IT ISN'T long now before one of the most cherished community events in the region brings out our children and lights up the winter solstice.
This year marks 27 years of The Lismore Lantern Parade and it comes with an added dimension - a full-blown INNOVATION INSPIRATION REGENERATION Festival.
Schools and volunteers from all over have been busy preparing lanterns in all shapes and sizes for the event that, in 2021, will beckon a new post pandemic era.
Like lantern favourite, Pegasus, who has been leading the festival for many years, the parade is getting a new skin this June.
Due to NSW Government COVID 19 Public Health Orders caution will prevail. The full day program is to take place at Lismore's Showgrounds.
It's been a hell of a year for Lantern Parade founder Jyllie Jackson and her team, who've come up against many challenges in getting the evolving new format up in a time of extreme risk.
But, as we all know by now, if there is one person who can make it happen, it is her.
Former Lismore mayor, Jenny Dowell, remembers the event when it was held in torrential rain in the sports fields in 2016.
"That night I spoke to NSW Tourism representatives from Sydney. They were in awe at our optimistic spirit and the huge number of people who braved the elements.
"If anyone names an iconic Lismore event, they name the Lantern Parade. It says so much about Lismore," she says.
"That resilience and optimism comes directly from Jyllie. She's tenacious despite huge challenges, such as the 2017 flood that damaged so much of her old workshop.
"Our community rallied to help her raise money for her new workshop, and now," says Jenny, "it's time to show our support for the Lantern Parade again."
Its social, economic and cultural contribution has seen it formally recognised by the Council as the city's signature event attracting approximately 30,000 people each year and is estimated to contribute $3.4 million to the local economy.
The federal member for Page, Kevin Hogan concurs: "Lismore's Lantern Parade is a wonderful event in our community. It attracts thousands of people to our region, which is great for our hotels and businesses.
"I thank and congratulate Jyllie, she is the heart and soul of this huge community event."
For principal of Lismore Heights Public School, Mark Scotton, the parade marks an invaluable educational opportunity for the region's young.
He's been involved in bringing more than 60 children and their families to the parade since 2010 and has seen it grow not just in size, but spirit.
"There is no questioning the power of the parade. It can only be described as a joyous celebration of creativity, splendour and togetherness.
There is no questioning the power of the parade. It can only be described as a joyous celebration of creativity, splendour and togetherness.Lismore Heights Public School Principal Mark Scotton
"Jyllie has provided a welcome opportunity for my students to engage in community service, and never more so than in 2017 flood.
"That year, I took a strong team of young leaders from Lismore Heights Public School down to the lantern parade workshop to help clean up and repair the city's much loved lanterns and bring them back to their former glory.
"Seeing the faces on the thousands of visitors and locals that lined the streets on the night of the parade made all that hard work worthwhile, not only for me but equally for my amazing team of dedicated students," says Mark Scotton.
Jyllie says: "so many people have contributed in so many ways over the past 20 years" and rattles of the names of Martin Pedder, the late Karen Coyle, Janine, Brett Hayden, Emily Jackson, Yoko Watson, Barbara James, Robyn Geddes, Faye Clayton ('The Ladies') Freya Clayton, Anais, Vivian Johnstone, Elly Bird, Greg Neal, Karen Schaefer, Alan Lethbridge, Amber Gooley, Bec Massey, Robyn Kelly and so many more.
"The lanterns travel across Australia spreading their light and warmth. As a result, Lismore is known across Australia and overseas as the City of Lanterns," she says.
"I first saw lanterns when I was living in Hong Kong and also when I was a child in the United Kingdom as a part of Steiner Winter Solstice celebrations.
"To me lanterns are a symbol of optimism and our light within. They are always beautiful and loved in so many cultures."
By now, those who come to the parade know it is the lanterns who are the stars.
The Dragon was one of the first lanterns to feature in the festival. He was one of those badly damaged in the 2017 flood. Like Pegasus, he's been stripped, repapered and now painted in rainbow colours.
One of the festival favourites is Dirt Girl and Scrapboy, who were commissioned by the creators of the popular television series. This year they are playing a major part in the REGEN Fiery Finale.
Another with an amazing flood story is The Queen of Hearts. The Alice in Wonderland character was one of the lanterns who found herself on a pallet and rose above the flood. When the water receded she floated down above the devastation to emerge untouched. She became a symbol of the city's resilience at the Lantern Parade that year.
The Goanna is carried by six Widjabul-Wyabul people representing the region's First Nations communities, while Green Man celebrates fertility. He was badly damaged in the flood but remerged to dance with the May Queen and join in with the Irish dancers to bring the earth to life again.
Other favourites include the Australian mammals and monotremes, birds and insects, which the children carry each year, not to mention local poultry icons Renee and Roxana.
But perhaps the most poignant this year will be Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion. She cares for the children and, this year, will bring hope in the form of healing during this period of global sickness.
- Lismore Lantern Parade, Saturday June 19. Dine and Discover Vouchers can be redeemed at Music Bizarre and Curious Kookaburra with ticket purchases.