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December 5, 2008

My first Washington Monument lighting

washington monumentEver been to the annual Washington Monument lighting?

Last night was my first time. And in classic Baltimore fashion, it was quite the ordeal.

This year, they had some kind of special fireworks rig, which meant they had to completely cordon off Charles Street. 

If you're not familiar with the streets, this is how it works: Mount Vernon Place is this beautiful park, divided up into four blocks -- north, south, east and west. It looks like a cross on a map. And the Washington Monument is smack in the middle.

All the festivities (vendor booths, a stage with live performances, etc.) took place on the west square of the park. Amie and I thought we could walk up to the festivities from any direction. Silly us.

Turns out, you could only walk up to it from the west side. They had every other direction blocked off.

After spending 15 minutes figuring this out (the uniformed city official we talked to wasn't too helpful), we got around to the stage side -- just in time for the lighting.

It was classic Baltimore ...

There was some kind of choir on stage, but for some reason, nothing was coming through the PA. Maybe the mikes were malfunctioning, or they just weren't loud enough. But we couldn't hear anything.

washington monument lightingSide note: I also heard that the WBAL TV crew set up this giant tent down by the stage which blocked a bunch of people's views. Anything for the perfect shot, right guys?

When the fireworks started, it was hard not to laugh at the sexual innuendo of it all. I mean, look at the photos! This has to be Baltimore's most lude lewd holiday tradition.

And, in classic Baltimore fashion, half the lights draped from the monument went out seconds after they were lit. Hee hee. And when a couple fireworks boomed particularly loud, somebody behind us said "Don't worry, we're not in West Baltimore."

Now, I don't mean to sound like a jaded snarky journalist -- once we got to the right square, we had a great time. The sights (parents and children sipping hot chocolate) and smells (roasted peanuts, kettle corn and cigarette smoke) all came together to create a crisp, exciting holiday evening.

Yes, the foot traffic situation was way convoluted and yes, half the lights went out, but gosh darnit we're not going to let that stop us celebrate the holiday season. And that's Baltimore spirit for ya.

Now that the Washington Monument is lit, it's official: Happy Holidays, gang.

Click here for more photos of last night's fesitivities and past Washington Monument lightings

(Photos by Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:31 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Random stuff


do you mean "lewd" (i don't think lude is a word).

I have been to the lighting several times. If you read the paper or watch the news beforehand, then you know where to go and it's no big ordeal. It's been pretty easy every time for me. And, once you've gone for the 1st time, you realize that, unless you *want* to see what's on the stage, there's no reason to fight to get to that side. You can stand blocks away on any side and see the fireworks and lighting and hear the music. And the Walters usually has hot drinks.

Oh, and this year was definitely the warmest in the last several years, which made it really nice.

Hon...they got that special rig every year. and they try and gauge the wind direction so the sparks don't come showering down on everyone... (another innuendo...)

I saw the fireworks while driving down North Avenue coming off of 83 and that was enough.

That happened to me the first year i went. Couple items i was wondering about last night:

1) why does the city spend all this money on this, and then light it at 7:20PM? That barely gives most people enough time to get back from work, park your car, and get to the stage? I realize that they want this to be a family event, but the night before i was watching the lighting of the tree in NYC and it lit up at 9PM. Let the kids stay up a couple hours extra and really make it a night out of it.

2) For all the pomp and celebration for the lighting there doesn't seem to be many actual lights around the monument. Why not double and triple it and really make that thing shine?

3) When your in a large public space where lots of people are huddled together to see something...can we please refrain from the use of massive golf umbrellas? seriously.

i digress...

other than that...good times. thanks sheila.

btw - after a couple hours i noticed those strands in the front that became unlit were lit back up again.

Were you standing on the north side of the park under the tree? Because my friends and I were joking about it not being West Baltimore.

This was also my first lighting and I have to say that next time I'll probably just watch from the roof of my building rather than trying to deal with the crowd.

Mt. Vernonite, No, I watched the display from the West side of Mount Vernon Place. But I'm sure you weren't the only person to crack that joke.

I also wonder why they do it on a weeknight. Why not Friday? or Saturday?

i remember last year's lighting much more than this year's. last year i was sitting on the fourth floor of the sun crunching numbers to see which subscribers we could pinch an extra nickel out of for each billing cycle while the fireworks were going off out the window. this year i left my new company on time, and checked my retirement fund to see that i actually earned money recently. ouch. sorry about that sam. you know it's all love for you over here.

Oh, my goodness. Are you really a reporter for the Baltimore Sun? Your use of the English language is attrocious. You must have missed the classes where they instructed your class on the use of punctuation also. Only a "journalist" with your abilities (or lack of abilities) could see lewdity in a seasonal holiday event. I guess with all the cutbacks at the Sun they must have eliminated the staff that proofreads for usage and content.

two points about the lighting. It's done on the last first Thursday of the year. From May though Oct. there are concerts etc on First Thurs... don't know why they skip Nov, but hey. As for the timing. They have tried earlier and later. The idea is to keep people in downtown after work. They're assuming most people (not me) work a nine to fiver. The mid eve leaves it still early enough for peopl to go out after for dinner. I work at one of the nearby restaurants and it seems to work timing wise. We get some early folks eating and then a lot after the show... some just stay at the bar straight through and ask how it was.

