NEWINGTON – Pulling visitors from near and far, the third annual Hartford Water Lantern Festival came to Mill Pond Park where participants floated memories, hopes and thoughts on park waters as night fell.
“The Water Lantern Festival is focused on bringing communities together,” said Dylan Gallup, event coordinator. “We think one of the best ways to do that is through combined experiences and being able to share that with people. A lot of people do come to heal from loss of loved ones and recent deaths. Other people come to set goals or imagine their futures here. It has a lot of meanings to people at different stages of their lives.”
Each festival starts about three hours prior to sunset. Visitors check in, listen to live music, potentially play games and visit food trucks.
“Once sunset hits, that’s when the main event starts,” said Gallup. “People are invited to put their lanterns out on the water and they’ll have about an hour to do so.”
Registrants either order online or acquire rice paper and wood lanterns at the event. From there, they can write, draw or decorate them as they choose before putting them on the water with a light inside them.
Nick Eighme and Rich Nowak said they found out about the event via social media and it was going to be one of their first dates.
“Something to let go and something to look forward to,” said Eighme of what he intended to write in his lantern.
“I’m going to draw a picture of a cat. We just got a kitten,” said Nowak.
Hadeel Najdoub, recreation supervisor of Newington Parks and Recreation, said the festival brought visitors from all over the country and workers kept a tally of the places others had come from when they were carded at the beer tent.
“I know they have a big following and it’s great,” she said. “Newington is my home and I want everyone else to see how great of a town it is.”
Theresa Davis, Rosemary Markoja and Izzie Habel said they had never come to the festival before. Markoja shared she had heard about the festival on the news.
“We heard about it at the right time because we had some very bad health news in the family,” she said. “We are here making out the candles, hoping that everything goes (well).”
Markoja continued saying it had been a tough year.
“We’re working through it our way, wishing it away anyways,” she continued. “We wish everybody good health and a good life.”