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So Many Little Lanterns Lighting up Downtown Eau Claire

On New Year's Eve, families take to the Grand Ave. walking bridge in downtown Eau Claire carrying homemade paper lanterns.
On New Year's Eve, families take to the Grand Ave. walking bridge in downtown Eau Claire carrying homemade paper lanterns.

With temperatures dropping and Jack Frost peeking around the corner, it’s time to start the transition from fall festivities to winter holiday hoopla. The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is hosting a Whoville-esque shindig as a “hello” to the new year.

The second annual Light Up Eau Claire Little Lantern Parade will be on Sunday, Dec. 31, at 4:30pm. Attendees toting small, lighted lanterns will parade from the museum down Grand Avenue and across the footbridge before circling back. Children 12 and under and their families are invited to take part in this free, homey winter walk.

“The ultimate goal for Visit Eau Claire is to see Light Up Eau Claire evolve into a destination event; one that locals still enjoy, but a reason to invite friends and relatives from out of town as well.” – Mack John, Visit Eau Claire

And for those without a scheduled bedtime, the nearly Lismore hotel is hosting a second lantern parade lighting up downtown Eau Claire beginning at 11:30pm. Lanterns may be purchased for $5 or you can make one yourself.

How can you create your own lantern? Paper lantern workshops are scheduled throughout November and December, primarily hosted at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center in the evenings. Visit eauclairearts.com and search for the keyword “lantern” for a list of specific dates and times. These workshops are open to people of all ages who want to participate, create, and enjoy the art of lantern-making for only $15 (children 5 and younger are free).

Why lanterns? This event was inspired by a similar celebration in Eau Claire’s sister city, Lismore, Australia. However, instead of marking the new year, Lismore celebrates the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice in June. Lismore’s parade features intricate lanterns that range from housecat- to elephant-sized. Down Under, the lantern parade is comparable to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, except festive floats are replaced with beaming lanterns. Design themes include peace, hope, love, and favorite childhood characters such as those from Where the Wild Things Are. (Visit lanternparade.com for some Aussie inspiration.)

Eau Claire’s Little Lantern Parade may not be quite as extravagant. However, as Visit Eau Claire marketing manager Mack John explains, “The focus is on the celebration of cultures and the ways in which the downtown Eau Claire community fosters this cultural expression. The ultimate goal for Visit Eau Claire is to see Light Up Eau Claire evolve into a destination event; one that locals still enjoy, but a reason to invite friends and relatives from out of town as well.”

Perhaps in years to come, we’ll see 20-foot lanterns strutting down our streets, just as they do in our Australian sister city. But even if Eau Claire’s lanterns are more modestly sized, the parade will allow Chippewa Valley residents to come together with smiles, laughter, and play as the warm glow of the lanterns kindles the holiday spirit within.


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