Since 1990, the annual Celebration of Light has become one of the most prestigious fireworks competitions in the world, attracting the world’s best fireworks pyrotechnicians and designers. The 2014 Celebration of Light fireworks competition features tour-de-force performances from the United States, France, and Japan.
Getting to the Celebration of Light: Do not drive! On each day of the competition roads into the West End are closed at 7:30pm, and Kits Point is closed at 6:00pm. There will be no parking. Take the sky train, buses, or–if possible–walk. For information on parking for disabled persons, check the site http://hondacelebrationoflight.com/
With over 400,000 people expected to attend the Celebration of Light fireworks, the prime viewing points will be extremely crowded. To get a spot at Downtown’s most popular vantage point, English Bay Beach, you must go very early, especially if you have children; adults will be able to enjoy the show even standing in back. If you’re willing to put up with the crowds, this is the place to go: not only do you get the best fireworks views, there are tons of concession stands, food vendors, and good restroom access, too.
If you don’t want sand in your shoes, there is limited, ticketed, bleacher seating at English Bay Beach (called the YVR Observation Deck, as it’s sponsored by YVR). All proceeds from the bleacher seating go to support the Celebration of Light event. For people with disabilities, free accessible seating is available: call 604 757-0345 for details.
Free Shorefest Concerts Before the Fireworks at English Bay Beach
Now in its 6th year, the free concert series Shorefest–one of the largest free music concerts in Vancouver–takes place each night of the Fireworks Competition (so, July 26, July 30, and August 2) at English Bay and Sunset Beach (the top spot for fireworks viewing, see above). The concerts directly precede the fireworks, with stages at English Bay Beach and Sunset Beach.]]>
The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of a 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities. The two began discussing ballooning, along with conversation and help from Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. 19 balloons in England, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter agreed to try. He got commitments from 21 pilots, but bad weather kept some of them from arriving in time. The first fiesta ended up as a gathering of 13 balloons on April 8, 1972, sponsored by KOB. The first event was located in the parking lot of the Coronado Center Shopping Mall with 20,000 spectators and with balloonists from Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Texas taking part. McKee, Cutter, and Kratz are the three men who had originally started the balloon races. The first fiesta incorporated a “Roadrunner-Coyote Balloon Race” (a “hare-and-hounds” race elsewhere in the world) with 1 balloon being the “Roadrunner” and the others being “Coyote” balloons (the “Roadrunner” balloon was actually emblazoned with likenesses of both Warner Bros. characters). The winner of the race – the “Coyote” that landed closest to the Roadrunner – was Don Piccard of the noted aerostation dynasty, flying a balloon of his company’s design and construction (his wife also placed in the race). This race has continued as part of the Balloon Fiesta today.
The next year Albuquerque hosted the first World Hot-Air Balloon Championships in February and the fiesta became an international event. In 1975 Albuquerque was looking at hosting the World Championships again, but the event was scheduled for October. So the fiesta was moved to correspond with the championships. To maintain interest in Albuquerque’s bid to host the championships, a balloon rally was held in February of that year. Autumn being a far better flying time than February, the event has remained in early October to the present day.
The Balloon Fiesta grew each year for decades, and today is the largest balloon convention in the world. The number of registered balloons reached a peak of 1,019 in 2000, prompting the Balloon Fiesta Board to limit the number to 750 starting in 2001, citing a desire for “quality over quantity”. The limit was changed to 600 in 2009 — citing recent growth in the city and a loss of landing zones. On any given day during the festival, up to 100,000 spectators may be on the launch field where they are provided the rare opportunity to observe inflation and take off procedures. Countless more people gather at landing sites all over the city to watch incoming balloons.
The Dawn Patrol began at the Balloon Fiesta in 1978, when two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allowed them to fly at night. Dawn Patrol pilots take off before sunrise and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes.
One of the biggest events of the fiesta, where all participating balloons launch in two waves, filling the sky with hundreds of balloons at once. Launch directors, also known as “zebras” because of their black-and-white-striped outfits, serve as “traffic cops,” coordinating the launch so balloons leave the field in a safe and coordinated manner.
Many local artists take advantage of the balloons as favorite subject matter for their paintings. Balloons often land in Albuquerque neighborhoods. Many residents watch the balloons from the comfort of their backyards.
Special Shape Rodeo
Many non-traditional, uniquely shaped balloons are launched at the same time. Some of the most famous shapes include a milk cow, a wagon coach, twin bees, and many others like soda pop cans and animals. This is the most popular part of the event as families can see how balloons can be all different in shapes and sizes.
Large numbers of balloons are illuminated at night by their propane burners. They stand static and do not take off during these events. The “Glowdeo” is a night glow for the special shapes balloons.
The convention has also become a major showcase of New Mexican culture and history and features numerous cultural exhibitions. It is a major event for the city of Albuquerque, attracting tourists from across the state, the nation, and even the world. The fiesta is one of Albuquerque’s largest tourist attractions and constitutes a major source of income for the city and local businesses. Typically, tourists and fiesta visitors take thousands of pictures of the balloons, so it is no surprise that for several years the fiesta was sponsored by Kodak and was given the title, the Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, though that title was usually only used in print ads and on official memorabilia. Kodak no longer sponsors the fiesta, and the official name has returned to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Despite the economic boost, the Balloon Fiesta is a major problem for the local residents. Increased traffic flows, street parking on the west side of the park and increased accidents caused by balloon “gawkers” hinder the morning commute. Balloonists often land on private property without permission, causing damage. Balloon accidents, such as getting entangled in powerlines, are not uncommon and are sometimes fatal. The noise of the balloon burners frequently upsets dogs and livestock.
