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