Imagine a dark night where a long suspension bridge glows in the distance over glistening waters.
Or the shimmer of a sprawling town in the distance you see while you near along a pitch-black highway.
That was how Saturday night’s Lantern Fest seemed, a properly socially distanced affair, with the distinctive lanterns are spaced at a distance so as not to invite tightly knit congestion.
Joan Matey, the curator of the Crooked River Lighthouse who founded the event on the grounds a decade ago, had been forced, by the threat of inclement weather, to move the event from Saturday, Nov. 14 to last weekend.
And then, of course, there were the ongoing concerns about COVID-19, which prompted organizers to cut back on attendance and space out the fragile lanterns a much greater distance than is usually the case.
It all made for a feel of wide-open spaces, and once again an enticing array of lanterns.
Highlighting the assortment were a half-dozen by local metal artist George Ryan and his daughter Gen’ni Ryan. Matey lent a hand on a couple of them, stretching acetate across the frame of the welded metal, and illuminating the colorful bulbs with lights from inside.
Together with two colleagues, volunteers Missy Cumbie and Jennifer Bowers, Matey was once again outfitted in an illuminated dress as Lantern Lady, a glowing variation on the Southern belle hoop skirts. Also swarming on the grounds was Rodney Reeves as Moth Man, dressed in a dark, dusty-looking outfit ringed with a thin, eerie string of tiny bulbs.
The sold-out event drew a steady stream of visitors, with many taking advantage of an opportunity to climb the lighthouse. To avoid having people wait in a clustered line, Steve Allen, president of the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association, implemented a pager system. He said about two dozen groups took advantage of the chance to climb, on the clear, and softly cool, night.
Allen tipped his hat to the volunteer efforts of the Parrot Heads of St. George Island, who stepped in to pick up the slack that has in years past been borne by work crews.
“Lantern Fest requires days of advance set up by volunteers to clean and prepare the grounds, string ropes and light strings from trees, assemble event canopies, and hang over 100 fragile paper and fabric lanterns,” Matey said.
To enhance the evening was the presence of blacksmith John Pfund, food vendor Dave's Dawg House and three sets of musicians who performed Americana and folk favorites from the steps of the museum’s gift shop, which was closed for social distancing reasons.
First to perform were the Bog Lilies, a quartet of four experienced Tallahassee-area musicians who were performing together for the first time, after a long drought brought on by the coronavirus.
Following them was a distinguished duo that traveled in from North Carolina, with Ali Kafka on guitar and Henry Barnes on fiddle.
The music closed with the guitar and banjo work of popular favorite Frank Lindamood.
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Lamps unto our feet