Years ago, Joanne Hughes went to a lantern festival in Vancouver.
She enjoyed it so much that she started the Ottawa Lumière Festival when she moved here to work at the Crichton Cultural Community Centre.
This Saturday, Ottawa’s most fanciful, magical and whimsical festival is expected to draw more than 10,000 people to Stanley Park in New Edinburgh when it kicks off its sixth annual edition.
The festival has come a long way since 1,500 people came out in its inaugural year. The 2009 edition features over 2,000 lanterns, light installations, performers and costumes.
“It’s got that enchanted feel,” said Hughes. “Little girls want to be pretty and boys like to dress up like knights. And you don’t grow out of that, not at all. It’s the same reason we like prom dresses and wedding gowns. It’s lovely, for one night, to put on fairy wings and feel normal. By dressing up, you become part of the event,” she said.
“I think it’s a very unique festival. We work hard to get you to feel that you’re going for a walk.”
One of the more unique features is that the festival has no entertainment schedule, Hughes added.
“Magic is found when you encounter something spontaneous,” she said.
For that reason, performers — which include 150 professional fire spinners, dancers, acrobats and musicians — are spread all over the site, she said.
“We really encourage people to bring a lantern and dress up,” she said. “And not just children.
We see adults dressed up as princesses, fairies, wizards and dragons, and in historical and cultural costumes like saris and kimonos.”