Anyhow it's one of the few nights a year where Mt Vernon feels like a real metropolitan city with tons of people walking around on the streets.

I look forward to the lighting every year. It is a very nice occasion. I am a little upset that B'more can't test the lights out ahead of time.

However, for you who is supposed to be in the know, to get pissy because you weren't seems ironic, and telling.

As you have mentioned in previous posts, you think you are a big deal. Most of us how happen by your posts wonder why..? I certainly do.

You seem lucky to have a fortunate spot in life, yet cynical.

Baltimore is said to have the best music scene in the country. Where are your posts about this?

You seem too busy getting drunk at local dive bars and being pissy because they don't know who you are, than really doing any reporting. It takes Rolling Stone to come here for that.

Me and my guy go every year to ring in the holiday season. It gets busier and crazier every year too, to the point where i don't find it fun anymore to stand and see the fireworks from the main 'square' where the stage is. Especially since some of the shoving and pulling people did not bring their holiday spirit :(
And that WBAL set up never before blocked the view as much as this year...
sooo...we watched from another part of the square (by Donna's) and had loads of fun and a good view too.
on that note: Hey Sheila: how about making it an event all around the square instead of cramming all the booths in one place?
oh, and sheesh! what's up with the grammar-grinches on this forum? Bah humbug to you too!

Lewd? Are you kidding me? Please grow up. Are you 13 years old?

If the purpose of a monument is to memorialize someone or something, wouldn't said structure have to be tall and cylindrical in order to be seen? Are church steeples also "lude"?

I was able to enter from the north side of the parks without any trouble. And I did not find anything especially lewd about lights and fireworks, and it is not because I am too dense to see where you might be coming from. Just too reasonable I guess.

I guess you know now to go to the West side. The best way to avoid the crowd from Charles St. is to cut through the alley by the Walters and then go up Cathedral to the back side.

Surprisingly, you have missed the biggest annual annoyannce with this event - the booze problem. Mick O'Shea's is always hopelessly crowded. This year, we tried the Mount Royal Tavern, only to fine ONE bartender for the entire bar and tables! She was ridiculously overwhelmed,the poor dear,and we waited 20 minutes for our first drink. (Thankfully, someone else eventually showed up and was pouring generously)

When we got to the square, the line for the only booze there was really long (James Joyce) and then when we got near the front of the line, they announced they were out of all alcohol (beer and hot whiskey).

Get your act together people! James Joyce! Midtown Yacht Club! It's not a surprise there will be drinking crowds.

Hey people,
Calm down on the spelling error, its a blog if you didn't know...get a life. Nice summary of the evening, Sam.

seriously people. its supposed to be light hearted stuff. mcw and dunn- we know its going to be painful, but you both really need to have the operations to remove the sticks up your a$$es - it will be for the betterment of all of mankind. anyone who actually reads this blog regularly and reads sams work in the sun (or, cough, listens to HIS local music radio show) knows he cares and writes more about the baltimore music scene than anyone. sometimes its ok to just take a joke and smile because its the holiday season and not get so worked up about things!

Word for you, Lover not a Hater. This town deserves better. Yes, I do care, and cynical is not enough for me. We have a good thing going on here and always have. He writes like a suburban boy who likes to drink and will step out of Baltiomore as soon as he gets a better offer. There is little B'more in his writing. Sadly he is more intersting than most of the other writers.

Oh well _ we'll have to leave it up to the other papers to realize how cool we are. I don't have a stick up my A** about Baltimore, this paper does.

Maybe you guys are to young to understand how cool Baltimore is -or- you like others, try to compare us to other cities. Baltimore is cooler than DC, NYC, and should be compared. Too often the young folk here feel a complex and leave.

SS doesn't help, because he would too.

Anything else you don't like about me, Dunn?

wow- missed this whole comment war. dunn you don't seem to like this here blog. So why read it? Or better yet (and I am dead serious here) why not start your own blog. An homage to your Baltimore.
It amazes me how much negativity gets wasted in words on the Midnight Sun. Seriously.


You need to get around.
There is local pride in every city.
People who live in NYC in general and The Village in particular would laugh their a**es off that anyone would suggest that any US city is cooler, especially Baltimore.

You got to keep some sense of proportion.

Sam, elsewhere, has covered various music events, which you would know if you popped in on a more regular basis.
Outside affirmation is a transitory but always welcomed bonus from people who are infatuated by the overview of the music scene, but miss the daily details.

I have in a previous post commented that there is a rather heavy emphasis on ears, liquor and clubs, but if you read the bio in the upper right corner, he is largely complying with his stated objective.

Thank you for stopping by, enjoy the rest of your day.

Dunn doesn't seem to understand that hating baltimore is the better part of loving it

We are one of the largest fireworks export company from Liuyang China(Liuyang is capital of fireworks ,and 75% of fireworks are exported from here in the world),We have been manufacture professional fireworks and consumer fireworks for over years.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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