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TONIGHT: Richmond Grand Illumination is no more; now it's RVA Illuminates at Kanawha Plaza

TONIGHT: Richmond Grand Illumination is no more; now it's RVA Illuminates at Kanawha Plaza


Don’t head to the James Center for the Grand Illumination this year, because it isn’t happening.

The city of Richmond is taking over the event from the James Center, the downtown office community that has hosted the event for 34 years.

The Grand Illumination was a local tradition where Richmonders flocked downtown for the lighting of downtown office buildings, the James Center tree and holiday reindeer.

William H. Goodwin Jr.’s Riverstone Group purchased the James Center in 2017, and the group has decided to no longer host the event. Riverstone Group declined to comment for this story.

Over the years, the Grand Illumination outgrew the setting, according to the city, drawing anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 attendees, who lined the sidewalks and spilled over into other areas of downtown.

This year, the city of Richmond has renamed the event RVA Illuminates and will be moving it to Kanawha Plaza at 801 E. Canal St., on Friday, Dec. 6, at 5:30 p.m. The city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities is hosting the holiday event. The same department took over programming at the 17th Street Market earlier this year.

There will be a countdown to the illumination at RVA Illuminates, just as in years past. Mayor Levar Stoney will flip the switch at 6 p.m., and downtown office buildings will be outlined in lights.

“It was a family tradition for years. It’s our goal to continue the tradition for everyone to enjoy,” Priscilla Wright, a spokeswoman from the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, said.

At RVA Illuminates, expect music from Richmond’s lively No BS! Brass Band, as well as a handbell choir from Miles Jones Elementary School and a performance from City Dance Theatre.

Melissa Chase and Jack Lauterback from radio station 103.7 FM, will emcee the event, along with Juan Conde and Katie Dupree from Channel 8 News.

There will still be lights, reindeer and a Christmas tree at the James Center throughout the holiday season, which has become a popular selfie spot.

Other holiday festivities will happen simultaneously at the 17th Street Market, 100 N. 17th St., with a similarly titled event called Shockoe Illuminates on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 9 p.m.

The new event will have a market from 5 to 9 p.m. with holiday shopping from vendors, Christmas trees for sale and music.

There will also be a Shockoe Bottom happy hour where visitors can purchase a drink from nearby restaurants like Havana ’59 or C’est le Vin and take it into the market plaza.

But there will be no ice rink at the 17th Street Market this year.

Signs near the James Center will direct people to Kanawha Plaza for RVA Illuminates.

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

Related to this story

The city of Richmond is taking over the Grand Illumination with a new name RVA Illuminates and a new location at Kanawha Plaza on Friday, Dec. 6.

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