For the past six years, communities across the Saanich Peninsula have come together for the Salish Sea Lantern Festival.
“We start with a procession and we usually get 2 to 3,000 people coming with their own lanterns, and there’s usually entertainment on stage, and it ends on the [Sidney] fishing pier, with all these beautiful big lanterns on display,” Jen Witvliet, organizer of the festival, said about the spectacular event.
Of course, with the pandemic, this year’s festival will be different, but Witvliet says it will be just as magical.
“Instead of just one day, it’s going to be a week,” Witvliet said, adding. “When people have their lantern kits all ready, they can display them on their porch, on their front yard. It’s just a beautiful display that will bring community together.”
And that, as Wayne McNiven, from ArtSea Community Arts Council explains, is what this festival is all about.
“We’ll miss the parades, but what we’ve created now is a community involvement project, so at a time, with COVID-19, that you cannot gather, I think this is the perfect opportunity for community.”
The Salish Sea Lantern Festival is just one of many events hosted by ArtSea, a non-profit organization that supports artists across the Saanich Peninsula.
ArtSea has a gallery at Tulista Park and although it is currently closed due to COVID-19, they expect to reopen Sept. 4. They also host an annual studio tour.
This year’s tour is still happening, but rather than inviting the public into their homes, the artists will showcase their work on the ArtSea website.
“We hired a student from UVic, an art student, Tori Jones, and with her, and myself, we’ve gone around to 32 artists and interviewed them in their studios,” says McNiven. “And it’s free to view the videos.”
Also on the website are tutorials on how to make a lantern for the upcoming festival.
ArtSea is also selling simply jellyfish lantern kits at three Sidney businesses – Buddies Toys, The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, and Island Blue Print and Imaging. All proceeds from the sale of the kits will go back to ArtSea, to support artists and artist projects in the community.
Lanterns created for the Salish Sea Lantern Festival will be on display across the Saanich Peninsula. ArtSea will provide an interactive map on their website, for anyone who would like to view the magical lanterns.
“It’s just a beautiful display that will bring the community together,” says Witvliet, “with all of us being together, but not together” she emphasizes with a smile.
Salish Sea Lantern Festival runs from August 16-22.