Thursday, April 25, 2013

The story of our festival

Susanne Larner approached me with the idea of starting a lantern festival in the County some time in April 2012. We didn’t know each other very well at the time, but she knew that I had a background in producing theatre and festivals; I had, in fact, been a participant in Toronto’s Kensington Market Festival of Lights for a number of years, so I knew exactly what type of magic she was dreaming of conjuring. Susanne’s inspiration was the Illuminaires festival that she'd seen in Vancouver. Although Prince Edward County is known for its abundant creativity, we had no events like this, and Susanne and I agreed it would be a great way to bring our community together.

We put out an invitation to some other creative types, and soon we were calling ourselves "The Department of Illumination." Our goal was to light up the place we love.

The Department of Illumination. Back row, L to R: Norman Marland, Nell Casson, Krista Dalby, Shelby Larner, Susanne Larner, Liz Zylstra. Front row: Milé Murtanovski, Chrissy Poitras, Kyle Topping.

We knew that community engagement would be the heart of our success, so we planned 15 lantern-making workshops throughout the County. There was nowhere we wouldn’t go; we held workshops at a seniors’ home, five library branches, The Bloomfield Centre for Creativity, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Books & Company, Spark Box Studio, and held a special workshop for the Brownies and Guides.

The workshops were an incredible success as more than 300 people turned out to make lanterns with us. We had chosen water as a theme for our festival, although we told people that it was more important for them to express themselves than to stick with the theme. I could relay dozens of stories from these workshops, but one of my favourites is of a father who came to drop off his son. The dad decided to stay for a few minutes to help, and before he knew it, was deeply involved in constructing his own lantern and stayed all afternoon. When his wife called to find out if he was on his way home, he responded "Are you kidding? This is more fun then I've had in months."

Workshop at Emmanuel Baptist Church

Back at Small Pond Arts, the lanterns were piling up…

Most people took their lanterns home, but we made 40+ more to display in libraries and shop windows, and to sell at the festival for those who hadn’t had a chance to make their own.

The day of the festival arrived. Our plan was to gather at Benson Park with some entertainment on site, parade down Main Street to Delhi Park, where we’d have music performances, a shadow puppetry play and light installations to explore. Unfortunately, the weather was ridiculously cold and windy, so we decided to move the festival indoors. We’d had the foresight to rent the charming Picton Town Hall for just such a purpose.

Photo by Phil Norton.

We spent the afternoon decorating and setting up the hall. People started arriving early, and they just kept pouring through the doors. Young and old carried lanterns that they’d made at our workshops or at home, ranging from simple to sophisticated, but everyone beamed with the pride of showing off what they’d made with their own two hands.

Kate MacNaughton. Photo by Ramesh Pooran.
Photo by Kelly Roblin.

Then the entertainment began. There was a belly-dancer…

Teresa Burton. Photo by Ramesh Pooran.

And there was music...

Melissa Larkin and D'Ari Pouyat. Photo by Sam Serrano.

The wind let up a bit and there was an impromptu and wildly joyful parade around the block.

Photo by Sam Serrano.
Photo by Phil Norton.

There were drummers...

Photo by Phil Norton.

And everyone's favourite stiltwalker...

Milé Murtanovski. Photo by Norman Markland.

Then we performed the shadow play that I’d written for the occasion,The Monster of Lake on the Mountain.

There was a black light tent...

Photo by Phil Norton.

A “Make a Wish” station…

There was more music, and a giant puppet...

Chris Bonham-Carter Photo by Phil Norton.

And finally, a little sing-along…

All in all, it made for a most memorable evening in our small town.

Photo by Phil Norton.

Thank you to the DOZENS of volunteers who made this happen, and to the HUNDREDS of people who came out to revel in our community’s collective creativity!

Thanks to our sponsors and supporters: Books & Company, Bloomfield Centre for Creativity, County of Prince Edward Public Libraries, Kelly’s Shop, Picton Home Hardware, Picton Recreation Committee, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #78, Small Pond Arts and Spark Box Studio.

Your illuminating hosts, Krista Dalby and Susanne Larner

We're planning to do it all again, so save the date: NOVEMBER 15, 2014!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Firelight Festival is here!

It's here!!!
A few quick reminders before the festival:

SATURDAY APRIL 20, 2013. Meet at Benson Park, Picton, at 7 PM. That's just behind Main Street at Ross Street - the street that leads to the Regent Theatre. The weather is looking chilly, so please don't forget to bundle up! Costumes also encouraged. In case of rain we will be holding the event at Picton Town Hall, 2 Ross Street. But fingers crossed that we can carry on outdoors.

At Benson Park we will give you LED tealights and carrying sticks for your lanterns (free, but donations appreciated). We will also have lanterns for sale, ranging in price from $5 to $20. There will be some entertainment for you while we get everybody set up and organized.

The parade will leave around 7:45. But please don't show up at the last moment if it can be helped!

The parade will take us to Delhi Park, where there will be music, a shadow puppetry play, light installations to explore, and food and drink for sale.

Last minute questions? Contact or on Saturday call her cel phone 613-848-4945.

See you there!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Firelight Lantern Festival is about to light up Picton!

Last night we held our last lantern-making workshop. Over the past month we've had more than 300 people take part in these community workshops, and have been absolutely delighted by the creativity and enthusiasm flowing from County residents young and old. Thank you for coming out in such droves, and keep hold of that energy because the festival is right around the corner!

If you didn't have a chance to make a lantern, we will have some for sale at the festival, or you can make your own at home. Here's a great lantern-making tutorial from Welfare State International. If you need supplies contact Krista (info below) - she can sell you a complete kit for $5.

Bring your lantern with you to Benson Park (Picton, ON) on April 20, 2013. We will start gathering at 7 PM. Costumes encouraged!

