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Enthusiasm builds for Innisfail’s lantern festival

Up to 300 free lantern kits already handed out to citizens

INNISFAIL – The light will soon be on Innisfail.

Hundreds of them. They are being created now. They are being created by the young and old.

“When you put it up in the sky you will see yours and there will be a light in everyone’s soul,” said Arianna Aris, a 10-year-old child from Indus, Alta. who was with her Red Deer County grandmother Joanna Mangan last week at Market On Main.

Like scores of other children and adults they are waiting to shine their lanterns on July 24 at the first annual Innisfail Lantern Festival, believed to be the only event of its kind in Alberta.

“I am volunteering and I am excited to see all the lanterns light up the area, and people to open their hearts and have light into the community,” said Mangan. “I think this brings the community together. There seems to be more people who are happy and they feel good about joining together.”

The Innisfail Lantern Festival is the inspiration of well-known Innisfail businessman Dale Dunham, who experienced many such festivals in Victoria, B.C. before moving to town.

The event is designed around several free, coordinated community events for two weeks, from July 10 to 24, that culminates with what is billed as a magical evening lantern-light celebration at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.

Leading up to the event, lantern creating workshops are being held at the historical village and Market on Main.

Innisfail volunteer Jordanne Willson, who was helping citizens put together lanterns at Market on Main on July 13 with the free kits, said she was motivated to be a part of the festival because it guarantees positive community event after 16 months of trial with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s to see everyone together, and being positive now,” she said. “The star one is definitely hard. It took three of us to figure it out. It is my first time doing it. It is a new experience for me.”

Dunham said up to 300 lantern kits have already been freely handed out to citizens for the July 24 community celebration. He said the Town of Innisfail and the business community has “stepped up” to financially support the event, with the town giving an initial grant of $2,500 and many businesses and citizens following with their own donations.

“All of those donations as well as the grant from the town have allowed us to purchase all the materials necessary to put the kits together for everybody in town for them to be able to get one and make,” said Dunham.

The big celebration at the historical village on July 24 begins at 11 a.m., and concludes at 11 p.m.

Dunham said when guests begin arriving at the historical village in the morning, they will see many lanterns and light installations throughout the facility, lining all the pathways and hanging from trees, as well as ones still being worked on. He said citizens will be able to attend another workshop throughout the day. There will also be a free barbecue, served up by members of the Rotary Club of Innisfail.

In the afternoon several eager young Innisfailians will be going to seniors’ residences, including Autumn Grove, to have a parade outside with their lanterns. The youth will then come back to the village where they can continue to carry their lanterns or place them with the others.

At dusk, the LED battery-powered lanterns, which will remain mounted on the ground or hung in trees, will be lit. There will be a brief presentation to thank volunteers and sponsors. There will be a spectacular light and sound show. Citizens will be able to walk the grounds and marvel at the brilliant community-created light.

“It is one thing to see these lanterns in the daylight it is a whole another thing to see all the work a lot of these kids and different people have put into colouring them, and it will just show so much better when the sun is down and they are lit up,” said Dunham, who is hoping the event is one that unifies the community.

“I hope people will realize that we are all part of this community. We all have a responsibility to each other. It doesn’t matter where we lie on the political spectrum and that we do remember that we are all members of this community. We all need to support each other,” said Dunham, who also hopes the Innisfail Lantern Festival will inspire the rest of Alberta and beyond.

“Obviously the tag line is be the light. Show the rest of Alberta and show the rest of Canada and the world that Innisfail is a strong town full of good people, and we all want the best for each other.”

For more information on the Innisfail Lantern Festival, including a full list of sponsors, go to the website at innisfaillanternfestival.ca