The weather was brisk and beautiful. The sound of gospel choirs, bagpipes, and Fifes and Drums echoed through the streets. And the smell of cressets and delicious food wafted throughout the crowds. This sensory magic—all leading up to the epic finale, a grand display of fireworks!
You could feel the anticipation and excitement in the air in what’s been an annual tradition for Colonial Williamsburg and the community since the 1930s. What started as the simple lighting of candles in windows has grown to be a kickoff to the holidays—one that thousands of us (employees included) look forward to every year!
The fun always starts early. This year, the Chownings entertained crowds with music and frivolity in front of the Playbooth Theater.
They also performed Fishmastide (a zany take on Christmastide) in front of a packed crowd. The humorous nautical musical journey is filled with original verses and original songs alongside period music to celebrate Christmastide sentiments. If you missed the performance, it isn’t too late. It takes place throughout December and is free with your CW admission.
Our live colonial auction was also a big draw for visitors and included several unique items from our trades as well as architectural items from the Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg Inn, and Kimball Theatre. There were also beautiful pewter, silver, and one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces up for bid.
This year, for the first time, we also brought in food trucks including Two Drummers Smokehouse. The barbecue joint is owned by two brothers who are also Fife and Drum Corps alumni. The trucks were strategically parked away from the main thoroughfare and provided other meal options to the estimated 50,000 people in attendance. Our taverns always fill up quickly during Grand Illumination as well as our special dinner at the Williamsburg Lodge. This seemed like a great solution and a way to work together with local restaurants in the community.
Liberty’s Ice Pavilion was another big hit! The rink stayed packed all day and you could hear the sounds of laughter as people of all ages joined in the fun. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a spin around the ice?
By the time the fireworks started, you couldn’t find a single spot of grass that wasn’t taken by a blanket or chair. Neighbors, friends, and families snuggled up to watch the sky light up in a true 18th-century style celebration.
It was so much fun to watch the festivities unfold on our social media channels through people using #CWGrandIllumination.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites posts along with truly amazing images taken by photographers Joshua Wright, Wayne Reynolds, Tom Green, and Lael White (scroll all the way down for the fireworks!). We feel like they truly captured the spirit of the evening. We’d love to see yours too. Just upload them in the comments below this post!