We’ll provide you with a carrying stick for your lantern and an LED light.
Be prepared to join in a magical community procession and be delighted by artistic performances.
All are welcome! This is a FREE event, but donations will be gratefully accepted.
General info:, (613) 471-1322

Sunday, March 10, 2013

We need YOU to get involved!

There are a lot of ways that you can get involved in the Firelight Lantern Festival. This is a volunteer-run event by and for the community of Prince Edward County, and we need YOU to get involved to make it a success! We’ve listed some of the key roles below – if you can help, please get in touch with Krista at or (613) 471-1322.


  • Attend one (or more!) of our lantern-making workshops. Dates and times HERE. Bring your friends and family along, it's a great group activity!
  • Makers who can come to Bloomfield Centre for Creativity on Easter weekend (March 29, 30, 31, any time between 10 and 5). We’re making two giant puppets, and we’ll need help sewing, painting, doing minor woodworking, etc. We will also have some other building/sewing/making projects that you can help with
  • People to help make small lanterns for sale at the festival.

  • Walk-through. All parties actively involved in the procession and spectacle (parade marshals, musicians, organizers, installation artists, technicians, etc.) should plan to attend this walk-through. Exact time TBD. 
  • Musicians – for pre-show at Benson Park and/or to play in the parade and/or to play in Delhi Park. (Note: music director is Pat Larkin - if you know Pat, you can contact him directly)
  • Parade Marshals, for the parade and to guide audience into the park – need 6 people. 
  • Giant Puppet/Large lantern carriers – need 6 to 8 people.
  • Crew – Delhi Park set-up and strike, available to start set-up late afternoon and can stay until the very end 
  • Stage Manager – Delhi Park 
  • People/groups to provide food/drink for sale at Mary St. parking lot. 
  • Transportation – should have a van or truck 
  • Info/security person at Picton Town Hall (our indoor home base). Must return there immediately after the show at Delhi Park. 
  • Clean-up crew – for Delhi Park and Picton Town Hall. 
  • Groups or individuals to create light installations in Delhi Park. They’ll need to be set up by 6:30 PM and taken down around 9:30 - 10 pm. Exercise your creativity!
  • Photographers. Must be able to shoot in challenging conditions (ie: low light) and provide photos to organizers immediately following festival. Must grant unrestricted use of photos to organizers (credit will be given to photographer wherever possible).
  • Clean-up crew to visit parks, return of stuff to various locations.

We welcome your input and ideas of other ways that you can contribute to the festival! Please get in touch if you can help.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Hi there! We call ourselves The Department of Illumination; we’re a group of *bright* creative types who will be lighting up Picton with the Firelight Lantern Festival on April 20, 2013.
Back row, L to R: Norman Markland, Nella Casson, Krista Dalby, Shelby Larner, Susanne Larner, Liz Zylstra
Front row, L to R: Mile Murtanovski, Chrissy Poitras, Kyle Topping
We’re hosting a series of community lantern-making workshops prior to the festival, and we want YOU to join us! These workshops are fun for all ages, and no experience is required!

FRI. FEBRUARY 22. McFarland Memorial Home, Picton.

Fish lantern made at McFarland Memorial Home with a group of seniors
SAT. MARCH 9. Community Planning Meeting @ Picton Library

At our community planning meeting we asked people to draw images in response
to the theme of water, and this is what they came up with (love the toilet!).

We are doing FIVE workshops at Prince Edward County libraries during March break. These workshops are by donation:

MON. MARCH 11, 9 AM - 4 PM, Kick-off workshop, Picton Library

TUES. MARCH 12, 1-4 PM, Milford Library

WED. MARCH 13, 1-4 PM, Wellington Library
THURS. MARCH 14, 1-4 PM, Bloomfield Library
FRI. MARCH 15, 1-4 PM, Ameliasburgh Library

The rest of our lantern workshops are $5 per person, or Pay-What-You-Can. 

SAT. MARCH 16, 1-4 PM, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Bloomfield

We’re doing 3 FULL-DAY workshops over the Easter weekend at Bloomfield Center for Creativity, the Baxter Building, 3 Stanley Street.  Drop in to make a lantern, or volunteer to help make giant puppets or other big stuff!
FRI. MARCH 29, 10 AM – 5 PM
SAT. MARCH 30, 10 AM – 5 PM
SUN. MARCH 31, 10 AM – 5 PM

MON. APRIL 1 – 6:30-9:30. 4H Drama Club, Mount Tabor Playhouse. CANCELLED

SAT. APRIL 6 – 1-4 PM. $10. Watercolour monoprinting workshop at Spark Box Studio. In this hands-on workshop participants will create one-of-a-kind printed paper which will then be used to create beautiful lanterns. Using watercolour paints, rice paper, and a 1950's printing press, we will teach you how to monoprint like a pro. This is a beginner course so anyone is welcome to join us as we light up our very own masterpieces for this years Firelight Lantern Festival. Space is limited; please register in advance by emailing

ALSO on SAT. APRIL 6, 10-5 - Workshop at Books & Co.

TUES. APRIL 9, 6-7:30 PM. Workshop for Brownies & Girl Guides. Picton United Church. Private workshop, not open to public.

The Firelight Lantern Festival is a family-friendly community arts event coming to Picton on April 20, 2013. The crowd will gather at Benson Park at 7 PM, and as the sun sets, hundreds of handmade paper lanterns will be lit and we will parade them through the darkening streets of Picton, winding up in Delhi Park. Revelers will gather to hear live music and watch a shadow puppetry performance. Afterwards there will be light installations to explore, and food and drink available for sale.

If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer or sponsor, or would like to have a lantern-making workshop with your group, please get in touch with Krista at krista(at) or (613) 471-1322.