Sidney’s fifth annual Salish Sea Lantern Festival is Saturday August 24th.

“There are lantern festivals all over the world, and they’re always successful in bringing lots of people together to enjoy a night of creativity, and light, and artistic expression” says the Festival’s founder and artistic director, Jennifer Witvliet.

It was five years ago that Witvliet approached ArtSea about bringing a lantern festival to Sidney.

ArtSea is an organization that supports all artists on the Saanich Peninsula” says Wayne McNiven, an ArtSea member and director. “We just recently did the studio tours, which is an opportunity to visit the artists in their homes. We also have a gallery situated on the waterfront in Sidney, and artists can rent that space for a week and show their art.  The other thing we do,” says McNiven proudly, “is the Salish Sea Lantern Festival.”

Artist Witvliet looks back on the start of this annual festival.  “The first year, I just approached ArtSea and I said, ‘I really want to do this festival!’ and it started off with just one large salmon lantern that I built, and a bunch of of smaller balloon lanterns that were like salmon eggs, and we had maybe one hundred participants.  Last year, it was our fourth annual, and that was almost one thousand people!”

And, as it does each year, ArtSea is inviting the public to create their own lantern at any number of upcoming workshops, and join this magical evening.

“The lanterns are all made at workshops” says McNiven, “so it’s a great opportunity for the community to come together.”

“We have a great space at this St Andrews Anglican Church” says Witvliet, “who donated this space for us to work out of.  Every Tuesday and Thursday in August, I have an open studio here, so between 1:00 and 5:00 I’ll be here, building and repairing lanterns.  And then we also have some other family workshops that people can come to, and build their own lantern to take away, and then bring back to the festival if they can.”

Luca is one of the children enjoying the workshop we attended.  When asked how to make a lantern, she expertly explained “You blow up a balloon, and then you put glue and then white tissue paper, and then you can add whatever colour tissue paper you want, and make it look like the ocean.”

Irene LaPrairie shows off her beautiful lantern, and explains that “they held a workshop at my father’s care home, Sidney All Care, and we made this special little lantern together. Sadly, he passed away right after, but I’ll be in the procession with the lantern I made with my father.”

Asked to sum up his feelings about the festival, McNiven collects his thoughts for a moment.  “I think it’s moving. I think when I saw that procession coming up towards the [Sidney] pier, I was quite moved.  It was very quiet, and there was some drumming, and some singing, and I got goosebumps!   Like ‘wow, this is really neat!’ so I think people should come out and see it.”

ArtSea’s Salish Sea Lantern Festival starts at 7:30 on Saturday, August 24, at Sidney waterfront and fishing pier at the end of Beacon Avenue.

Veronica Cooper