorations like handmade wreaths and garlands, Schermerhorn said.

The fun kicks off at 4 p.m., culminating with the fireworks display at 7 p.m. Visitors can view the fireworks that will light up the sky from various areas of the Historic Area like the Palace Green, the Capitol and the Magazine.

This year’s celebration includes several new events.

At 5 p.m., George Wythe House will have an illumination ceremony. Fifteen minutes later, there will be a reading of a Williamsburg Christmas tale on the Palace Green. Performances of popular 18th-century music will take place at 4:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. outside the James Anderson House.

And there are plenty more musical events to be enjoyed.

On the Palace Green there are performances at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. by big band groups Truetone Honeys and 504 Supreme, which perform in homage of Colonial Williamsburg’s restoration era.

“Grand Illumination also brings together different layers of the city’s history: It’s a holiday celebration created in the 1930s during 18th-century Williamsburg’s restoration, drawing on that period’s tradition of celebratory illuminations,” Schermerhorn said.

Over at Raleigh Tavern, William and Mary a cappella group Gentlemen of the College will sing holiday classics at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. that day. The Jubilee Performers will treat visitors to traditional African-American music at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. outside the Ludwell-Paradise House.

And at there will be handbells and singing at the Market Square Stage: At 4:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., the Westminster Ringers will perform handbell selections. At 6 p.m. the Botetourt Chamber Singers will take the stage.

The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums will perform several times in several locations throughout the night.

Visitors can take to the ice at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, which is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Duke of Gloucester Street near Merchants Square.

The Grand Illumination runs 4-7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and is open to the public. No event ticket is required.

Program details are subject to change. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com/holidays for up-to-date information about program schedules.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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