Part of the reason for the success of the Fiesta are the cool Albuquerque morning temperatures in October and the Albuquerque box. The “box” is a set of predictable wind patterns that can be exploited to navigate the balloons. At low elevations the winds tend to be northerly (from the north), but at higher elevations they tend to be southerly. Balloonists use these winds to navigate in a vertical box: they ascend slightly from the launch park, move south, ascend further, move north, descend, and repeat the box or land back in the launch park or quite nearby. During events involving on-field targets, such as the “Key Grab” (where pilots attempt to grab prizes, including a set of keys to a new vehicle, from atop tall, flexible poles), it’s not uncommon to see the same balloon make 5 or 6 passes at the targets, simply by working the “Box” to keep returning to the field.
The festival was hold at Balloon Fiesta Park, from which the balloons are launched, is located on the northern edge of the city. In 2005, the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum was opened on the grounds; it focuses on the last three decades of the festival, and on the history of ballooning.
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The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to a pre-Columbian past. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead”, corresponding to the modern Catrina.
In most regions of Mexico November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”) and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead”).
People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.
Plans for the day are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (altars), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchil (originally named cempoaxochitl, Nāhuatl for “twenty flowers”).
In modern Mexico this name is sometimes replaced with the term Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.
Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or “the little angels”), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased’s favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto (“bread of dead”), and sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the “spiritual essence” of the ofrendas food, so though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives. In many places people have picnics at the grave site, as well.
Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes; these sometimes feature Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, scores of candles and an ofrenda. Traditionally, families spend some time around the altar, praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. In some locations celebrants wear shells on their clothing, so when they dance, the noise will wake up the dead; some will also dress up as the deceased.
Public schools at all levels build altars with ofrendas, usually omitting the religious symbols. Government offices usually have at least a small altar, as this holiday is seen as important to the Mexican heritage.
Those with a distinctive talent for writing sometimes create short poems, called calaveras (skulls), mocking epitaphs of friends, describing interesting habits and attitudes or funny anecdotes. This custom originated in the 18th or 19th century, after a newspaper published a poem narrating a dream of a cemetery in the future, “and all of us were dead”, proceeding to read the tombstones. Newspapers dedicate calaveras to public figures, with cartoons of skeletons in the style of the famous calaveras of José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican illustrator. Theatrical presentations of Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla (1817–1893) are also traditional on this day.
José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure he called La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”) as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Posada’s striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catrina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances.
A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls as gifts can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.
The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal, often varying from town to town. For example, in the town of Pátzcuaro on the Lago de Pátzcuaro in Michoacán, the tradition is very different if the deceased is a child rather than an adult. On November 1 of the year after a child’s death, the godparents set a table in the parents’ home with sweets, fruits, pan de muerto, a cross, a rosary (used to ask the Virgin Mary to pray for them) and candles. This is meant to celebrate the child’s life, in respect and appreciation for the parents. There is also dancing with colorful costumes, often with skull-shaped masks and devil masks in the plaza or garden of the town. At midnight on November 2, the people light candles and ride winged boats called mariposas (butterflies) to Janitzio, an island in the middle of the lake where there is a cemetery, to honor and celebrate the lives of the dead there.
In contrast, the town of Ocotepec, north of Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos, opens its doors to visitors in exchange for veladoras (small wax candles) to show respect for the recently deceased. In return the visitors receive tamales and atole. This is only done by the owners of the house where someone in the household has died in the previous year. Many people of the surrounding areas arrive early to eat for free and enjoy the elaborate altars set up to receive the visitors from Mictlán.
In some parts of the country (especially the cities, where in recent years other customs have been displaced) children in costumes roam the streets, knocking on people’s doors for a calaverita, a small gift of candies or money; they also ask passersby for it. This relatively recent custom is similar to that of Halloween’s trick-or-treating.
Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items can bring good luck. Many people get tattoos or have dolls of the dead to carry with them. They also clean their houses and prepare the favorite dishes of their deceased loved ones to place upon their altar or ofrenda.]]>
The festival was first held in 1972 as a showcase for a collection of community organizations including the Columbus Free Press, Free Health Clinic, Food Co-op, Tenants Union, Crisis Hotline, and Recycling Center. The festival continues to provide a forum for alternative lifestyles and collective activity. Beer from The Columbus Brewing Company is sold in large, colorful mugs to fund the cost of the festival itself and to raise money for community projects and grants. All tips from the beer booths go to homeless shelters.
The 37th annual ComFest was held June 27-29, 2008. ComFest’s “cause” for 2008 was The Ohio Healthy Families Act, which supports a grassroots campaign to put an initiative on the ballot for the fall general election, which would require employers to provide mandatory sick days for their employees. The featured local artists for 2008 were Happy Chichester and Shaun Booker. Guest national artists are Michelle Shocked and Black 47.]]>
Started in 1982, the GABF was created by nuclear engineer Charlie Papazian in Boulder, Colorado. The original GABF had 22 participating breweries and the 2009 festival had 457. In 2009 the festival expanded into a hall one-third larger than the previous year. The GABF is considered the largest ticketed beer festival in the United States.
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