Beacons of Light

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Local event experts will paint local landmarks with colorful lights during the upcoming national holiday

Memorial Day weekend won’t have the typical rip-roaring energy this year. There will be no big backyard BBQ parties, no splash of public pool openings, no beaches packed for the kickoff of summer.

However, a Delaware-based collective of event industry professionals will be lightening the mood another way. Quite literally.

Delaware residents can look forward to seeing several of our state’s most beloved landmarks dressed in spectacular light. The four-day event, called Illuminate Delaware, will be a tribute to both essential workers and fallen U.S. military personnel.

“I hope it makes people smile,” says John DiEleuterio, a Wilmington native who conceptualized Illuminate Delaware and is its head organizer. “There’s nothing really to smile about right now. I hope our essential employees get a kick out of it and understand how important [they are].”

To view some of the Delaware landmarks turned blue, visit our Illuminate Delaware photo gallery by Joe del Tufo and Moonlight Photography.

You could say that light is DiEleuterio’s love and livelihood.  For more than 17 years he’s worked for Main Light Industries, one of the largest rental companies in the U.S. for lighting, special effects and video.

Being in sales and marketing for the Wilmington-based company, DiEleuterio might be the perfect person to make something like Illuminate Delaware come to life. He has the connections to local clients in the industry as well as Main Light’s warehouse of inventory—professional lights usually reserved for large concerts, theater shows and special events.

Due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, this gear has been sitting unused in Main Light’s warehouse.  After listening to DiEleuterio’s pitch for Illuminate Delaware, the company was gracious enough to donate the gear at no charge.

“All of us within Illuminate Delaware are volunteering our time and energy,” DiEleuterio says. “We want all of Delaware to get something out of this. We just hope people get in their cars and go check it out.”

Illuminate Delaware will light up The Grand Opera House from May 22 to May 25

DiEleuterio says he came up with the idea for Illuminate Delaware while walking around his community in Wilmington during the early days of quarantine.

“My family would take long walks and pretty much go all [over town],” DiEleuterio says, noting that certain landmarks conjured a feeling.  “It was seeing St. Anthony’s steeple. Right around the same time, we got wind that St. Anthony’s Italian Festival was going to be canceled. My daughter loves St. Anthony’s.

“It’s knowing that we’re not going there [this year] and the connection of all of those things.

“I saw it as an opportunity. I get a ton of joy out of seeing things lit up. I always have. And I’m hoping that, with all these buildings we’re doing, it gives people the same thing. They can look outside and see the structure that you see every day looking different…seeing more beauty in it.”

The steeple of St. Anthony’s church will be just one of many landmarks to be lighted. Other locations include the Old State House and Woodburn Mansion/Governor’s House in Dover; the New Castle Court House Museum in Historic New Castle; The Grand Opera House, 76ers Fieldhouse, Waterworks Building and 1201 Market Street Building, all in Wilmington.

For DiEleuterio, that last landmark resonated on another personal level. Before his father (also John DiEleuterio) passed away in February, he had been in a battle with cancer.

1201 Market Street will be one of the many Delaware buildings illuminated during Memorial Day Weekend

“He spent a ton of time in Wilmington Hospital, and I spent a lot of time by his side,” DiEleuterio says. “He had this amazing view of Wilmington. And [there were] hours I spent staring out at the city and the 1201 Market Street Building, knowing he had an office there at one point. It’s the tallest building. It’s just like this beacon to me.

“Spending time in a hospital is absolutely horrible. But the people who work there make it better. You have these people who are doing their jobs, and they’re happy to do it. I hope those medical personnel see that building lit up in blue and get joy from that.”

DiEleuterio believes that his Illuminate Delaware team will be able to light up the 1201 Market Street building so that it “looks like the Empire State Building.”

Residents in the area can drive by and view participating locations, which will be lit up in blue for essential workers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, then in patriotic red, white, and blue for mourning U.S. service personnel of the Armed Forces on Monday.

As of April 14, DiEleuterio had confirmed the eight locations for Illuminate Delaware, but suggested others could be added before Memorial Day Weekend.

“If we could extend ourselves all the way to Southern Delaware and do some stuff down there, I would,” DiEleuterio says. “My goal is to get more spots around Delaware to go blue. If people have lighting control of their own homes, if they have blue Christmas lights—any type of blue light—I want people to go blue. I want Delaware to go blue.”

For more information on Illuminate Delaware, you can find their event pages on Facebook. If so moved, residents can also make financial contributions to the event via GoFundMe at tinyurl.com/illuminatedelaware.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.