Winter Light Festival turns rainy days into radiant nights

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People gather around Pioneer Courthouse Square to witness the Portland FIRE Showcase. Photo by Erik Paul.

By Erik Paul

A/V Editor

Winters in Portland can be tough. Constant rain. Lack of sun. Minimal daylight hours. Many Portlanders find little incentive to venture outside their homes. However, for the Portland Winter Light Festival hundreds made an exception. Locals, like moths to flame, were drawn out to see the lights at the event held in midwinter.

As soon as we parked and stepped out of the vehicle in downtown Portland we could hear the distant sounds of the crowd, getting louder with each block as we walked toward Pioneer Courthouse Square where enthusiastic chants and laughs joined the already noisy sounds of the city. Adults, children and elderly folks donned lit up costumes that verged on the abnormal.

Giant light installations dominated the sky above the numerous participants. Among the standout exhibits was the “Ill-considered Strength-O-meter and the eternal flame of stupid ideas” – a towering 37-foot strongman attraction featuring fire and responsive lights activated by the presentation of foolish ideas. Due to long lines many folks were deterred from participating but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the occasion anyways.

Among the notable displays were trees with leaves made of LED lights, a massive flower that moved in a blossoming fashion and an enclosed display titled “Equilibrium” that explored the concept of balance between pressures. On the whole, the light displays represented an illuminated sense of creativity. 

Lights weren’t the only things to be enjoyed. The smells of various local food carts wafted through the air including Philly cheesesteaks, sushi, and fish tacos.

The event also featured performers such as the Portland FIRE Showcase juggling fire staves to upbeat electronic music provided by DJMom and a ballet on stilts in a sea of humans performed by Re’ala the Ocean Queen.

The Portland Winter Light Festival was more than just a celebration of lights. It was an event that fostered community and showcased the artsy and whimsical nature synonymous with Portland.

As attendees marveled at the dazzling light displays and savored the eclectic tastes of Portland’s street food, the Winter Light Festival proved to be a radiant beacon breaking the monotony of winter gloom. Despite the chilly weather the warmth of community spirit and artistic expression illuminated the heart of the city.

The events continue in Oregon City and Portland through Feb. 10. 

Erik Paul