by Sarah Lord on Tuesday January 31 2023
Myra Rasmussen (40), Artistic Director of the Polka Dot Dragon Lantern Festival (PDDLF), says the planning for the festival is coming along.
“It’s going really well, and we definitely reached a new level. This will be the eighth festival.”
PDDLF is a free community-based event that brings people together to make and experience festival art in mid-winter. Artists and performers are commissioned to partake in the festival and offer community workshops.
PDDLF aims to promote community-engaged arts in the West Kootenays, create and promote events that link arts, nature, and community, and develop and create art and performance in multiple disciplines.
The festival will occur on February 11th from 5 to 7 p.m. at Nelson’s Lakeside Park. The theme for this year’s festival is “Enchanted Forest.”
“We always make it a nature-based theme. It’s very broad to encompass whatever our artists are making. The workshops focus on butterfly lanterns and some simpler forest creature lanterns,” says Rasmussen, a community-engaged artist who focuses on the role of festivals and celebrations in bringing people together.
Originally trained in sculpture, Rasmussen also does printmaking, papier mache, and costumes, and her passion for festival arts has led her to assist in carnival and parade productions in Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Port-of-Spain, Cleveland, Toronto, and Minneapolis.
Rasmussen travelled to Aomori, Japan to apprentice with Master Artist Sakuryu Chiba, learning to make giant lanterns for the Aomori Nebuta Festival.
Born and raised in eastern Oregon, and has been based out of Nelson since 2009. She also teaches classes through ArtStarts and the Oxygen Art Centre. Her three children love attending the festival every year.
The festival has greatly increased its activities of late, says Rasmussen.
“We have new artists participating this year. We’re doing ten different lantern-making workshops in schools and community groups. We’re doing double what we did in the past.”
This year, the festival organizing committee became official.
“We incorporated as a non-profit last year. I’ve been able to access more grants and get more funding which is why we’ve been able to hire a lot more artists and offer more workshops. I have more than quadrupled our budget from last year,” says Rasmussen.
It’s a great venue for local artists to present their work and be compensated for their efforts.
“We have about 25 people who are performers and installation artists, and snow sculpting. They’ll be some great things for people to see,” says Rasmussen.
PDDLF had humble beginnings in 2014, says Rasmussen.
“I started it with some friends. For two years, it was very small at Cottonwood Lake and then four years at Taghum Beach. Last year was the first year at Lakeside, and it really grew,” says Rasmussen. “Having it in town made it more accessible to a lot of people, and the attendance doubled last year. We estimated a thousand people in attendance.”
Last year was tough, explains Rasmussen, as they could not run in-person workshops in schools and the wider community due to Covid.
Rasmussen hopes for a similar turnout as last year. She says the public can get involved in several different ways.
“We encourage community members to make their own lanterns or use our kits. We are offering lantern kits to the public, which will be leaf forest-inspired lantern kits and are available for purchase at Cowan’s starting (late) January.”
This family-friendly event is open to the whole family.
“It definitely appeals to a wide variety of people,” says Rasmussen.
Workshops, that started in mid-January, quickly filled up.
“All the workshops are leading up to the festival. There is lots of build up that is happening,” says Rasmussen.
People are welcome to bring their own lanterns. Any candle lanterns must be in non-combustible containers. The festival permit does not allow any lanterns to be released over the water, so please do not bring sky lanterns. There will be a central information booth where people can get the program of what’s happening.
The public may also visit their website to get more information here.
The society is still looking for volunteers for the day of and leading up to the festival. There is a tab on the society’s website where you can click to connect as a volunteer.
Dress warm and enjoy the lights and sights.
This family-friendly Lantern Festival event is open to the whole family. — Adrian Wagner photo