BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After months of planning, the 49th annual Washington Monument lighting in Baltimore is set to premiere virtually Thursday night due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The monument in Mount Vernon will light up during a holiday special hosted by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. It will air on WJZ and WJZ.com at 7:30 p.m.

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During a year when so many things were closed or canceled due to the pandemic, the organization was determined the show would go on “in a way that was safe but still celebrating our culture, our music, our neighbors,” the group’s president Shelonda Stokes said.

With safety a priority, the Downtown Partnership looked to WJZ as a partner.

“When the Downtown Partnership asked us to partner with them to bring this time-honored tradition into the homes of Baltimore, we said absolutely,” WJZ assignment editor Pete Amorgeanos, who handled much of the event’s planning, said.

The goal, Amorgeanos said, is to feature the things that make the city special in an event people can enjoy from their own homes.

The 30-minute WJZ Holiday Spectacular will include musical performances from Morgan State University’s choir as well as appearances from celebrities and special segments shining light on the city’s heroes.

Among them is “a tribute to the front line and essential workers who have been there every step of the way,” Amorgeanos said.

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Speaking of light, it took days to set up the lights that drape from the monument.

“We have to come in and get everything prepared and set up,” Frank Serruto, the lighting director of Excel Lighting Services, explained.

While taping the event, WJZ’s anchors worked at separate locations, including Topside restaurant and Mount Vernon Place, with small production crews.

The teams came together to pull off an event to bring light to the city, the season and the year.

“It was a trying 2020 and we thought ‘let’s create something that will reunite everybody,'” Amorgeanos said.

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“I think the monument lighting and the celebration of us all coming together shows the strength of us as a people, as a community,” Stokes said.

Annie Rose Ramos