Friday, August 19, 2011

South Berwick Celebrates LanternFest

Molly Colman loves fire. The South Berwick artist is even more enamored with the idea of people strolling peacefully along a path lighting the summer night with their hand-made lanterns. So it is literally a dream come true that so many of her neighbors have been busy making lanterns in preparation for SoBo’s first annual LanternFest, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 25 on the shores of Knights Pond and at the Spring Hill Restaurant.
“I saw the LanternFest as a celebration of the simple pleasures of community,” said Colman, who first came up with idea of a lantern walk after hearing of other events involving light, fire and community in Jamaica Plain, MA and Providence, RI. “Something about fire brings people together,” she said, “whether around a campfire, watching fireworks or dining over candlelight.”
So far, students and families in South Berwick have crafted more than 300 lanterns, which will be lit with fire, tea lights and glow sticks at the quarter mile stroll through Spring Hill’s field and woods.
In addition to the lanterns, children in town have made hundreds of luminary bags decorated with their ideas of why they like South Berwick. As one child, 8-year-old Kylie Stephens wrote, “I like our town because it is peaceful.” Or as others said, “I like my town because everyone is nice,” “I like the fact that my town cares about everyone and it keeps people safe,” and finally, “I love seeing the clear stars at night.”
Many of these qualities of this town of about 10,000 people will be evident at the late summer gathering, which has been scheduled as the last Thursday night concert in the Hot Summer Night’s concert series.
Although Colman initially envisioned simply a river of light, volunteers who joined in planning the LanternFest slowly added dreams of their own.
Nicole St Pierre, president of the board of SoBo Central, suggested music and a picnic to open then event. Thus, the soft rock cover band PB&J will play at 5:30 p.m. on the grounds outside the restaurant, while participants are invited to bring a picnic or buy food available on the grounds. Spring Hill, which donated the space for the event, will be selling burgers, hot dogs and other items. Beverages and bake sale items will be sold by community groups.
“I wanted this to be a community event where truly everyone felt welcome,” said St. Pierre, who founded the local Hot Summer Nights concert series. “Besides being a beautiful night of light, a great chance to hear local music and a showcase for creative art, the LanternFest should be a place where we as a town come together to enjoy each other and living in South Berwick.” SoBo Central, a two-year old non-profit group, also runs the Hot Summer Nights concert series.
Dozens of high school students volunteering for the event will staff lantern-making, face-painting, glow stick, lantern, and LanternFest t-shirt booths.
MSAD 35’s new superintendent, Mary Nash will be at the picnic to greet her new constituency and to help her hometown launch this new event.
The 7:30 p.m. parade of handmade lanterns will start just after sunset and end on the shores of Knights Pond, where water lanterns will be launched and dozens of sky lanterns will be set adrift into the night sky. As each water lantern floats away, it will carry the written wish of a participant.
Assistant Town Manager Roberta Orsini will lead a group on shore and out in canoes and kayaks to help launch the boat lanterns and collecting them after they burn out. The sky lanterns will be released by Harland Goodwin of Spring Hill restaurant, and Dave Stansfield, a SoBo Board member representing the South Berwick Food Pantry.
“I imagine the crowds will witness the peace and beauty of water lanterns bobbing on the waters and lanterns rising into the sky,” said Colman.
After all these pieces were set in place, a few of the Fest planners decided to add an AfterGlow Party to close out the evening inside.
While listening to Pub Lunch, a local band donating their talents, adults will be invited to have “lantinis” in the adult room and kids will be given a free movie, mats and babysitting in a neighboring children’s area.
“We came up with the idea of lantinis as a great way to close out the night,” said Mimi Abell, another volunteer planner. “After an evening of celebrating outside, we can all come into the restaurant and relax in the afterglow of a job well done.”
For more information contact Molly Colman at or 603-969-1179.
Photo caption: Jayden, a 3-year-old of So. Berwick makes a lantern at a Hot Summer Nights concert in preparation for the Aug. 25 LanternFest at Spring Hill in South Berwick. (Courtesy photo)