Posted by: Editor | July 19, 2010

Shining a Light on Esquimalt

Shining a Light on Esquimalt

-Planning for 10th Esquimalt Lantern Festival gets underway

By Esquimalt Lantern Festival Society Director Eleanor Calder

In January 2009, I responded to a request to be a volunteer to assist in “re-lighting” the Lantern Festival in Esquimalt. Around the same time, I attended a community workshop in Victoria that focused on how to get residents more interested, engaged, and involved with their communities. The answer was simple: have some fun together! Hence, the Lantern Festival provides the venue for the community to have fun and to be the event that includes participating in a Lantern parade along West Bay Walkway and enjoying some lively entertainment at Captain Jacobson Park. 

It is all free, family-friendly and FUN. The volunteers that I have met continue to inspire me with their talents at organizing, networking, and just doing what it takes to deliver a successful event. 

The 10th Esquimalt Lantern Festival is returning September 25 from 6pm-10pm.  We are seeking volunteers. There are lots of great ways you could help out from lantern building to setting up on event day. There will also be some community workshops held in August and September to provide training. For more information please e-mail us at esquimaltlanternfestival@gmail.com.

For historical perspective on this festival, I interviewed one the Lantern Festival’s founding members, Julie Flatt. The idea of the Esquimalt festival started in 1996 when four core municipalities (Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay & Esquimalt) put together a group to form the inaugural “Community Arts Awareness Week” (CAAW).  In 1997, the first lantern festival was held as Esquimalt’s entry in the first week of May of that year. The West Bay Residents Association then teamed up with an Esquimalt Parks & Recreation staff member who coordinated Esquimalt’s CAAW involvement. From 1998 to 2004, the Esquimalt Lantern Festival moved to Swiftsure Weekend (3rd week of May) to be part of the Victora Harbour Festival.

The idea of a Lantern Festival for Esquimalt was first brought forward by a friend of Julie Flatt who had participated previously in a lantern festival at Trout Lake in Vancouver.  Hence, Julie along with Colin Maclock, two members of the West Bay Residents Association, began the planning for our first Lantern Festival.  They invited Paula Jardine, who organized the Vancouver festival, to Victoria to provide guidance. The festival became jointly hosted by the West Bay Residents Association and the Township of Esquimalt and some years it was co-hosted by the Saxe Point Residents Association. 

Several citizens and local businesses came forward to help promote the festival.  MLA Maureen Karaganis, who was an Esquimalt Councillor at the time, along with municipal staff member Barb Synder and Lantern Society board members Betty Tate, Alison Acker, Martin Henry and Tim Finlay were all integral components of the event’s annual success.  They gathered up volunteers to build the balloon and star-shaped lanterns at Municipal Hall. Local musicians and the Esquimalt High School Jazz Band were recruited to provide the lively entertainment that has become synonymous with the event.  The route of the lantern procession meandered along the West Bay Walkway to Captain Jacobson Park with the first three years starting at Spinnakers. The Festival has always been a free, fun, family celebration of lights, music, and dancing with a tried and tested concept in which the participants were always what made the event such a special time for all of Esquimalt to enjoy.

Esquimalt Lantern Festival Society Director Eleanor Calder is a resident of Esquimalt’s Rock Heights neighbourhood and serves as an executive board member of the Esquimalt Residents Association. Calder will be providing regular updates on the progress of this year’s Lantern Festival to Esquimalt Review readers. Email Eleanor at eleanorcalder@shaw.ca    Calder urges interested community volunteers to come forward and she promises they won’t regret having been part of one of Esquimalt’s most successful annual events.

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