The candles were extinguished, the area cleaned. Those that wished to do so, sent messages of goodwill into the universe and captured precious memories on their phones before returning home. And so the Lights & Lanterns that took place on 21 December 2019 came to an end.
While preparing for the event, I realised how quickly you forget about the bad aspects of a given situation and only remember the good. Despite this, I pushed ahead to host the Lights & Lanterns for the fourth year running.
But what does it take to create such an event? What follows will give you some idea of everything that precedes it.
About 600 (2 litre) bottles were requested from Interwaste in George and transported to Great Brak. Empty bottles were also donated by the public and by Baruch’s coffee shop in Mossel Bay. Lables had to be removed, bottles cleaned and cut. (Approximately 800 bottles left over from the 2018 project could also be used.)
The candles donated by SPAR Great Brak had to be cut and prepared (1 300 plus 300 from 2018) for the palettes, piramids and domes, and to be placed on the grassy area where the event takes place. More than 800 candles were floated on the water and almost as many on the grass to demarcate the area; the area below the Three Flags structure was also bathed in soft candlelight.
Safari donated 24 lighters to light all the candles during the event and many willing fireflies saw to it that this happened on time.
Total Great Brak ensured that I had enough petrol for any necessary trips and made a donation towards administrative costs.
Digifusion printed three magnificent banners to advertise the event; despite the fact that one disappeared from Long Street on 16 December, people could still read the invitation to attend the event on the remaining two.
Pick n Pay Great Brak donated the tea light candles which spectators received with their message cards at the entrance; the message cards were to be attached to the maypoles and the candles placed in containers to be lit.
The donation from Prime Cleaning Supplies were used to pay for the request to obtain permission from Mossel Bay Municipality to hold the event.
Mossel Bay Fire Brigade and Law Enforcement offered the necessary support during the event. The Electrical department switched on the power point for the street lights on the riverfront.
After everything had been set up, Suiderkruis Security kept an eye on the terrain.
Concerning the structures for the candles on the water, the following were done:
The central anchor dome (with 56 bottles and candles) was adapted and two smaller anchor domes were created (each with 24 candles in bottles).
Bottles were threaded onto the 8 piramids (each with 44 bottles and candles, i.e. 352 candles in total) and checked.
The 12 palettes used between the piramids (with 30 bottles each thus 360 candles) were repaired and new floating material (also in the form of recycled bottles) provided.
Eight additional anchors were made to ensure that the final structure would stay in place.
A profusion of flowers to be strewn over the water at the beginning of the event were donated from local gardens and had to be picked early in the morning by willing volunteers.
A work team of 10 were on the terrain at 7:00 to offload and unpack everything, pour sand into the bottles, demarcate the area and to put up the maypoles with fairy lights. On the evening several teams helped at the entrances. A holidaymaker’s willingness to help tow all the structures, together with a rubber boat from last year, to the central point was a wonderful gesture of goodwill. The same two swimmers from last year again fastened the triangles, domes and palettes to the central dome and then to each other. Photographers and a drone photographer captured the events throughout the evening. Everyone, from the youngest helper of 14 to the oldest of 78,worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the evening. Another equally enthusiastic group helpedwith the clean up and by 11:00 the terrain was spotless and deserted.
Locals and holidaymakers from far and wide attended the event, geared with chairs, blankets, picnic baskets and a wonderful sense of togetherness. Without this, and every contribution by the sponsors and work team, the Lights & Lanterns would not have happened. For this, my heartfelt thanks.
Why do I tackle an event of such magnitude, especially because it lasts for only an hour and a half? There are many reasons for this. During preparations I spend hours on my own in my garage, cutting the bottles or candles, threading the wire through the piramids and thereafter the bottles. This gives me a welcome opportunity to come to a standstill, to replay the year like a movie in my head, to take stock of my life.
Of course it is also deeply satisfying to see people gazing in wondermentat the first lit candles on the river, to hear the gasps of appreciation when the final structure is in place. Add to this the messages of hope, love and sadness, families that spend precious time breaking bread together, taking pictures together at the burning candles, while being reminded of characteristics like kindness, compassion and gratitude, as well as our responsibility to send light into the world. Another highlight of the Light & Lanterns 2019 was a little girl of about three who took it upon herself to blow out the one candle after the other when the event drew to a close. This, and so muchmore, inspired me to present the event in previous years, and to host it again this year with renewed energy and enthusiasm.