TACOMA, Wash. — This is not a typically dark Northwest night in Tacoma. After all, there is a fiery dragon leading a parade. A marching band follows, and there are dozens of people wearing brightly lit costumes, including Jeff Strong.
"I just showed up to have fun," he says. "This coat took me about two months to make. I wired it up with, you know, a lot of lights."
600 lights at last count.
Bringing light to the darkest days of the year is what the Tacoma Light Trail is all about.
"Obviously it is winter and it is very dark physically," says organizer Rosemary Ponnekanti. "But we're still emotionally, politically, financially, health-wise in a very dark place. And some of the community needs help and light and that's what we are actually bringing. Literally."
Ponnekanti, who also organizes Ocean Fest, got the idea last year when she had some leftover grant money and 44 whale and salmon-shaped lanterns made by Port Townsend artist Kristian Brevik which Ponnekanti installed at Foss Waterway Seaport.
“I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if other people around downtown could do something similar and we could make a Tacoma light festival?" and I asked all the people I knew and they jumped right on board,” she said at the time.
It's now the second year of the Tacoma Light Trail and 40 venues have joined the celebration. You'll find brightly lit storefront and restaurant windows. Camp Colvos, for instance, serves pizza under glowing blue and green pods.
On this cold Friday night, the dragon-led parade finishes up under cover, in the Tacoma Art Museum parking lot. There, the Bellingham-based Up Up Up Circus troupe performs under more lights.
"We had a bit of a slow start this year because of the snow and the ice and now the rain," Ponnekanti says. "But there are still so many here. I think people really want this. The art symbolizes hope and joy, truth and justice, things that everybody can agree on."
The Tacoma Light Trail runs through Sunday, Jan. 16.