Light up the Night was a winter seasonal/solstice event organized by Free the Fern Stewardship Society on the trails in the south part of Champlain Heights. The second year we’ve done this, we had more lanterns and lantern workshops, the Carnival Band to lead the procession along the trails past the lanterns, as well as seasonal baking, tea and hot chocolate afterwards.
The event had two public parts – lantern building workshops before the event: nature lanterns and balloon lanterns as well as lanterns build by Free the Fern members, then the event itself. We had ambitious plans for how spread out the lanterns would be – and hence how far the procession would walk – and had mapped out certain types of lanterns in certain areas of the trail. The “centre” of the event was at the back of Kinross Creek Housing Coop, with access to a paved space (basketball court) by the trail, parking in the Coop, and a supportive Coop member who made their carport available for the food and drink tables. The Coop has a common room with a washroom and kitchen – both also helpful for participants.

The lantern workshops were help in the common room and went really well. We used posters to advertise in the area and at the community centre and had keen lantern makers. A lot of supplied were gathered in advance by Free the Fern members: balloons, tissue paper, glue, snacks for participants, but also cedar branches for the nature lanterns, and dried flowers and leaves also. Lanterns were lit with LED candle lights, with each lantern receiving one LED. As participants left some lanterns were held carefully as the glue was still drying, but it all worked out.

All was ready to go for the Light up the Light event … but then the weather changed our plans. The date was Dec 17, one of the coldest, snowiest nights of the winter. It was beautiful out, and the snow showed off the lanterns nicely. But an unexpected part of setup was shovelling the trails, and spreading salt. The decision was made to greatly reduce the area where lanterns were displayed, making for a short procession, and stick close to the centre, not just because of the snow, but also because of the cold. And it worked! The lanterns looked better in the smaller area, mostly in the Douglas Fir Teaching Garden, and people were able to socialize more … and stay close to the tea and hot chocolate, both most welcome. The Carnival Band worked really well leading us through the lanterns and serenading everyone as we gathered after the procession. But not for too long – several of the instruments were brass instruments and their mouths were starting to stick to the metal in the cold!
Overall – a success. Flexibility and volunteers / local community support were key factors.

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