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Baltimore’s Washington Monument stayed dark during Thursday’s virtual lighting. But the lights will be on tonight.

The annual Washington Monument lighting — a Baltimore holiday staple with fireworks and food vendors that usually draws a crowd of thousands to the city’s Mount Vernon Place — instead happened virtually Thursday night, in a half-hour, prerecorded special on WJZ-TV.

But when the countdown ended and the on-screen Christmas lights went on, the real monument remained dark.

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Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa advised against synchronizing the real-life lights with the ones in the TV special, to discourage any crowds from showing up in person amid a continued resurgence of coronavirus cases in the city, said Mike Evitts, a Downtown Partnership spokesman.

“The original plan was to have them go on right as the broadcast ended,” Evitts said. “As the case load in Baltimore City got higher, we altered that to make sure that there was no reason to assemble in the park.”

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K.C. Robertson, WJZ’s creative director, said the station had to “adapt and adjust” its plans for the holiday event, “like almost anything else” this year, due to the pandemic.

“This was something nice for people to be able to see from their homes,” Robertson said. “Hopefully, next year, we’ll be able to do it live and in person.”

The annual event is a collaboration between the Downtown Partnership, the local CBS news station and the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, which oversees the monument and manages the lights, Evitts said.

Lance Humphries, executive director of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, said the organization was concerned that turning on the lights on the first night would have risked drawing a crowd.

“We just didn’t want to encourage any in-person gathering,” he said.

The lights went on Friday and will be lit nightly throughout the winter holidays, Evitts said.

“Our understanding is they’ll be on tonight, right at sunset, and stay on through the evening hours till New Year’s Eve, as usual,” Evitts said. “But there’s nothing usual about this year.”

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