TODAY is the biggest day of the year for Lismore.
Rain or shine, there'll be music in the air and markets in the heart of town, parties in the street and a river of lantern-light around the city as the 2011 Lismore Lantern Parade gets under way at dusk tonight.
The theme for this year's Lismore Lantern Festival is The Great Garden, and for many weeks, Lismore businesses, community groups, schools and residents have been getting into the spirit with imagination and heart.
Shop windows have been decorated, special gardens have been planted in barrels placed around the CBD, and people of all ages have been creating lanterns to carry in the parade.
It is Lismore's signature event, according to Lismore City Council's tourism co-ordinator, Mitch Lowe.
“Many towns have a flagship element and the Lantern Parade is our unique icon,” he said.
“From a marketing and tourism point of view, it's a fantastic brand, known all over Australia.
“And from an economic point of view, it's a huge boost for local businesses.”
Mr Lowe said Lismore's accommodation was “pretty much booked out” for the weekend.
Festival director Jyllie Jackson credits “community engagement and a sense of ownership” as being responsible for the steady growth of the Lantern Festival over the past 18 years.
This year's event is expected to bring more than 10,000 people into the heart of the town.
It's not just an after-dark event. There'll be daytime kids' activities at the Regional Art Gallery, music on two stages at Carrington St from noon till late, and the many stalls of Market de Light all around the cultural precinct.
As the sky darkens, light projections will cause images to appear mysteriously on buildings in the CBD – look up, look down, look all around.
The Lantern Parade will lead spectators to Riverside Park, past a screen where they can meet the Curious Creatures, whose virtual-reality projected shapes will interact with any who come close.
The Lantern Festival costs thousands of dollars to put on and relies heavily on donations from the public. Rather than impose an entry fee, organisers urge you to give generously to the volunteers' buckets.
Wrap up warmly, bring a rug and snuggle up for the Fiery Finale – an extravaganza of fire and light and fireworks, as the Great Gardens are illuminated and their inhabitants come alive. All around there will be Winter Warmer stalls serving hot food and drinks (come and get a Northern Star hot dog!), to fuel your walk back to the Carrington St party, and music to get you dancing the night away.
IT STARTED with a mushroom, and ended up with the prize for best-dressed window in the Lismore Lantern Festival's Enchanted Windows competition.
Toy Kingdom, in Woodlark Street, Lismore, created a colourful display on the theme of The Great Garden and yesterday, judges Brett Adlington, director of the Lismore Regional Art Gallery, Lismore City centre manager Katie O'Rourke and Bonnie Martin from the Lismore Visitors' Information Centre, awarded them the best-dressed prize.
Store manager Hollie James said she had been very keen to take part in the competition.
“We love supporting community events, and the Lantern Parade is such a big thing,” she said.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.