The Great Halloween Lantern Parade

If you know me at all, then you know that anytime I find myself with some spare time on my hands, I find some new project to fill it up. In the spring and summer, I spend at least one Saturday a month leading canoe trips and cleaning aquariums at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center near Annapolis, MD. Throughout the year, I serve as chairperson for the Smithsonian Institution Women's Council, an employee advocacy group. For the second year in a row, I am spending my fall helping with The Great Halloween Lantern Parade.

Held every year for the past decade in Baltimore's Patterson Park, The Great Halloween Lantern Parade is a truly unique event. The parade itself features stilt walkers, candle-lit bamboo and paper-mâché lanterns, giant floats, drums, costumed performers, and more. The parade is open to anyone who wants to be a part of it, and it's totally bilingual--English and Spanish. This year the parade will take place on October 24.

Nana Projects, a local nonprofit that specializes in community oriented, cultural performances, holds at least a dozen free lantern making workshops for families in the months leading up to the parade, not to mention the new "lantini" party for adults. Martinis, bamboo, paper mâché and flames--what fun! They also offer stilt walking classes and have a parade school to share their expertise with other local artists and community organizers.

Last weekend, I spent five hours at the Lantern Parade Studio on Eastern Ave., creating a shawl-like throw for a stilt walker to wear. Molly Ross, Nana Projects director, gave me a five-gallon bucket of strips of white Tyvec, a big piece of lightweight netting and a few instructions to work with. I cut the netting into an oval shape and cut a hole in the middle. I proceeded to tie the strips of Tyvec around the bottom and middle edges to create a "shawl" with white fringe around the collar and bottom edges. The costume will be worn by one of the stilt walkers and will look amazing, no doubt. The white will glow as light from the lanterns splashes against it and the "fringe" will sway and flow with the stilt walkers every move.

On the day of the parade--October 24--I will be lighting lanterns, providing logistical info to participants and helping students from a local charter school carry their float along the 45-minute parade route. The best part...I get to wear a fun costume! I will be dressed in an all-white jumpsuit with a hand-made, light-up "pagoda hat" on my head. The hat--which is an almost-14-inch-tall bamboo structure wrapped with paper mâché--is designed to look like Patterson Park's well-known pagoda.

I am seriously considering taking the stilt walking classes next year. After taking four lessons in stilt walking, newbie stilt walkers are ready (apparently) to brave the 45-minute parade route, up and down the hills of Patterson Park. According to Annie Howe, Nana Projects artist and professional stilt walker, the newbies bring up the back of the parade line. Apparently they don't move fast.

Patterson Park Pagoda


  1. I'm jealous! Sounds like you really have the opportunity to get involved with some great community iniatives. We have nothing like that around here. *boo*

    I bet the parade is going to be amazing - stilts and all.

  2. I wish we could come! Maybe next year.

  3. It really is an awesome community event. I love the inclusiveness.

    Heather--You should definitely bring the little one for the parade next year! By then I should have my basement finished (god willing!) and could offer you a place to sleep. Maybe we could get Lora and her little guy down too...

  4. How cool! I wish there were neat things like this in my area. We have a 5 min halloween parade filled with girl scouts, boy scouts, and the high school band. That's it. I think it is great that you are so involved in your community and at work. Have fun at the parade and rock out that awesome headpiece!

  5. next year I want in on this! I wish I would've known in advance. I'll drag the boy(s) down and make a day of it.

    Thanks for being awesome.
    And inspiring.
    And my friend.

  6. Cool beans! sounds like a great community to be a part of and way to go for always getting involved....you inspire me MJ!

  7. Thank you for your kind words Lora and shansPLC. The parade is postponed until Sunday night because it is supposed to rain all day tomorrow. Whatever the day, it will no doubt be a great time!

  8. That sounds like a BLAST!!!! You must take photographs so we can see! You continue to rock my world, lady.