A cozy little community festival comes to Portland again.
Walter Niehoff, Staff Writer
Hundreds of lights filled Deering Oaks Park in Portland on September 2 for the annual Water Lantern Festival.
Starting in Portland in 2018, the festival has become a popular event, selling close to 1,500 tickets this year in Portland alone. It features an array of food vendors, live music, scavenger hunts, and lantern-building.
“It’s to bring communities together,” said Dylan Gallup, the event organizer. “We feel that when people are people with each other, that’s when we make our most meaningful connections with other people.” The event pushes for that ideal by providing discounts on merchandise for people who participate in their connection-building scavenger hunt, which has people connect with fellow participants of the event.
The Water Lantern Festival also encouraged each lantern to have some personal meaning to it. Lanterns were decorated and dedicated to anything from superheroes to lost loved ones, or even to pets who couldn’t attend the event. Attendees were also offered the opportunity to share the significance of their own lanterns in front of all the rest of the event’s participants. “ It’s really meaningful for people to hear these experiences, hear what people in their community are going through,” said Gallup.
The sharing was a special moment that night that has been and will be repeated more than 120 times throughout the United States. The Water Lantern Festival has become a country-wide phenomenon, ranking as the number 1 cultural festival by USA Today. The festival certainly has become a popular event and so it is all the more surprising the lengths the organizers take to not only be community-driven, but also charitable and sustainable.
The Water Lantern Festival is partnered with Water.org, a humanitarian assistance organization that helps people in developing countries get access to safe water and sanitation. Water.org has claimed to have assisted more than 58 million people by providing 4.6 billion dollars in loans at this time with those numbers still growing. The festival has agreed to donate a portion of its proceeds to Water.org.
The festival also has taken lengths to be environmentally sustainable. The event happens in a closed-off space, such as a pond, where the lanterns can be safely collected and disposed of. The lanterns are also made of sustainable materials, such as rice paper which dissolves in the water and bamboo which is buoyant and can be collected more easily. They also take measures to ensure that the electric candles that light the lanterns are collected and either reused or recycled.
This year the festival went off without a hitch, marking its 6th anniversary in Portland. Lanterns engulfed the dark pond in Deering Oaks Park with light, highlighting the uniquely strong community that Portland has come to host. If anything else, the sight of hundreds of people casting lanterns onto the water was indeed a welcome beacon of light for busy old Portland.