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Light and Music at Victoria Park: The St. John’s Lantern Festival

Tonight I spent a magical evening amongst the subtle glow of lanterns at the annual St. John’s Lantern Festival. The festival is a fundraiser for Victoria Park in St. John’s historic west end and runs for one day on the last full weekend of July every year. The lantern installations are created at free workshops by crafty (and not so crafty) volunteers, and the entire program is run by a group of St. John’s west enders known as the Friends of Victoria Park. Unfortunately I missed out on making a lantern this year, but I already have some ideas brooding for next year’s festival.

I started the evening by mellowing out on the grass at Victoria Park with some friends, and listening to some great local live music. With a hamburger in hand (and mouth), I watched as children and adults alike danced around to the catchy tunes. As soon as the dusk hit, it was time for the parade. Led by a group of percussionists wailing on various kinds of drums, everyone holding a lantern, either homemade or purchased from a vendor, followed to the beat, and led the remaining crowd to a sea of lanterns by the crest of the hill.

These were not just any lanterns; they came in all colours, shapes, sizes and themes. They ranged from rainbows and stars, to puffins and lighthouses. There were hot air balloons floating alongside massive jellyfish, boats sailing through a sea of grass, row houses below and fish overhead. I can’t forget the menacing UFO hovering between the trees, and a very standout piece: a massive chunk of tofu. And if these elegant installations weren’t enough, they were all hanging above and beside a colourful rolling ocean of mason jars with candles glowing inside.

As soon as the majority of the crowd had settled on the hill, it was time for the fire show. This display was nothing short of epic, with hula-hoops, whips, poi handlers, torches and belly dancers, everyone moving to the beat of drums and of course – on fire. The crowd clapped and cheered, as men blew massive fire streams out of their mouths and women gracefully danced and twirled with hula-hoops moving up and down their bodies. The grand finale stole the show, with every act showing off their astounding fire prowess and the drummer’s beat rising to a sound larger than life. It was the perfect way to end a perfect evening of light and music.