Lantern installation to bring a little light to the community

  • A group of Peterborough residents made lanterns to light up the town of Peterborough this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A group of Peterborough residents made lanterns to light up the town of Peterborough this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A lantern created of the Peterborough Town House sits in Terry Reeves’s garage, while Reeves and Trim Hahn work to finish other lanterns for this weekend’s installation. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • A group of Peterborough residents made lanterns to light up the town of Peterborough this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A group of Peterborough residents made lanterns to light up the town of Peterborough this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Terry Reeves moves a scenic cutout in her garage that will be used for the Home Sweet Home lantern installation in Putnam Park this weekend. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/2/2020 4:42:19 PM

If you happened upon Terry Reeves’ garage over the last couple weeks, the scene may have been mistaken for Santa’s elves busy at work. Volunteers, scheduled just a few at a time, wearing masks at a safe distance from one another, were gluing and drawing, cutting and fitting in an effort to pull off what will be a pandemic version of the annual lantern parade during Peterborough’s Hometown Holiday festivities this weekend.

There will be no march down Grove Street, people gathered close together in a joyous celebration of the season showing off their lantern creations. Instead, this year’s set of lanterns will be stationary, spread around Putnam Park in an installation format that will – with any luck – bring a little joy to the people of the region.

“These lanterns are absolutely ingenious,” said Peggy Van Valkenburgh. “I love to create and Terry tagged me and said ‘Peggy you’d love to do this.’”

There are north of 80 lanterns made for the display that will be set up for its official unveiling on Friday with Putnam Park to be lit up through Sunday, from 4 to 8 p.m. each day – and it was not an easy feat to pull off. But thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, the installation will be a sight to behold. Some of the volunteers were trained artists, while others merely wanted to help see the project to the finish line.

Trim Hahn was in her native England last year and saw the positive effects of a lantern parade on a community. Upon her return she emailed Reeves about it, not knowing that Reeves had already helped start one on Peterborough. So when help was needed this year, it was an easy project to sign up for.

“I think it’s a great thing to get involved in,” Hahn said. “It’s a really fun project.”

There will be lanterns of all shapes and sizes all created within the scope of Home Sweet Home. It’s an appropriate theme given that most people have spent that last eight-plus months mostly at home. But this is a way for people to get out of the house in a safe manner and enjoy some creativity.

As you walk through Putnam Park, there will be one rather large lantern designed after the Peterborough Town House. There will be smaller village scenes that show the rooflines of some fictitious New England-inspired scapes and one that resembles downtown Hancock. There are churches with bell towers and distinctive characteristics and mason jars that offer another glimpse into the meaning of home.

The plan to get the lanterns built was structured and organized, especially considering the limitations into how many people could be working on them at one time at Reeves’ Peterborough home.

“They had everything so well planned you just had to follow their guide,” said Mose Olenik. “It was so great to do something to give back to the children and the town. It was an opportunity to do something that might give people some joy.”

The frames are made out of scrap wood by John Odgers and then coffee filters were put around the outside, attached to the tiny frames with a gallon and a half’s worth of Elmer’s glue. From there, the details were added – windows, doors, barn doors and bells. Some put cats or silhouettes of people in windows, while others went for the traditional vertical and horizontal panes. The white of the coffee filters contrasts with the brown paper used for the details of each structure.

Olenik did a little bit of everything, from creating designs to cutting them out over the course of her eight sessions.

“You just want it to have a certain appearance,” Olenik said. “With that New England region kind of look.”

Van Valkenburgh helped set the coffee filters on many of the lantern houses over her six times in Reeves’s garage. And the chance to be around others was an added bonus.

“It’s a chance to socialize,” she said. “I would be in the garage opposite someone else and have a chance for wonderful conversations.”

The smaller scenes are made out of corrugated cardboard and will be stationed around the park. People like Hahn were in charge of drawing the details of the Hancock meetinghouse and surrounding area – she also tried her hand at recreating Mount Monadnock and did a number of windows, doors and bells – as well as other picturesque scenes that could be plucked from any New England small town.

“It’s very mindful to do these kinds of things,” Hahn said. “Traditional New England houses have such a nice geometry the proportions are so comfortable to work in.”

There will be other small lanterns hanging from trees and the cut scenes inside mason jars are just one more added touch to make the installation special.

“The amount of work so many people put into this,” Olenik said. “I think what was most impressive was how many got done.”

While it was clear that no parade would be happening for a third straight year due to COVID-19, there had to be something and a display in the park made perfect sense. People can walk around at safe distances from others and since it’s open for three days, there will be ample opportunity to see it. Masks are required and volunteers will be on hand to keep the flow moving in the correct direction.

It was a long process, but one that was filled with scheduled volunteer times and a lot of work by a lot of people.

“She tapped into a lot of creative people in town,” Hahn said of Reeves.

Each one took on different jobs to assist in the assembly process and the end result is something that will shed a little light on what has been a difficult time.

“I can’t wait to see how they all turn out,” Van Valkenburgh said. “It’s going to be a feast for the eyes and another wonderful community project that just brings the town together.”


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