Nfld. & Labrador

Lantern Festival cancelled due to negotiation issues, construction

This year's Lantern Festival in St. John's has been cancelled due to negotiation issues with the City and ongoing construction in Victoria Park.
This year's Lantern Festival at Victoria Park has been cancelled due to ongoing construction. (Zach Bonnell)

This year's Lantern Festival in St. John's has been cancelled due to negotiation issues with the city and ongoing construction in Victoria Park, organizers say.

Kathleen Parewick is a board member for Friends of Victoria Park, the organization that runs the festival.

She said that until recently, she was unsure if they would have access to the Victoria Park pool house this year.

Parewick said the group only just reached an agreement with the city to use the facility, but there's no longer enough time to properly organize the lantern festival.

Parewick said they thought upgrades being done to Victoria Park could also make it impossible to hold all the activities normally featured, such as the signature lantern display.

Instead, there will be a Friends of Victoria Park Family Fun Festival on July 30, which will not include lanterns.

"The fact is, with only a month to go with something that's normally spread out over a six-month period...there's no way that we could pull it off this year," said Parewick.

"We don't want to put off a half-baked event."

Lantern festival organizer Kathleen Parewick speaking with the CBC in 2014. (CBC)

Group told it needed a lease

Parewick said that after years of having an informal agreement, the city told Friends of Victoria Park last November that they would need to negotiate a lease agreement on the building. 

She said such an agreement would mean assuming more costs and liabilities, and would require restructuring the organization.

Parewick said the need for a lease agreement seems to be a reflection of changes within the City of St. John's.

"It really feels as though there's a break with the kind of fruitful experiment that the Friends has always represented. We had a very special kind of circumstance that allowed the things that this organization was able to do to happen in the park," she said.

'Nobody came to me': Ron Ellsworth

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth says that the City requested a lease agreement because they found out that Friends of Victoria Park was holding activities at the pool house year-round.

He said a lease was needed for insurance purposes and so the city could provide services like snowclearing.

Ellsworth said nobody from Friends of Victoria Park had discussed accessing the pool house for the Lantern Festival until this week.

"Nobody came to me and raised any issue about having access to the pool house until I got an email from the chair a couple of days ago regarding their summer program," he said.

Optimistic for next year

Parewick and Ellsworth said they have recently come to an interim agreement with the city in time for the Victoria Park summer camp, which starts on Monday.

The board said it hopes to bring back the lantern display — including the signature lantern parade, installations and festival fire show finale — in 2017.

The 2014 Lantern Festival in Victoria Park in St. John's. (Carl Hansen)

About the Author

Laura Howells is a journalist from St. John's who is now working in Toronto and Hamilton. You can reach her at laura.howells@cbc.ca.