For one night, during the darkest part of the year, light flows down Waterbury's Main Street. Hundreds of people carry handmade tissue paper lanterns to light up the night. This year's River of Light lantern parade happens this Saturday, Dec. 6, starting at 5 p.m.
"It’s like the Fourth of July. Only dark," commented communications volunteer Lisa Scagliotti.
Saturday marks the fifth annual River of Light parade in Waterbury. Participants are invited to join the parade or line the route, which starts at Thatcher Brook Primary School and ends with a bonfire and hot chocolate at Dac Rowe recreation fields.
This year's theme is "Our Town: Faces, Places and Buildings from Your Hometown." During November, local artists held a series of community and school-based workshops on how to build the willow and tissue paper lanterns used in the parade. The lanterns are lit with small battery-powered LED tea lights.
"Over the past several weeks, Thatcher Brook Primary School students from kindergarten through fourth grade constructed lanterns using willow branches and tissue paper during art classes," an event press release states. "The younger classes experimented with adding bold colors to their lanterns this year, while third and fourth graders learned about architecture to influence their creations."
Thatcher Brook art teacher MK Monley is one of the parade organizers. This year she invited Norwich University art and architecture professor Angelo Arnold and some of his students to introduce architectural themes to her elementary school students. Visual artist Gowri Savoor, another parade organizer, then spent two weeks working with the students to apply their architectural knowledge to lantern making.
This year's lanterns include a covered bridge, two lighthouses, a giant shuttlecock, maple trees and replicas of Waterbury’s Seminary Arts building, Montpelier’s Union Elementary School and the Chrysler Building. Most lanterns will be carried by individuals, but some larger creations will require several people to transport them along the parade route.
Music is also a big part of the parade that lights up the night. This year's lantern parade includes the Burlington street samba band Sambatucada, Burlington-based West African drummers and dancers Jeh Kulu, as well as Waterbury's own Crossett Brook Middle School Junk Band.