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First Nations lead procession of the lanterns in downtown Sidney

Annual Salish Sea Lantern Festival hosted by ArtSea

SIDNEY — Two giant prawns and a Salish Sea mermaid led a procession of lanterns from the Sidney bandshell, along the waterfront, and out onto the Bevan fishing pier as part of the ArtSea Salish Sea Lantern Festival Saturday night.

Led by local First Nations, the procession and some of the lanterns that were created for the event was captured by local photographer Bob Orchard, who shared his images with the News Review.

The prawns and mermaid are the creation of Jennifer Witvliet, the founder and organizer of the event for ArtSea, and the driving force behind bringing the festival to Sidney by the Sea.

“It’s such a fantastic venue for the festival. It’s truly a fantastic sight … a celebration of color and light,” said Witvliet.

It’s the third year for the celebration in which lanterns (lit by tiny electric lights – no candles during forest fire season) inspired by the creatures of the Salish Sea are installed along the waterfront at the culmination of this free, family-friendly event.

Children have always been a big part of the festival and, for months, Witvliet has involved elementary school children in Sidney. In recognition of the special relationship between the Saanich First Nations Community and the sea, Witvliet has been working closely with grade seven and eight students of the WSANEC Leadership Secondary School, building traditional ‘drum lanterns’ that will form part of the display. Children from the SENCOTEN summer immersion program have also been involved.

The event was originally inspired by Witvliet’s involvement with Victoria’s ill-fated Luminara Festival which , although extremely popular, fell victim to funding and political feuding and was abandoned.

“I can’t imagine a better place than Sidney for this festival concept to find new life,” said Witvliet.

— with files from Tim Collins