When the light in the early evening sky is replaced with the soft glow of hundreds of lanterns, Eleanor Calder expects to feel magic in the air.
“When I see all of the people coming into the park at 6 o’clock, it gives me a great feeling of joy,” said the Esquimalt resident and volunteer co-organizer of the Esquimalt Lantern Festival.
“The goose pimples start coming because they come from all over, they’re streaming in.”
The theme of the event on Sept. 24 is magic – fitting since the spectacle has grown into a truly magical affair since it was revived after a four-year hiatus three years ago. Last year, about 1,500 people attended the free spectacle.
“We’re getting to the point where most of the community is coming,” Calder said.
Given the number of entertainers scheduled to perform this year, attendance may swell even more, said Calder, one of four volunteer directors with the Esquimalt Lantern Festival Society, who are assisted by 30 to 50 volunteers.
The festival begins in Captain Jacobson Park near Head and Paradise streets at 6 p.m. with performers Preston McCool, Bashirah Middle Eastern Dance Troupe and the Esquimalt High Jazz Band.
There will be a children’s area, face painting and storytelling.
The rhythm and blues of the Scotty Hills Trio will signal the beginning of the light parade, which will dazzle as participants move along the Westbay Walkway.
Along the way Luminara Victoria’s people puppets, Samba du Soleil, the Harmony Belly Dancers and a boat lantern parade will entertain.
Upon arrival at Barnard Park, located at 300 Barnard Ave., the festivities continue with fire dancing by Fyre and Lyte and music by Weak Patrol.
Though it’s hoped the event will one day be financially self-sustaining through fundraising, organizers appreciate the $1,000 granted by the Capital Regional District and $4,000 from the Township of Esquimalt, some of which is offsetting the cost of the stage and park rental, as well as for performers.
“We would hope one day that we could be self-sufficient, but it’s working so well now,” Calder said.”
To add to the magical feel, everyone is invited to wear a costume and bring a lantern, though it is not recommended that pets come. Glow sticks and refreshments will be available for purchase.
For details, please visit esquimaltlanternfestival.wordpress.com.