By Alicia Stemper/Vitamin O for the Orange County Arts Commission
When the third phase of Hillsborough’s Riverwalk was completed in 2014, Tinka Jordy thought it “seemed the perfect place to bring the community together to celebrate the Winter Solstice with a Lantern Walk.” The first year, organizers hoped for maybe 200 participants; well over one thousand showed up.
As noted on the Hillsborough Arts Council’s website, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The Solstice Lantern Walk is completely non-religious; “a non-denominational celebration of the days slowly getting longer.”
Candace Lacy attended the Solstice Lantern Walk, now in its third year, wearing a green cape she found thrifting in Maine. “I thought it would be nice for an earth-centric celebration.” She fashioned her light from a lantern she found in her yard under the trees, left there by a previous owner. “Even it came back from the earth.”
Hillsborough resident Kara Richards-Baker attended with three generations of her family. After missing it last year due to a timing issue, the group was first to arrive. They were so early they worried they were in the wrong place. “This was our second try,” she said. “We will get it right next year.”
Many lanterns were simple; all were beautiful flowing along the river. The Murphy family from Mebane attended for the 3rd time. They had some of the more elaborate creations with their luna moth, jelly fish, and owl. Patrick Murphy enjoys the “community and seeing all the creative spirit.” Eliza Murphy noted, “This year- of all years-I needed a celebration of light.”
In 2017, more than 2000 registered for the event. Tinkling bells accompanied the (mostly) white lanterns. Said organizer Jordy, “I especially like that it is inclusive of all as it is not associated with any particular faith. I also am fond of organizing events that are creative and participatory and not just spectator.”