The lamp lighters at the Calgary Folk Music Festival continue to add a magical, mystical element to the annual party as children and adults carrying lanterns weave their way through the crowd at dusk.
Ed Hoover, who helps organize the roughly 1,800 volunteers that work on the festival each year, said the main draw for the lantern parade is the festival-goers’ involvement.
“We never have to go out and beat the drum to get people involved in the lantern parade,” Hoover said. “Kids love it, it’s very much a family oriented activity.”
He said the designs are limited only by imagination.
“It’s totally up to the volunteers. So the volunteers come up with the ideas, which range from frogs and dragonflies, fruits and flowers, jellyfish. Whatever their imagination can come up with, we found a way of having it come to life,” Hoover explained.
“At dusk, you can just see it from across the infield, it’s beautiful.”
He says the parade has been around for about 14 years and Naheed Nenshi, before he was mayor, expressed his love for the lamp lighters in a letter published in the Calgary Herald in 2009.
“I love those lanterns,” Nenshi wrote.
“Not only are they beautiful, I love what they symbolize — the power of community, the power of art. Every summer, they remind me of the very best of Calgary and all the reasons that I love to live here.”
Hoover says weather, however, can be a game changer when it comes to lantern care.
“If there is even the slightest sign of rain, we’re inside, because they will just melt,” he said.
“They are put together with rice paper, kind of a paste glue. They are along a wire frame. We have lots of procedures in place to make sure they are covered just in case there is rain or any type of inclement weather. We could end up with anything during the summer in Calgary.”
The parade has almost doubled in size since the beginning, going from 30 lanterns to 50, he added.
“We just wanted to give another activity for patrons to be involved and feel a part of the festival,” Hoover said.