Victoria Park Lantern Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary — without candles

·2 min read
Nathan Butt is the coordinator of the Victoria Park Lantern Festival. Butt says after a two-year hiatus, it's exciting the festival is going ahead once again. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC - image credit)
Nathan Butt is the coordinator of the Victoria Park Lantern Festival. Butt says after a two-year hiatus, it's exciting the festival is going ahead once again. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC - image credit)
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC

The Victoria Park Lantern Festival is going ahead for the 20th time in St. John's on Sunday, this year as an official Come Home Year event.

Volunteers and staff alike are excited to welcome people back to the park after a two-year hiatus.

"Oh, it feels excellent to be back from COVID," said festival coordinator Nathan Butt, who holds the position for the first time this year.

"It's awesome to see people enjoying it again."

The festival was originally planned for Saturday but had to be postponed due to rain.

And the weather also had to be considered Sunday — due to a fire ban imposed by the City of St. John's on July 19, the festival organizers had to pivot to a flame-free event.

"Every year, of course, our lanterns get lit with tea light candles and we have a huge fire show," said Butt.

"It was a huge switchover and we had to cancel our last workshop for it, but we're really excited to be here anyways and to show people what we have with no flames."

Instead of candles, LED lights are used throughout the day.

Fittingly enough, Butt said, this year's festival is dedicated to someone who pioneered the use of LED lights — Simon Lono.

Lono, who was known for his large-scale lanterns, was board member and long-time volunteer with the festival until his death in 2019.

Henrike Wilhelm/CBC
Henrike Wilhelm/CBC

This year, a special section in the park called Lono's Landing displays some of his lanterns.

"It's an extra special dedication because we have to use LEDs so much more this year," said Butt.

"[He] was a huge part of the festival for many years. He helped us build so many of our beautiful lanterns."

The festival also remembers Don Wherry with a drum kit lantern every year. Wherry passed away during the very first festival in 2001, where he was one of the musicians leading the lantern procession.

However, Butt said there are more lanterns visitors should be on the lookout for.

"We have a a whale fully inspired by the Come Home Year whale ... at the top of the park," said Butt.

Victoria Park Lantern Festival/Facebook
Victoria Park Lantern Festival/Facebook

"As well as a massive lighthouse which is on our poster for the year ... You can't miss it. So, I recommend those are two big photo-op lanterns for the year."

Volunteers had been busy arranging lanterns since the early Sunday morning hours. For the public, the festival officially opened in the early afternoon, offering community booths, live music and different workshops for festival visitors, such as jar lantern or circus workshops.

The lantern procession, which leads to the top of the park, rounds off the event in the evening hours, followed by a light show including jugglers, hula hoopers, stilt walkers and circus performers.

"I hope folks come down ... It's a wonderful family time and it should be a great event," said Butt.

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