Saturday night in a tiny town in Central Vermont, hundreds of children and artists of all ages will be aglow in a beautiful December ritual, The River of Light Lantern Parade.

Every year at the beginning of December when the nights begin to darken and the cold sets in, the people of Waterbury, Vermont carry illuminated hand-made lanterns in a magical procession through town.

First organized in 2010 as a small school-wide event at Thatcher Brook Primary School, the free festival is now in its 5th year and includes people of all ages and backgrounds from neighboring communities and towns. It has grown every year, attracting visitors from across New England who want to celebrate the change of seasons with live music, light and a fire.

In the weeks before the parade, artists conduct free community lantern workshops in schools and elsewhere that teach anyone how to make willow and coffee-filter paper lantern structures. There is also a special 2-day intensive Artists’ Lantern Workshop to instruct regional artists how to teach lantern-making in their own communities and make the larger structures, such as full length dragons, to spearhead a procession.

“It is really empowering for children to celebrate alongside elders, artists, college students and community members,” said visual artist and co-organizer Gowri Savoor.

the-river of light-parade-Waterbury-VT-submitted
Photo by Gordon Miler

Her co-organizers include another artist, Angelo Arnold, and a school art-teacher, MK Monley. Volunteers help to make the parade a success. Battery operated LED lights are sold in the school gym, if you don’t have your own illumination, and they are giving away free batteries to power older lamps. Students from Norwich University and the Harwood Union High School help the younger children with their lanterns, distribute free hot chocolate, and control the fires during the finale.

“It is an emotional, visceral and totally memorable event, open to all, and a wonderful example of community engagement through the arts,” added Savoor.

The event this year is scheduled for December 6, 2014, with the theme “Our Town: Faces, Places and Buildings from your Home-town.” The parade leaves Thatcher Brook Primary School at 5 pm.

Learn more at aRiverOfLightInWaterbury or watch their 8 minute video produced in 2012.

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