Lantern festival lights up winter nights in Port Clements

Glowing lanterns made by children in Port Clements recently lit the woods by St. Mark’s Church to welcome the dark of winter.

Sephina O'Donoghue Stupka stands in the glow of a lantern she made for the Story of Light festival held along the Port Clements Millennium Park Trail on Nov. 27.

Glowing lanterns made by children in Port Clements recently lit the woods by St. Mark’s Church to welcome the dark of winter.

Called the Story of Light, the lantern festival drew over 130 people to wander the Millennium Park Trail, which was lit by tea lights and dozens of lanterns in the trees.

The lanterns included fantastic creatures and things a seahorse, Northern Lights, even a glowing golden spruce and posters told the story of a sleeping bear who dreams an enchanted forest.

At the trail’s end, everyone gathered by a fire for hot food and drinks, fire-spinning and songs.

“It was fantastic,” says Joan Hein, who volunteered to keep St. Mark’s Gift Shop & Gallery open for the Nov. 27 light-up.

Hein expected a few people might pop into St. Mark’s to use the washroom, but got a crowded shop instead.

“I couldn’t believe how busy we were,” she said.

“People were doing Christmas shopping, the kids came in and went upstairs to the little reading room it was just a really nice, community effort.”

Sparked by Jiro and Tina Ooishi, the Story of Light was put on thanks to lantern makers at Port Clements Elementary and several community groups.

For six weeks, lantern master Germaine Vigneault, apprentice Katherine Keroack, and HG Rec instructor Laura Bishop helped the kids shape their LED-lit lanterns at the school.

At the opening, Bill Lore and Aaron Riis played fireside songs, Alan Lore did the fire-spinning, the Port Clements Rec Commission handled food and drinks alongside chowder cooks Pete Hennigar and Christy ‘Conch’ Konschuh while village staff and volunteers got the trail decorated and things running smoothly.

Tina Ooishi says she and her husband Jay got the idea after enjoying similar winter events in Edmonton.

One is Flying Canoë Volant, a francophone and Ukrainian festival that this year includes lighting installations, Métis music, a First Nations winter camp, a snow slide and maple taffy.

Another is the Silver Skate, an outdoor winter festival led by Edmonton’s Norwegian community that is all about friluftsliv a word that translates something like “free air life.”

“It’s a way to get people out of their house and have a good time, even though it’s a little bit dark,” Ooishi said of the winter festivals.

“You’re using the darkness to your advantage.”

Ooishi said she has heard great reviews, not only from kids, but also from parents, and hopes the festival becomes an annual event in Port Clements

Joan Hein agrees.

“It’s a must,” she said. “It brought everybody out.”