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March 2, 2021

Lantern festival shines at new venue

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A few teething problems didn’t dull the shine of the 19th Lismore Lantern Parade on Saturday night as the rain spared one of the biggest parades to date.

CBD cafes, restaurants and venues remained open late alongside market stalls as big crowds lined the parade route.

For the first time the public was charged for the grand finale performances and fireworks display at the new location of Oakes Oval and by all accounts, more people saw the grand finale than in any previous year.

One of the festival features was when many of ABC Open’s Faces of the North Coast portrait project photos,  showing the diversity of the community, were projected onto buildings en route to the oval as part of the festival finale.

With nearly all tickets sold, festival director Jyllie Jackson hoped that the event would cover the extra costs.

‘We’re still counting the money but we pretty much sold out so I hope we’re in the black,’ she said.

‘The weather was unbelievably magical, I could not have asked for better. For the first time a lot of people got to see the finale, a lot more.

‘I just want to thank everybody who came for supporting us and if anybody had any problems I’m sorry and we’re working on it for next year.

‘We had a few teething problems at Oakes Oval but we just need to work those out, we’ve never had an event like this there before.’

Problems included signage issues that left some confused as to where the parade route and the finale venue were, and ticketing problems that left some queuing longer than necessary.

By and large the crowd were satisfied judging by word on the street and social media.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said the feedback she had received was overwhelmingly positive.

‘The word I’ve received is that the venue was fantastic, today I ran into a group of people who said they were from Sydney and said they’d never seen anything like it, they said it was just fantastic.

‘A few things need to be ironed out, as you would expect with a new venue.’

The festival has been under pressure to improve revenue with organisers regularly subsidising the popular event to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000.

Suggestions that the event should be moved to warmer months to improve numbers were scoffed at by most organisers and supporters who said that defeated the whole point of the parade.

‘It was designed as a mid-winter festival and there are very few outdoor events at this time of year and particularly at night and that’s its attraction,’ said Cr Dowell.

‘We don’t compete with too many other things and that allows Lismore to get more visitors, as I drove back from Queensland yesterday I followed a bus into Lismore that I later saw parked beside Crozier Field.

‘If it were held at a warmer time of year there would be the risk of higher rainfall, and you’re competing with a lot more outdoor events so I certainly wouldn’t be in favour of changing it. The whole idea is to warm the nights with lanterns and fire.

‘Next year is the 20th anniversary and I’m sure it’ll be bigger and better than ever. There were some fundraisers held in the lead-up and a lot more sponsorship this year so I’m hoping that financially it was successful.’

Ms Jackson agreed, saying the festival was about ‘bringing in the light’.

‘People put on festivals for the most spurious of reasons, and the reason behind the lantern festival, and why I think it works, is that it has a deeper meaning. It’s about celebrating the community coming together on the longest night and the symbolism of the light and the lanterns,’ she said.

‘It’s about creating optimism and community and it has to go deeper than just picking a date on the calendar.’

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