Feast of Lanterns lights up Spades Park 

click to enlarge These lanterns are even more beautiful when lit at night.
  • These lanterns are even more beautiful when lit at night.

If you’re hungry for a free event this weekend that has great music and unique arts and crafts (not to mention food) the 2011 Feast of Lanterns at Spades Park is for you. But the main course of the Feast, which occurs only after the sun goes down on Saturday night, is the ceremonial lighting of lanterns and hanging them from the century-old oak trees in Spades Park.

This Near Eastside neighborhood park has served as a venue for the Feast as far back as 1908 when the neighborhood was a suburb of Indianapolis. The event was originally run and organized by the Brookside Civic League, attracting up to 15,000 visitors. This annual event, which faded into history not long after the advent of World War II, was resurrected by the Near Eastside Community Organization (NESCO) in 2003.

Ken Holyoak serves as a member of the NESCO board. “I’ve been active on the near east side for probably the last eight to ten years with churches in the area, with East 10th United Methodist Church most recently,” he says. “I felt a connection to the neighborhood that reminds me of where I grew up in Cleveland. I think this will be my fourth year on the Feast. And we have a committee of about twenty of us. No one has a title. We just all sit down and work together and it comes out in the end.”

A lot of work goes into making the lanterns as well, but it’s not the kind of work that feels like work. “All the lanterns are handmade,” says Holyoak. “We have [lantern] workshops throughout the month coming up to the fest. You’re limited only by your creativity.”

And the Feast has been steadily increasing the number of places at its dinner table, as it were, since it was reborn in 2003. There’s now a Lantern Ball Friday evening, and a Feast Parade that takes place in the morning that winds its way up 10th Street and terminates in Spades Park. There’s a business and organizations expo, a youth pavilion, and two stages for live music performances.

“I’m a little older than a lot of the people who come to the festival and this year with the New Christy Minstrels coming, I actually have a band there that I can relate to a bit,” says Holyoak.

The New Christy Minstrels were a folk group founded by singer and guitarist Randy Sparks in 1961. The group has released over twenty albums and had a number of hits including “Today,” “Green, Green,” “Saturday Night,” and “This Land is Your Land.” Musical alumni of this group, include some names that you may be familiar with: Kim Carnes, Kenny Rogers, Gene Clark, and Barry McGuire, among them.

“The group has sold out all over the country at 40 bucks a ticket,” says Holyoak, who admits that he is old enough to recall this group’s performances. “You can come see them for free here.”

What else is there to do at the Feast? “Naturally being a tad overweight I love the food,” says Holyoak. “East 10th Methodist Church will have hot dogs for the kids. There will be a barbeque stand, eggrolls… There’s plenty to eat.”

And then there will be plenty of booths with work by local artists for sale.

“It’s just a great place for people of the community to all come together and sit down and have a good time,” says Holyoak.

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