By George Farrell
Published July 27 2017
It’s almost time for the Lantern Festival of the August Moon an event that features handmade illuminated Japanese paper lanterns floating down the Gull River at dusk. In my opinion it is the most beautiful event in the Highlands.
It’s held annually in the afternoon and evening of the first full moon in August. The date this year is on Saturday Aug. 5. The event has traditionally been lucky weather-wise and the full moon is usually seen to rise in the night sky at the moment when the lanterns are ready to head downstream.
The releasing of the lanterns is the culmination of the event but there’s lots happening before that poignant yet joyous occasion. First a little background. The Festival of the August Moon is an ancient Japanese ritual that celebrates and honours friends and ancestors who have passed away. The floating lanterns represent the crossing of souls to the spirit world.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years now” said festival founder Marc Shroetter who works with a committee to facilitate the successful operation of the multi-layered event. “I was originally approached by Make it Minden to come up with a concept that would take advantage of the river the Riverwalk and the Logger’s Bridge.”
The reason Shroetter chose the lantern festival concept was because “in the western world we don’t have enough appropriate ways of honouring our loved ones and friends who are no longer with us and this type of ritual helps in connecting people who have had the same experiences. It’s cathartic and you share your stories.” I might add that it also teaches us young ones especially about another culture.
Before the lanterns can be floated they first have to be made and the making and painting of them is just one of the many activities that take place on the lawn of the riverside Wild Swan B&B adjacent to the Logger’s Crossing Bridge. Lantern-making is from 4 to 7 p.m. There is a $5 charge for the materials for making the lanterns but you can also make and decorate your own mask for $5 or a fan for $3. Many activities are free; such as Japanese children’s games folk tales and face painting. There is also a demonstration of Sumi-e the Asian black ink and brush painting technique. There is a tea ceremony Japanese food Japanese dancing as well as tai chi and karate demonstrations. All this takes place from 4 p.m. until about 7:30 p.m.
Then it’s time to gather all the lanterns and cross the Logger’s Crossing Bridge to the other side of the river where just before sunset (approximately 8:30) the lanterns are lit illuminated by tea-lights and are floated on their beds of foam to be taken downstream by the current. It’s a totally beautiful and captivating sight and people keep pace with the lanterns by walking parallel with them along the Riverwalk to the town docks where kayakers harness the lanterns for pick-up by their makers.
The event takes place on Saturday Aug. 5 starting at 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Wild Swan B&B 65 Invergordon Avenue in Minden. For more information call Kay Millard: 705-286-6635 or email Kay at email@example.com or go online to lanternfestival.homestead.com