WORCESTER – Hundreds of people gathered at Elm Park in Worcester on Saturday evening for the Water Lantern Festival to cast lanterns across Lincoln Pond in memory of loved ones, or to share their hopes and dreams.
Much of the crowd in attendance sported the Water Lantern wristbands and drawstring bags while lounging on blankets in the park, waiting to have their faces painted by a Disney princess, playing a round of cornhole, or purchasing other merchandise from several vendors on site.
The Water Lantern Festival is a nation-wide event that aims to be an inspirational event to connect the people of each city it visits.
The festival started in 2017 and has been hosted all across America, lighting up more than 100 cities including major cities like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami.
According to Water Lantern Festival’s Public Relations representative Katie Schwendiman, the Worcester festival expected around 1,000 people to attend in its first year.
Arlene Defeo and Michelle Ouellette — a pair of Worcester residents attending the festival — said this was their first time at the festival and that they had read about it online.
“We had seen that it travelled to Boston and we were thrilled that they were going to visit Worcester,” Defeo said.
Ouellette added, “It’s meaningful to the community, and its purpose is to bring people together for a positive event rather than to stand together for something negative and come together for reasons of hate.”
With the purchase of a ticket, each participant received entry to the festival, a floating lantern, a marker to decorate the lantern, a drawstring bag, wristband, and a scavenger hunt game.
Participants were encouraged to make their lanterns personal and vibrant with the markers they receive upon entry. Their designs can be playful as unique works of art or emotional by writing messages to loved ones or writing down their hopes and dreams.
Samantha Rodriguez and Tasha Deblois, a couple from Worcester who were attending the event as a date night, explained the heartfelt messages behind their decorated lanterns.
Rodriguez and Deblois put the initials of their deceased loved ones on their lanterns with hearts and put that with the names of their living family before they sent their lanterns across Lincoln Pond.
Rodriguez said that the couple attended this event rather than any other type of typical “date night” due to the nature of the event.
“It’s a fulfilling and wholesome night. We can dedicate our lanterns to our lost loved ones,” Rodriguez said.
At 8 PM, Rodriguez, Deblois, Defeo, Ouellette and hundreds of others moved along the shore of Lincoln Pond to send their lanterns into the water, an act symbolizing the release and actualization of the participants’ wishes and messages.
Lead photo credit: Water Lantern Festival
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