Lights of all shapes and colors danced across the night sky this past weekend as community members gathered together in Patterson Park for the 18th annual Great Halloween Lantern Parade & Festival.
The festival was organized by the Creative Alliance, an organization founded in 1995 that seeks to support the arts community in Baltimore.
The event was sponsored by a number of other community organizations, including the Friends of Patterson Park, the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.
The festival, which catered mainly toward families and young children, began at 3:30 p.m. It included a variety of festive activities including a kids’ costume contest, lantern making, face painting, hayrides and outdoor yoga.
Arts and crafts stands selling clothing, flags and smaller homemade crafts lined the paths of the park.
The creators of the festival also supported local Baltimore food companies. There were nearly a dozen food trucks lining the back of the event area including Mexican on the Run, Wild Thyme and Greek on the Street.
The Halloween spirit was alive and well, with people of all ages crowded into the park dressed in a variety of creative costumes, from giraffes and Jedis to princesses and gory ghosts.
Even pets were dressed up for the occasion. In addition to the Halloween theme, people also embraced the “lantern” element of the festival by stringing colored lights around their necks, bikes and strollers. By nightfall, the park was almost exclusively lit by colorful strings.
The parade began at 7 p.m. (when the sun had set) so the lights and handmade lanterns could be seen and enjoyed. The theme for this year’s parade was “Rise,” a celebration of nature and community.
According to the Creative Alliance’s website, these elements are significant because both “grow stronger and rise when they’re treasured.”
This was notably different from last year’s theme, which focused on celebrating the traditions of Día de los Muertos, a traditionally Mexican holiday in which the living pay respect to the dead.
The route of the marchers began at the Boat Lake in the Patterson Park, heading east to the Park Annex and then back at the Pulaski Monument for the finale on the main stage.
The parade featured a variety of enormous, colorfully lit floats that were carried by different groups.
These ranged from a blinking green bird to a white, wide-eyed ghost to a mermaid skeleton pulled by glowing seahorses to a slinky, multi-sectioned dragon with sapphire eyes.
The Creative Alliance had its own float: a dark purple bat with wings covered in white string lights. Some floats were designed by local, well-known artists while others were crafted by private groups.
There were also stilt walkers, drummers, groups of students from nearby elementary schools and a mariachi band. The iconic Baltimore “Hons” marched in their vibrant, neon outfits.
Any community members who wanted to join in were welcome to walk with their own lanterns, alongside the planned performers.
As the marchers walked past, audience members cheered and clapped, calling out the names of the different floats. The entire parade lasted close to an hour, the drums and horns blasting into the night until the performers finally found their way to the stage at the Pulaski Monument.
Holly Tice, a senior at Hopkins who attended the festival and parade for the first time, commented on her enjoyable experience.
“I liked watching all the kids dance in the parade and seeing the floats go by,” she said. “You could see how much effort everyone involved put into it, and it really paid off because it was a lot of fun.”
With events like the Festival, the Creative Alliance seeks to fulfill their mission of bringing together diverse communities in Baltimore through the arts. The organization has several events scheduled for the remainder of 2017.
On Nov. 2 they will host an event titled “Flickering Treasures: Highlandtown’s Historic Movie Houses,” which will celebrate Highlandtown’s old movie theaters with a slideshow from photographer Amy Davis.
On Nov. 8 the alliance is partnering with the B’nai Israel Congregation to present the klezmer musician Andy Statman and his trio.