British Columbia

B.C. village hosts lantern festival to bring community together

A village in the Kootenay region hopes a festival of light will help bring the community together after a year marked by heavy snowfall, the pandemic, and discord over the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over 100 homemade lanterns lit up the night in the village of New Denver, B.C.

Residents of New Denver, B.C., are pictured by dozens of homemade lanterns, which were paraded around the village in the first Spark in the Dark Lantern Festival on Monday. (Brendan Coulter/CBC)

A village in the Kootenay region hopes a festival of light will help bring the community together after a year marked by heavy snowfall, the pandemic, and discord over the COVID-19 vaccine.

New Denver, B.C., a community of 600 people roughly 150 km east of Kelowna, hosted its inaugural Spark in the Dark Lantern Festival on Monday, featuring a parade of lanterns made by residents.

"It's the middle of winter. The news is all bad," said Rosalie Bird, founder of the Spark in the Dark. "I tried to think of something that would bring the community together."

Village councillor Colin Moss, who helped organize the festival, says different perspectives on the COVID vaccine have divided families and friendships in the community, but that the festival offered an opportunity to bridge their differences.

 

"COVID is such a divisive issue, as we all know," said Moss. "Vaxxers and anti-vaxxers gathered without animosity. It did bring the community together."

Various organizations from the village also helped orchestrate the event: the New Denver Fire Department led the procession, the New Denver Hospice Society raised funds to hire the Kelowna-based bluegrass band, Under the Rocks, to perform after the parade in Centennial Park, where Lucerne Elementary students sold hotdogs.

A boom box, bouquet and Celestial Architecture

The procession started at Lucerne Elementary, with residents marching to Centennial Park with more than 100 homemade lanterns. 

Almost every student in Lucerne Elementary made one — among them an illuminated boom box and a lime green dragon.

"It was cool seeing what came out of the school," said Bird. "The teachers put a lot into it."

Slocan Valley artist Carl Schlichting spent days working on his creation, which he has called Celestial Architecture.

Slocan Valley artist Carl Schlichting is pictured with his homemade lantern, 'Celestial Architecture' at the festival. (Brendan Coulter/CBC)

"It's a collection of houses," said Schlichting. "It's basically made with bits of wood and paper, cheap hardware, and LED lighting inside."

Prior to the festival, Bird had also organized six lantern-making workshops at Knox Hall, in northern New Denver. Participants used papier mâché, fabric, wood and natural materials like twigs for their creations. 

Several homemade lanterns pictured on display in Centennial Park, where the parade culminated. (Brendan Coulter/CBC)

Other lantern designs featured in the parade were bouquets of flowers, guitars, fish, a rabbit and an octopus.

'We're gonna do this again'

Bird, who spends her free time volunteering with the New Denver Hospice Society, made sure the parade circled the Slocan Community Health Centre.

With access to long-term residents at the facility restricted to essential visitors only, the procession was timed so that residents could wave to friends and loved ones as they passed by. 

Bird says she also wanted to acknowledge the work of health-care professionals.

"We're all feeling a little vulnerable because our health centre [temporarily] lost its 24-hour emergency care in the last cutbacks," she said. "We wanted to cheer on our staff. They've worked above and beyond to keep our centre open."

Several participants wave at staff and long-term residents of the Slocan Community Health Centre, one of the stops along the parade's route. Organizer Rosalie Bird says she also wanted the festival to acknowledge the work of New Denver's health-care workers. (Brendan Coulter/CBC)

Bird says she's overwhelmed by New Denver's response to the festival and that she hopes to bring back Spark in the Dark in 2023.

"To get a whole village to come out on a Monday night in the middle of winter … the way the community has responded to this is fantastic," said Bird.

"We're still thinking we're gonna do this again. We have so many ideas we didn't get to try."


CBC British Columbia has launched a Cranbrook bureau to help tell the stories of the Kootenays with reporter Brendan Coulter. Story ideas and tips can be sent to brendan.coulter@cbc.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brendan Coulter is CBC British Columbia's Kootenay pop-up bureau reporter. He has also worked for CBC Kamloops. Reach him at brendan.coulter@cbc.ca.

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