REIDSVILLE — Thousands of people floated their prayers, dreams and tributes on Lake Reidsville’s surface Saturday night.
As participants in the Piedmont/Triad Water Lantern Festival, guests gathered along the grassy bank of the 750-acre lake late Saturday afternoon to customize rice paper lanterns. Some designed love letters and memorials to relatives who have passed away, while others used watercolor pens to make artwork and write prayers for ailing friends.
Candle glow from inside the box lanterns brought those messages to light at nightfall when festival organizers helped ease several thousand glimmering lamps onto the glassy lake.
Flickering in counterpoint to the night sky, the tributes looked like a mass of fireflies.
Small children and their parents pointed to various lanterns, reading their messages aloud. Declarations, such as “Love conquers all,’’ “Alzheimer’s Awareness,” and “Peace, love and happiness’’ adorned the sides of one lantern, while another read “We love you, Daddy. R.I.P’’ in pink ink.
“It was really nice and inspirational,’’ said Reidsville’s Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Fred Thompson. “There was a great crowd — close to 4,000 people, and everybody seemed to respect each other and have a really good time.’’
Moved from its original High Point venue to Reidsville, the festival is a keeper, Thompson said. “We’re going to meet and set up an event again for next year.’’
Saturday’s parking fees of $3 per car will go toward the City of Reidsville’s 911 Memorial planned for construction next year on the grounds of the Reidsville Fire Station, Thompson said.
Young guitarist Finn Phoenix strummed out a cover of “Blowing in the Wind” just before dusk, a fittingly ethereal tune for the meditative occasion.
Phoenix, 9, of Greensboro joined other solo musicians, including an electric violinist for the festival, one of hundreds of such events launched in cities across the nation. Vendors turned out with everything from kettle corn to icy snacks and Greek pita sandwiches.
And enchantment was on the wind at the gathering where several folks, including Dylan Adkins of Mayodan, wore favorite character costumes.
“I just love to dress up,’’ said Adkins, posing in her lilac Rapunzel gown and wearing a blonde wig with the storybook princess’s trademark long braid.
Giggling, the Rockingham Community College pharmaceutical sales student, whipped out a frog prince hand puppet and smiled.
Water lantern festivals are a nod to the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand, an annual celebration that dates back seven centuries. Legend holds that the Thai people from the kingdom of Sukhothai fashioned small lanterns from banana leaves, candles and incense as gifts to float along the river for Buddha. The annual festival is still popular in Thailand where lanterns are considered symbols of new life and new beginnings.
The Saturday event was presented by One World LLC, a company that produces such lantern festivals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Vendors for the company sold Asian-themed blankets with lotus pattern mandelas and inflatable chairs. Organizers studded the grounds with vertical flags with messages like “Wanderlust’’ to point up the magical nature of the evening.
Thompson had high praise for the production company’s efficiency and commitment to keeping Lake Reidsville pristine.
“They cleaned up late Saturday night, and they were back out the next day, making sure everything was clean. And I give them kudos, because you couldn’t tell there had been (a festival) after they were done.’’