Lantern Festival set to light Tofitian night

The 15th annual Tofino Lantern Festival will light up the night this weekend.

Tofino’s August sky will soon be aglow with a colourful collection of light flowing from hundreds, if not thousands, of creatively handcrafted local creations.

The 15th annual Tofino Lantern Festival will land at the Tofino Botanical Gardens on Sunday, August 16.

The event is a consistent favourite amongst the West Coast’s locals and visitors and is the Raincoast Education Society’s largest annual fundraiser.

The society’s executive director Dan Harrison told the Westerly that the event has grown substantially over the years.

“That really is a reflection of how much support we have. Visitors and locals come out every year and support it knowing that it’s a great event,” he said.

“The event itself is incredibly enjoyable and reaches so many families…and all the proceeds go right back to all the education programs we provide in the community.”

As they get set to ring in the festival’s 15th appearance, the society is also celebrating its 15th birthday, as the event has been an annual staple on the society’s calendar.

“From the get go, we were a small organization and the lantern festival was a small event.  Now the organization has grown substantially and this event continues to grow with us and allows us to grow,” Harrison said.

“The funds that we receive from this event allow us to grow into the organization we’ve become…It’s been incredibly substantial and the support has really allowed us to push through some tighter times.”

The event now brings in about $10,000 each year for the society to put towards its local programming, according to Harrison.

“I see our role as key educators for people towards understanding and appreciating the natural world; to connecting with it and being active stewards of this incredible landscape,” he said.

“Through our education programs, through our research, (and) through our public events, we’re able to reach a broad demographic of the community and spark an interest and lifelong appreciation for the natural world.”

Harrison added the event would not be possible without the support of the Tofino Botanical Gardens that has provided the setting for every festival to date.

“It’s an ideal partnership where we have this incredible showcasing of the coastal temperate rainforest environment that we really try to educate people about and we’re able to have an informal educational experience where people can come out and celebrate in a festival manner but also be immersed in an old growth rainforest,” Harrison said.

“There’s no better setting than the Tofino Botanical Gardens.”

Anyone looking to boost their festival experience beyond spectatorship is encouraged to become part of the festivities by putting their own lantern together at one of the Lantern Making Workshops leading up to the event.

Festival organizer Cindy Hutchison said daily workshops will run in Tofino from August 10-14, from 1–6 p.m. each day and in Ucluelet on August 10 and August 11 from 6-8 p.m.

“You get to build your own lantern, which is pretty cool, and you get to take that home with you,” Hutchison told the Westerly. “It’s a little keepsake and you get to be part of the festival.”

Pre-made lantern kits are available as well as supplies for anyone wanting to get more creative with their creation.

Supplies and pre-constructed lanterns are available from $10 to $15.

Hutchison said crafting a lantern to floss during the festivities adds to the experience and boosts the event’s significantly family friendly vibe.

“I always love when kids come the night of lantern fest. and they’re carrying their lanterns around and they’re so proud of it and they get to show it off,” she said.

“It’s a fun time too with parents and kids, they get to make it together and it’s just a really, really, fun activity…You get to bond and build something.”

The volunteer driven festival needs plenty of volunteer hands to thrive and anyone interested in helping out, with either the workshops or the event itself, is encouraged to get in touch with Hutchison at 250 266 4138 or cinds.h@gmail.com.

Parking will not be allowed at the event but shuttles will be on hand to carry festivalers from Tofino’s Village Green to the Botanical Gardens every half-hour starting at 7 p.m.

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca