Sunday, August 15, 2010

Northern Lights Lantern Festival: August 14, 2010

When people in Halifax talk to me about the North End, it's usually to warn me not to go there. To be fair, there have been some high profile violent events which have happened there, but as one Halifax police officer stated in a local newspaper, after an area around a North End community housing project was voted by its readers as the most dangerous neighbourhood in Halifax, there are actually other areas in the city in which one is more likely to get into trouble.

Despite once being a high class suburb of Halifax, with all of the glamorous people and shops, the North End was largely forgotten by the city after the '60s, as attention shifted to the downtown area. Once vibrant streets and neighbourhoods fell victim to time and neglect, and now show the visible signs of decay that in my opinion gives them a sense of charm. Despite a recent resurgence in interest by a few brave entrepreneurs, and hipsters, the North End is still an area that is home to a good majority of the poor/black people in Halifax; I suspect this has more to do with the aforementioned "warnings" I've received than anything else.

Despite all of the negative, if any, publicity, I consider the North End of Halifax to be one of my favourite areas. It has a community garden, a number of parks, the friendliest people, and the most interesting historic buildings in all of Halifax. Last week, readers will remember that a free barbecue/concert was put on at a park here by a Dalhousie University radio station; this weekend would see the familiar sights and sounds of the biggest North End event of the year: The 7th Annual Northern Lights Lantern Festival, in Merv Sullivan Park ("The Pit").

The Northern Lights Lantern Festival is an event that has run annually since 2004, with the intention of celebrating North End Halifax. Despite expecting more than 5000 visitors, the event organizers once again chose, in that North End generous fashion I and a few other non-North Enders have come to love, to make the admission, food, concerts, games, events, and other booths and tables entirely free. As usual, I took advantage of this, and stuffed myself with five hot-dogs, two pops, two coffees, about seven Timbits, and a giant cupcake. The only thing that kept me from going back for sixths was my painfully swollen stomach. Did I mentioned that I love the North End?

(The obligatory bouncy castle saw quite a bit of action, unsurprisingly.)

(Unexpectedly though, the Northern Lights Lantern Festival has been the only event I've seen so far to include a free petting zoo, complete with its very own Scottish Highland Cow.)

(Making lanterns for the Parade of Lanterns that is the highlight of every Northern Lights Lantern Festival. I didn't stick around to watch it though, as this was already part of a long and busy day, and I decided that I should go home to rest.)

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