RVA Illuminates in full swing with one thing missing - crowds at the countdown

RVA Illuminates in full swing with one thing missing - crowds at the countdown

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The city of Richmond is now alive with lights and holiday cheer. What was once called the Grand Illumination is now RVA Illuminates - when the city skyline comes to life with several businesses lighting up their buildings.

Things were quite different for the big celebration this year: no music or entertainment and no crowds because of the pandemic, causing a big impact on downtown businesses.

The lights turned on at 6 p.m. Friday and will remain lit every night through Jan. 4.

“We’re excited to be able to still do RVA Illuminates this year even though we’re in the midst of a pandemic,” said Tamara Jenkins with the City of Richmond.

When the lights came on, people began to show up to Kanawah Plaza for a photo opp. But no big crowds were allowed.

“We thought about it and then the new regulations came into play and we did not want to bring people in, “Jenkins said.

Downtown businesses certainly noticed.

“Normally I would have a three-hour wait on my door, reservations coming out of the water, children lined up with candy canes and joy and tonight we’re doing ok. We may have a couple of tables,” said Shane Thomas.

She owns Southern Kitchen on North 2nd Street, which usually sees a rush following the big event. “Nothing like last year, I had them lined up around the doors.”

A tough blow to an already hard-hit industry trying to survive the pandemic.

“Tough is not the word for it. It has been a place that I never dreamed would happen…There’s got to be a rainbow at the end and we’re just waiting on it. We’re all waiting,” Thomas added.

City organizers were glad they were still able to bring the lights despite not being able to bring the crowds.

“Hopefully we come back bigger and better than ever in 2021,” Jenkins said.

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