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Every Year: Downtown ReindeerThis Year: 1,000 Drummers Drumming

Downtown Rhythm

Among the holiday tunes, the familiar drummer-boy "rum-pa-pum-pum" will surely waft over the downtown crowd on Friday, Dec. 1. At twilight, thousands of Richmonders, eager to be zapped with Christmas cheer, will gather once again at the James Center. But this year, as the reindeer and Christmas trees along East Cary Street glow at the illumination, look for a bunch of real-life drummers to crash the party. If all goes according to plan, beginning at 6 p.m. and continuing until 9, some 1,000 drummers of all ages, shapes and sizes will form a thumping, clanging, rattling and pounding five-block-long human chain along Cary Street. Impresarios are calling it a "bucket-drum-corridor." Dizzy from the dazzling white lights, the crowd at the James Center illumination can then follow the continuous drumbeat eastward to just west of 17th Street, where Interstate 95, the Downtown Expressway and the railroad tracks fly overhead in a tangle of concrete, iron and asphalt. Arriving at the parking lot between Cary and Main, across from the Main Street Station and just west of the Farmer's Market, revelers will find Richmond artists using lights and a range of other media to create art pieces against the backdrop of the hard-candy urban landscape. All the while, the drummers will be drumming. "It will mostly be high-school students drumming on kettles," explains Linda Voreland, the event's mastermind who teaches in the communication arts and design department at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Potentially, it will be the most dynamic visual and aural spectacle the city has ever seen." Officially called Urban Light Works, the event (or happening as they called such public extravaganzas in the '60s) will also include dancers and other performers. But the drummers will provide the glue. Adds Voreland, obviously excited about the event: "I can't imagine how 1,000 drums will sound." If you'd prefer something more subdued that evening, Dec.1 is also the night the holiday light show begins at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Visitors will enter the gardens through a blaze of colored lights. From there, the lights will become patches of solid colors hugging the ground with white lights following the upper branches of the trees. On the far-distant hill, a 50-foot Christmas tree will provide a sort of visual finale. The "Gardenfest of Lights" continues through Dec. 30. Dinner will be available nightly in the Robins Tea House (reservations required) or at the botanical garden's café.

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