Jennifer Witvliet holds one of the lantern creations she has prepared for the Lantern Festival.

Jennifer Witvliet holds one of the lantern creations she has prepared for the Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival set to light up Sidney harbour

Tim Collins/News staff

Two giant prawns and a Salish Sea mermaid will lead a procession of lanterns from the Sidney band-shell, along the waterfront, and out onto the Fishing Pier as part of the ArtSea Salish Sea Lantern Festival.

The prawns and mermaid are actually the creation of Jennifer Witvliet, the founder and organizer of the event for ArtSea, and the driving force behind bringing the festival to Sidney by the Sea.

“It’s such a fantastic venue for the festival. It’s truly a fantastic sight … a celebration of color and light,” said Witvliet.

It’s the third year for the celebration in which lanterns (lit by tiny electric lights – no candles during forest fire season) inspired by the creatures of the Salish Sea are installed along the waterfront at the culmination of this free, family-friendly event.

The festival takes place on August 19, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and includes live entertainment at the band-shell stage, face painting, balloon art, a bubble station and a host of family activities.

Children have always been a big part of the festival and, for months, Witvliet has involved elementary school children in Sidney In recognition of the special relationship between the Saanich First Nations Community and the sea, Witvliet has been working closely with grade seven and eight students of the WSANEC Leadership Secondary School, building traditional ‘drum lanterns’ that will form part of the display. Children from the SENCOTEN summer immersion program have also been involved.

The event was originally inspired by Witvliet’s involvement with Victoria’s ill-fated Luminara Festival which , although extremely popular, fell victim to funding and political feuding and was abandoned.

“I can’t imagine a better place than Sidney for this festival concept to find new life,” said Witvliet.

“Sidney is such a gorgeous location, and when the lanterns are lit and installed along the pier over the water, it’s really quite magical. Where better to offer a tribute to the Salish Sea than actually out over the water?”

As in past years, Witvliet expects that some festival participants will dress up as their favorite mermaid, sea creature or other nautically themed character to add to the fun.

The event wraps up at 10 pm, when the children will retrieve their lantern creations and head home to consider ideas for what next year’s lantern might be.