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Lantern festival brings light and time travel to Picton

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
A temporarily transformed Crystal Palace Saturday night meant a step back in time for visitors to the annual Firelight Lantern Festival.

The theme for the seventh annual event was time machine, or time travel – interpreted by participants through funky costumes, some lit-up and glowing, lanterns on sticks emitting light, music and frivolity, all designed to bring light to the dark, cold days of November.

Festival participants could go back in time to any era they pleased in a spectacularly decorated Crystal Palace as they entered the Time Machine.

Inside the glittery and mysterious place of time, described by festival co-founder, Susanne Larner, as an “interactive and magical experience for everybody” could be found five separate rooms. They comprised the industrial age (containing a print-making factory), a Viking medieval room, a pre-historic room, a World War Two room, and a present room.

“We have five artists who have created a time machine from different eras,” explained Larner. “This was all done by the artists, Nella Casson, Kelly Diamond, Spark Box Studio (Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping) and Vanessa Rieger, and myself, who created part of the time machine.”

The present room was a take on fast food and a fun kind of dress-up area. When visitors exited the time machine they stepped back into the future, into the main area of the Crystal Palace.

Festival founders Krista Dalby and Susanne Larner

The evening began in Picton’s Benson Park as festival goers gathered in costumes and carried lights with lanterns. There were giant puppets, entertainment, fire, and music as participants gathered for the parade.

The large crowd then slowly made its way along Main Street, lead by the Fire Department, as the entertaining and uplifting tunes of Spencer Evans and the Goat Steppers filled the air.

The light, the people, the music and the joy banished the cold and dark away, as the procession wended its way along Picton Main, toward the Crystal Palace.

“We’ve got such a huge crowd here and it is such a beloved festival,” said Larner, who was dressed as a pre-historic woman. “You never know how many are going to show up, and we are always floored by how many people do.”

Inside the Crystal Palace was a dazzling display of all kinds of clocks, among time-themes creating a magical arts experience. Hand-made paper lanterns in many different shapes, sizes and colours were also displayed for all to inspect and enjoy.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, a number of lantern-making workshops were held in community spaces throughout the County, where all materials and instruction, were provided to anyone wanting to make their own lantern for the festival, or just because.

For the first time this year, all lantern-making workshops were provided free of charge, with help from a grant from The Jack and Ruby Lockyer Ward Fund, as well as with support from the Baxter Arts Centre, and the Ameliasburgh, Athol, Picton and Wellington Recreation committees. A costuming workshop was also offered this year.

The Firelight Lantern Festival, put together by The Department of Illumination Artistic Company, an incorporated not-for-profit organization, didn’t receive their main funding from a provincial grant (Ontario Arts Council) this year, which helps make the event happen.

“We are happy because this was all community-funded this year and we had to crowd fund to get the money,” said Larner. “The fact that we were able to raise the money to keep the event going makes us super happy, and it looks like everybody is supporting it.”

Spencer Evans and the Goat Steppers kept the entertainment going through the evening as people danced the cold November night away, enjoying the merriment and unique festival inside a warm and glowing historic Crystal Palace.

One of the evening’s highlights was a performance by Trellis Arts and Entertainment, which included some impressive acrobatics.

“It’s really hard to top it year-after-year, but somehow we manage to do it,” said Larner. “This is truly a community-supported festival, which is quite awesome.”


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