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Behind the Scenes

A parade of lights for summer’s end

Procession takes place in Easton this weekend

By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / August 25, 2011

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Their town was in need of a good late-summer party, members of the Easton Cultural Council thought last year. “Not everybody goes to the Cape in the last week in August,’’ said Kit Minsky, the town’s citizen-business advocate and a former council member.

Council member Christine Junge, a newcomer from Boston’s Jamaica Plain, recalled that community’s “lantern walks,’’ gatherings that combined the pleasure of numbers, the drama of showing homemade lights on a late-summer evening, and family-style live entertainment.

“It could be done in any community,’’ Junge said. “We transplanted it.’’

Following up on last summer’s successful event, the cultural council is holding Easton’s second annual Lantern Walk this weekend. The procession goes from the Historical Society to the town’s Ames Free Library in the center of Easton, a community of 23,000 with a reputation for livability. The live entertainment comes at the end.

Easton was recently ranked 43d by “CNN Money’’ in its annual ranking of the 100 best places to live in the United States. It’s hard to find a place where you “can spread out’’ in the densely settled Boston area, the financial news website said, “but Easton, 30 miles south of the city, has done a better job than most towns of preserving its open spaces.’’

The cultural council, a local body whose main job is to disburse state cultural arts money to worthy uses, decided last year to take on the job of sponsoring the new lantern walk itself. It held a workshop to teach youngsters and others how to make lanterns out of empty soda bottles and colored paper, and put the word out about the event. Then organizers gathered on the appointed date one evening last summer and waited to see who would show up.

“It was much more successful than we expected,’’ Junge recalled. Planners kept their expectations low for the inaugural event.

“We were kind of nervously waiting at the start to see who would show up. Would it be 10? Would it be 20? People kept coming and coming. We were delighted,’’ she said.

Organizers distributed the “tea lights,’’ small battery-powered lamps, to shine through the homemade lanterns, and the procession took off with 100 participants, parading the quarter-mile to the Ames Library, where entertainment took place in the recently restored Queset Garden.

The locally based Jubilate Chorale and family entertainer Wayne Potash took the stage last year and will perform again this year.

Potash “was really great,’’ Junge said. “He sings kind of silly songs and gets the kids jumping around. Even some of the adults get involved.’’

Part of the entertainment’s pleasure lies in the outdoor setting, the formal Italian gardens behind the parking lot that were reclaimed during the library’s renovation. “They were so overgrown no one knew they existed,’’ Junge said. “They’ve been redone, with rock pathways between the flower beds.’’

The garden setting includes a small “rustic-looking’’ stage. The audience sits on a lawn in front.

The lantern walk is not only a good way to celebrate the traditional end of the summer, it’s also a way for the cultural council to raise its visibility, Minsky said.

“The Easton Cultural Council receives state grant money each year, so we divvy the money and award it to artists and support programs,’’ Minksy said. “It’s a chance to show what the council does and where our money goes.’’

Given the downward trajectory in state support for the arts, Easton received around $5,000 for disbursement by the cultural council this year. To put on this year’s lantern walk, the council granted itself $200 to pay the entertainers, and council president Heidi Harlfinger headed up the preparations.

Part of the experience is making the lanterns themselves. The council has been holding a weeklong series of workshops to help young ones make their own. The last of these take place today at the Village Toy Shop, 285 Washington St., at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The basic steps involve cutting off the top of a large plastic soda bottle, roughing the surface of the bottle (so the glue will bond better), and gluing cut-up pieces of colored tissue paper to the bottle. You punch a couple holes through the upper edge of the plastic and tie string though the holes for a handle.

Children can cut the paper in whatever design they want, Junge said. “There’s no right or wrong way. It’s an open-ended project any group can have fun with.’’

While the procession begins before true dark - out of safety considerations, council members say - twilight falls when the youngsters are at the garden. That’s when the results of their creative labors show their colors, as night darkens and the lanterns begin to glow.

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.

Second Annual Lantern Walk Begins at Historical Society,

80 Mechanic St., Easton

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

Free

www.easton.ma.us


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