Under sunny skies on Saturday morning, the northwest corner of the Arcata Plaza was filled with people making their personalized remembrance lanterns for that evening’s 34th annual Lantern Floating Ceremony at Klopp Lake in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
“This has become a way of remembering those who died 70 years ago in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to help console those who have lost loved ones,” said Maggie Shaffer, one of the event organizers. The Lantern Floating Ceremony, based on the Japanese Obon tradition of honoring the departed, was first organized by the city’s Nuclear Free Zone Committee.
Other community groups and the city of Arcata now host the event, and volunteers organize the lantern-making workshop and evening program, move the hundreds of lanterns to Klopp Lake and retrieve the lanterns after the event.
Under foggy skies, Arcata Mayor Paul Pitino introduced the evening program which included three large lanterns floated to symbolize the “past, present and future,” followed by poetry and sing-alongs led by the Raging Grannies group and Fry Wolhandler.
Around 9 p.m., organizers and attendees began launching the flotilla of lanterns with battery-powered lights inside (new this year instead of candles) onto Klopp Lake. Volunteers waded into the shallows to help move the lanterns out into a light breeze that carried them east into the fog and fading light.