Gypsies shine light on Akron

Written by: Beau Brown

Dozens of unusual, brilliantly-lit kiosks and gypsy wagons lined University Park during the annual Light-UP Lantern Festival: Caravan of Lights event, at the intersection of crazy and creative.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, traveling gypsies met with local artists for a show that required the closing of several streets. At dusk, the festival literally lit up and invited anyone to come and see the spectacle — especially those who wished to express their weirdness.

Up and down the street, several small tents were set up where the gypsies or artists could sell their trinkets. Some offered candy and sweets or never-before-seen foods and drinks, while others sold strange-looking pieces of artwork that could make anyone interested.

The art covered a wide spectrum of designs and genres, ranging from abstract paintings and sculptures to detailed, structured portraits. Local artists such as Dr. Sketchy and Don Drumm showcased their works. Brianna Lynn, a volunteer who worked for the Dr. Sketchy exhibit, especially loved the art and considered it a great addition to the festival.

“The Caravan of Lights gives people an opportunity to be creative and share their unusual-ness to other people,” Lynn said. “It was really fun being a part of the fest. And working alongside Leandra Drumm, who orchestrated the event, was a great experience.”

In addition to showcasing artwork, some artists invited guests to participate in making the art. One tent encouraged children to draw and color their own pictures, which were hung around the borders of the tent. Another tent allowed visitors to create their own designs on paper bags, which were lit up by strings of light places inside the bags.

In addition to selling goods and artwork, many gypsy performers put on shows for passing visitors. The variety of performers was astounding. Visitors stood and listened to bands that performed jazz and folk music, such as the Smokin’ Fez Monkeys and Fast Molasses. Others stood in awe as the Ohio Burn Unit exhibited a fire-and-art show and the Jasmine Dragons displayed their skill with break-dancing.

Acting performances were also portrayed at the Caravan of Lights. For instance, a band of gypsies with distinct Eastern European accents put on shows inside their tent, which contained a small stage with props and a backdrop. Several stilt walkers wobbled and danced through the streets wearing funky costumes decked out in different designs and twinkling lights.

Overall, the Caravan of Lights was a fun-filled, extravagant and unique festival that uniquely combined a large array of artistic genres with pure, unadulterated entertainment and a hint of culture.

Stop by University Park next year for the newest version of the Light-UP Lantern Festival.