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Illuminares goes back to basics for final event

Lantern festival calls its quits; last event July 20

The Public Dreams Society will conduct its final production of the Illuminares Lantern Festival Saturday, July 20 at Trout Lake in John Hendry Park.

The festival, the last Illuminares the non-profit groups says it will mount, will return to its origins two and a half decades ago with a simplistic atmosphere without stages, speakers or generators. With the theme "25 Light Years," its only light will be the stars.

"Public Dreams has been around for 28 years now and we have had great support from the government," said artistic director Matthew Bissett. "We are budgeting money from the private sector and last year during our big Halloween event, the day we had a monsoon, the weather cut about 80 per cent of attendees and it cuts the money that can be raised.

Aside from a decrease in funds, this year there are only three organization heads involved with the event planning whereas last year there were 10.

"We are so stubborn we wanted to get to 25 years and we thought we'll find a way to make it happen. This is why we are headlining a small festival this year," said Bissett. "The lantern parade is what we have been working on and the spectacle itself is a participatory model where the people can build a little lantern. The little points of light working around the lake will be most glorious and spectacular."

Public Dreams faced similar financial issues a few years ago, making it unable to produce Illuminares.

"There is an excellent level of community engagement for this event. Community members came out themselves five or six years ago, they came out and did it and they held it on their own," said Bissett. "We are going to try to hibernate and are looking for community partners to produce this event now, sort of like passing it on to someone else."

Each year, more than 20,000 people attend Illuminares, one of the best known large-scale events by Public Dreams.

"I used to live on Commercial Drive so I've seen the events and my favourite memory was when they did live outdoor theatre shows," Bissett said. "Certainly, for any organization to last 28 years is a success story_it's difficult to have that kind of longevity."

The lantern-lit procession, which gave Illuminares its signature symbol, will begin at 9:30 p.m., and organizers hope the walk around Trout Lake will forge a link from the first Illuminares to the present.

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