Sunday, 28 July 2013

Lantern Festival Lights Up St. John's

The view of the installation on the hill.
This is my summer of firsts.  So, after years of hearing about but never attending the festival this weekend I had to go to the Lantern Festival in Victoria Park, St. John's.  I was not disappointed.  The annual event has been going on since 1998, if not longer (some residents in the neighbourhood said 17 but I could not substantiate that), growing from an attendance of hundreds to over a thousand strong.  The event starts in the afternoon with live music and dance on a community stage, popcorn and other treats, and face painting.  Wandering Brush did a noteworthy job bringing quality to a job where it isn't always appreciated.  For the first time, I was tempted to get a Japanese style cherry branch painted up my arm– a tattoo for wimps!
Air brushing adds to the effect usually reserved for the brush.

What charmed me about the event was it's almost Woodstock feel.  It was democratic and loose around the edges.  Amid the families with jam jar lanterns were some less orthodox types.  Anything that can bring together the diversity represented by a young organic long-haired couple with their pet Nubian goats on leashes with the urban edge of Steam Punk clad clubsters had my vote of approval.  I was surprised but pleased to learn that Newfoundland had its own Steam Punk club that blends the distinctive Victorian corset with leather and industrialism.  It's a look you can't mistake.

The community stage boasted belly dancers and rock bands and acoustic folkies.  The audience was slightly distracted but generally appreciative.  They were sun bleached and happy.

The installation of lanterns was a sight to behold.  Weeks and weeks of work had produced a harvest of lanterns big and small, predictable and outrageous: puffins, spaceships, rainbows and just about anything that can be fabricated out of fire-retardant material into a three-dimensional structure to house a flame.  It was there on the hillside.  The parade path snaked around it and come dusk it was set alight by a chorus of volunteers.  Fire marshals were in attendance.  Music, dancers, families, more than one dog, children with flashlights and illuminated swords processed with gusto behind the percussion talent of the Scruncheons who offered a rhythmic outpouring of cowbells, drums and cymbals.  Everyone looked very pleased with himself or herself.

Once the parade had concluded the fire dancers took centre stage or what was actually a baseball field behind chain link fencing.  There were dancers with hoops of flame, fire eaters, animal clad performers on stilts and let's not forget this year's mascot:  a giant squid with dancing tentacles.  Well past ten the crowds kept growing, no doubt as next year's event will too.

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