The Illuminati – the “Enlightened Ones”. It may be an overused plot point for adventure novels and conspiracy theories, but the general idea of gaining enlightenment isn’t that bad. In this case it was literal enlightenment, a means to dispel the gloom of the long winter nights of the Pacific Northwest. With that in mind I joined other light-deprived citizens for the 4th Annual Mount Vernon Illuminight Walk.
I had seen a post for the event downtown a couple of weeks ago and mentioned it to Laura. At the time we thought it was a good idea and made plans to attend…then promptly forgot about it. I had so many other music-related events that it kind of got pushed to a back burner.
We made other plans. Laura was going to attend a chemistry seminar at Western Washington University and I had planned to head back to the Slug Jam in Bellingham. By some coincidence that morning Laura commented on how quickly the days seemed to be getting longer. By next week there would be nearly 15-20 minutes more daylight as the sun rose earlier and set later.
That extra sunlight was not in evidence this particular Thursday. It was a typically cloudy and rainy day. I really didn’t want to drive back up to Bellingham for another musical event, especially one where the same tunes would be played slowly. I started to look for closer options, and that’s when I stumbled back onto Illuminight.
First, let me be clear. The word “illuminati” was never used by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association, or anyone else associated with the event. I use the term here simply because when I first saw the name of the event the word “illuminati” popped into my head.
That being said, I was curious about the word “illuminight.” It’s obviously a portmanteau, but is it exclusive to this event? It turns out that there are “Illuminights” all over the world, but they are held throughout the calendar year. The one that hits the top of the Google search list is one held in the fall at Dean Castle County Park in Killmanock, Scotland.
The walk was supposed to take place at 5:30, but there were events preceding the actual parade. Tri-Dee Arts downtown was offering a free luminaria workshop at 4:30, so I headed down early and was able to find parking on First Street. As is my habit, I was early for the event, so I was one of the first to get started, beating the crowds that would follow.
The event started in the alley next to Tri-Dee. Tents were set up for registration and decoration of the luminarias.
First I was given a plain white paper bag. There were markers on the tables where I could draw designs on the bag. On one side I drew a rough stained glass window, and even rougher stars on the other side.
There were mostly kids creating luminarias, but there were some from all ages there.
I took my luminaria inside for completion. The next step was to select a piece of cellophane for the interior of the bag. This would help diffuse the light and add more color. I selected yellow for mine.
Next, a small waterproof LED tea light was added to the bag.
At the next station someone helped me tie a string to my bag and staple it closed, with the light turned on inside.
The final step was to attached the bag to a small bamboo stick with tape.
And there I had my completed luminaria.
If you weren’t comfortable with your own artist abilities, or just lazy, Tri-Dee had some beautiful paper-mache’ globes for sale for $10.
From Tri-Dee I walked across to the starting point for the parade. A tent was set up and a group was to perform later. This was the first time I’d explored the river walk. Under the bridge there was a memorial to the workers that had cleared a major logjam on the Skagit River.
While I was waiting for things to get underway a group of students arrived and began setting up. These were students from LaVenture Middle School and were members of their marimba ensemble. I briefly chatted with their director. She said that the instruments were hand built by and artisan on Vancouver Island. These were impressive, as were the kids themselves. They played several pieces folks gathered for the parade.
Folks began to gather as they completed their luminarias. Most were of the paper bag variety that I had made. However, some were quite a bit more elaborate. Apparently Tri-Dee had offered lessons to sculpt more intricate pieces for the event. There were hummingbirds, eagles, fish, tulips, and other designs.
There were other creative designs. One person had taken a windsock and wrapped it in battery powered Christmas lights. Another couple used IKEA stars.
I was thinking about things I could do for next year’s event, then sadly realized that I won’t be here for next year’s event.
Other musicians started to arrive. A rag-tag group showed up, set to lead the parade. There were a few requisite words and “thank yous” to get thens underway, then the band started up a swinging New Orleans tune.
The parade got underway with the band leading everyone along the Skagit River Walkway.
It was fun walking along with the group. We walked to the end of town then turned around and headed back. I asked one couple what happened afterwards, and they siad that it was a bit anti-climatic. When I got back to the cross street where I had parked, I bailed.
Still, it was a fun evening, and I’m so glad that I decided to do this instead of yet another Slug Jam. It was a great way to dispel the gloom of the long winter nights here in Washington State.