Last Saturday, nearly 300 people gathered at the sixth Polka Dot Dragon Lantern Festival to experience Taghum Beach being magically transformed into a coral reef for the evening.
An eight-foot tall octopus made of snow dominated the centre of the beach, while a lifesize sea turtle lantern and countless jellyfish swam through the darkness. Artist Myra Rasmussen, who organizes the festival, makes the large lantern puppets using a technique she studied at Aomori Nebuta Matsuri in Japan.
The lantern festival features a unique mix of community and professional art by offering workshops to the public as well as honorariums to local artists and performers.
“It was beautiful to see people arriving with the lanterns we made in the workshops, and the beach slowly filling with glowing jellyfish,” says Rasmussen.
Several workshops were offered in the community this year, thanks to a partnership with Kutenai Art Therapy Institute, and a variety of funding sources.
Leanne Kalabis, whose Grade 2/3 split at Blewett School participated in the lantern making workshops the last two years, attests to their popularity.
“As soon as we came back from winter break, the students starting asking if Myra was coming back to make lanterns this year,” she says.
When asked why she started this festival, Rasmussen responds, “I am not really a winter person, so for me, this festival is about creating opportunities for people to come together to make and experience art during a time of year that can be very isolating. Then we embrace winter by displaying everything outside, no matter what the weather.”
The lantern festival is held annually in early February. More information can be found at polkadotdragon.wixsite.com/festival.