14th Lantern Festival lights Tofino Botanical Gardens

Locals and visitors hit up a lit up Tofino Botanical Gardens on Sunday to take in the 14th annual Tofino Lantern Festival.

The festival is the Raincoast Education Society’s largest annual fundraiser with proceeds going towards the society’s educational programming.

The society held lantern-making workshops leading up to the event for festivalers to unleash their creativity and the festival kicked off with a parade for kids to floss their handmade creations.

Live music and dancers followed the parade and as soon as the day’s sun went to bed the gardens’ trails were opened for festivalers to take in the hundreds of lanterns sprinkled throughout.

It was the first Lantern Festival experience for Tofino’s Emery Hartley who volunteered to help ignite wicks throughout the night.

“I was drawn in by the lights you could say and the diversity of ages really embodies what I think Tofino is,” he said. “It’s really a community that brings

people together and the Lantern Festival does that, it brings people together.”

Another West Coaster celebrating

his inaugural Lantern Festival experience was Ucluelet’s Danny Osborne, who was stoked to be surrounded by so many lanternloving locals. “It’s nice seeing everyone come out for a community event,” he said.

Osborne took in the lights with friend Skyla Witt who was enamoured with the sights.

“I love seeing the lanterns at night and how they illuminate the forest; it’s awesome,” Witt said.

Tofino local Marnie Helliwell and her three children

for whom the festival is a can’t-miss feature on summer’s calendar.

“It’s my kids’ favourite thing to do in Tofino every year,” she said. “The forest is lit up and it looks like magic and they’re so excited about each and every lantern that they see.”

Ucluelet local Bronwyn Kelleher meandered through the lanterns with 22-month-old son Kellen.

“It’s romantic and it’s quirky and it’s totally West Coast,” she said adding the festival draws a unique blend of old and young visitors and locals.

The festival holds uniquely special value to Kelleher’s family as it was the setting for her first date

with boyfriend Dave Brown seven years ago. “Now I’m bringing our own kid here,” she said, beaming.

Tofino municipal councillor Dorothy Baert touted the event as a showcase of Tofino’s “enormous creativity,” and the devout lantern festivaler is thrilled to have grown accustomed to surprises each year.

“It has longevity and a sense of anticipation and uncertainty about what might unfold in the next year that expresses that creativity,” she said.

She called the festival a “magnet” that draws locals and visitors in year after year and spoke highly of the society it benefits.

“There’s a real positive spirit because it’s done for a very, very, good cause,” she said.

“The Raincoast Education Society has such an enormous influence around education and awareness around environmental concerns.” Pouring the community’s creative juices over the Botanical Gardens’ perfect backdrop creates an unrivaled source of magic, according to Baert.

“The garden itself is a work of art, it’s brilliant, and to be able to wander through little pathways and experience the magic that’s been created is unlike anything you could experience anywhere else.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca