When Buffalo Bayou Partnership celebrates the official grand opening of Buffalo Bayou Park on October 3, among the numerous activities will be an after-dark procession of hundreds of whimsical lanterns representing various aspects of Houston.
An alligator, a margarita glass, an art car, even an athletic shoe, all lighted by batteries, will be carried aloft by volunteers in four roaming corteges moving between between Carruth Bridge at the Houston Police Officers Memorial and the Sabine Street Bridge.
Twenty-nine floating lanterns in the shape of magnolias will be escorted along the bayou by supporters in kayaks.
Created by Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Processional Arts Workshop in New York, the presentation, titled "Confluence: A Journey in Five Movements," is a community-wide project enlisting volunteers to both create the lanterns and to carry them during the procession.
"We really love the fact that this is a community-based activity," said Trudi Smith, Buffalo Bayou Partnership director of public relations and events. "People come together and make new friends here."
In a workshop at the corner of Canal and Navigation east of downtown, volunteers are pouring in daily to help assemble lanterns in the shape of mosquitos, rabbits, nutria, boats, cowboy boots, fish and more. In all, there will be 55 large lanterns and around 150 smaller lanterns created by children in school programs. Twenty-nine floating lanterns in the shape of magnolias will be escorted along the bayou by supporters in kayaks. (That odd number represents the 29 years that the partnership has existed.)
The workshops run through August 14 and interested individuals can sign up for a shift here.
The current flock of lanterns is in the early stages of construction with bamboo and wire employed to create the frame, later to be followed by the application of papier maché and then colored paper. Professional puppeteer and retailer (Iko Iko) Camella Clements and artist Justin Dunford are leading this session of workshops that continue through most of August.
Volunteers walk in off the street to help, some get such a kick out of the project that they return several times. Cases in point, cartoonist and artist Mary Lawton and sculptor Arnold Vanek, who were working on a nutria and a fish, respectively, on a recent afternoon.