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December 2, 2008

CW's 74th Grand Illumination features fireworks, music and candlelit buildings

Grand Illumination held on Sunday, Dec. 7, is a signature event of Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. This unforgettable night features fireworks, music and candlelit buildings.

The celebration begins in the late afternoon with a variety of entertainment that starts at 4:45 p.m. on multiple outdoor stages throughout the Historic Area. The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums provide 18th-century music appropriate to the season. Other performers present a variety of holiday entertainments during the evening’s festivities.

At 5:45 p.m. the Fifes and Drums signal the beginning of the Grand Illumination. At 6:15 p.m., candles are lit in public buildings, shops and homes, and fireworks are launched at three Historic Area locations: the Governor’s Palace, Magazine and Capitol. After the fireworks, entertainment resumes on the outdoor stages and continues until 7:30 p.m.

Illuminations were commonly used during the 18th century to celebrate major events such as military victories, the birthday of the monarch, arrival of a new colonial governor and the like by firing guns into the air and lighting fireworks. Written accounts of illuminations in Williamsburg, before the American Revolution, include descriptions of “candles in the cupolas of public buildings and windows of gentlemen’s houses.”

The 2008 Grand Illumination schedule is:

  • 8:45 a.m. Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center opens.
  • 9 a.m. Colonial Williamsburg buses begin operations between the Visitor Center and the Historic Area.
  • 9 a.m. Exhibition buildings, trade shops and museums open.
  • Noon. Francis Street closed from York Street to Henry Street.
  • 4 p.m. Colonial Williamsburg buses limit operations. Buses will pick up and discharge passengers at the Governor’s Palace Bus Stop in the Historic Area and the Visitor Center only.
  • 4:45 p.m. Entertainment begins on outdoor stages at Palace Green, Market Square, Goal and Capitol building.
  • 5:45 p.m. Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums play Grand Tattoo signaling the beginning of Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday season. Colonial Williamsburg’s buses temporarily cease operations.
  • 6:15 p.m. Candles are lit in public buildings, shops and homes. Fireworks are launched at four locations: the Governor’s Palace, Market Square, and the north and south sides of the Capitol building.
  • 8:30 p.m. Colonial Williamsburg’s buses resume operations.

    Williamsburg City Police will close Francis Street from York Street to North Henry Street and South England Street from Francis Street to Newport Avenue at noon for Grand Illumination. The streets will be closed to all automobiles except for guests going to King’s Arms, Shields, Chowning’s, the Williamsburg Inn and the Williamsburg Lodge. The city does this to provide adequate parking for tours buses bringing guests to Grand Illumination.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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