Music warms a cold, wet Lantern Fest


The night was cold and rainy. But the work of countless volunteers made the dreary night warm and bright. They had labored long and hard for days before the special event stringing lights, setting up the grounds and creating and hanging beautiful lanterns.

This was the Carrabelle Crooked River Lighthouse’s annual Lantern Fest fundraising celebration, and although held Nov. 19, a week earlier than last year’s unseasonable cold, weather again became an issue. Instead of the current 70-plus degrees, it felt like freezing at 40 degrees in the rain and winds. The weather even turned against the temporary lights and sound system on the new platform stage in the Lady Carrabella replacement ship’s construction when water mixed with the electricity and the predictable end occurred.

The incredible, black-garbed Tallahassee Community College dancers performed only once with their brilliantly lighted orbs, making the night dance as well! They finished their first full performance on the lawn, allowing visitors to see their brilliant choreography firsthand. Then, in true show business tradition, the bluegrass musicians, the Bottom Dollar Boy$ (all four of them) moved their instruments up to the dry museum porch corner and entertained attendees for more than an hour, accompanied impromptu by the unbelievably skilled Master Zheng Player, Dr. Haiqiong Deng on the ancient, 21-stringed instrument called a (zheng). 

Embed: Video of Bottom Dollar Boy$ and Dr. Haiqiong Deng

All 50 fingers of the musicians kept playing despite the cold, entertaining all of the guests who braved the weather to enjoy those special song stylists. Dr. Deng accompanied the bluegrass songs as if rehearsals had gone on for months instead of just for their impromptu performance. 

One of my favorite sights was a young boy, moving and groovin’ and swaying to the classic bluegrass music of Hank Williams and the John Henry song, written long before his youthful age. His siblings stood transfixed as Dr. Deng’s fingers danced over the strings of the instrument, so unfamiliar to them.

Food booths from the Crooked River Grill and the Bite Me food trailer (usually located near the Centennial Bank corner in Carrabelle) offered popular foods to hungry guests. Hot drinks at the Beacon Bistro hot drinks booth were especially welcomed. There were even marshmallows at the warming fire pit. The museum, featuring the newly recovered, original Crooked River Fresnel lens and the gift shop were both open, welcoming guests.

Display tents featured blacksmithing by John Pfund and Chris Cauthen, plus rope making demonstrations by Ken Horne. There was a kaleidoscope, blacklight and psychedelic images tent that entertained children and adults alike. Lighthouse climbs and more than a hundred, handmade illuminated lanterns of all types and sizes fluttering in the night winds made it a magical night, albeit unseasonable.

In true community festival style, welcomes were given by Steven Allen, president of the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association and the architect and/designer of the Lady Carrabella’s successor ship, Carrabelle Mayor Brenda La Paz and Joan Matey, planner and stylist of the Lantern Fest event. G and H Concrete had donated the ship’s foundation. Even my own schoolteacher sister and architect brother-in-law, visiting from Kansas City, were impressed by the special lighting of the small town Carrabelle-area evening.

Lantern Fest, Bottom Dollar Boy$, gu-zheng


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