Oaks Park featured in ‘Winter Light Fest’

See why organizers call this 2021 event the ‘Winter Light non-Festival’ – and learn the East Portland locations that participated this year …

Volunteers who created the best installation of this year’s “Portland Winter Lights (non) Festival” installation – it was at Oaks Amusement Park – started by laying out huge strips of Mylar in the Dance Pavilion, before hanging them just outside the building.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Undaunted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, organizers of Portland’s wintertime Festival of Lights were determined to find a way to host the 6th year of the now-annual tradition – but they decided on a new, decentralized format.

It took place on the first two weekends of February. And, one of the large installations was at historic, nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park.

Originally, the free and fun “Portland Winter Light Festival” was centered around the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI); it then expanded to cover a good portion along the east bank of the Willamette River. In 2019, it was evident from the Morrison Bridge south to beyond the Tilikum Crossing transit bridge.

> To see our coverage of the 2019 event, CLICK HERE.

> To see our coverage of the 2020 event, CLICK HERE.

Riding a personnel lift, high in the mighty oak trees at Oaks Park, here’s Jeramie Shane, Principal at Mayer/Reed Landscape Architects, securing a Mylar banner.

For the first time in the festival’s history there were no art installations at OMSI, or along the Eastbank Esplanade – an effort to minimize opportunities for crowds to gather, in support of social distancing rules.

“This past year has demonstrated that we all need art, connection, and community more than ever,” mused the festival’s Executive Director, Alisha Sullivan. In that spirit, the result was a city-wide event they called the “Portland Winter Light (non)Festival”.

Exhibit comes to Oaks Amusement Park

Project volunteer Alper Yurtseven helps Carol Mayer-Reed put up Mylar to reflect the light of a warming fire, burning in a kiosk near the large installation.

Located next to the historic Oaks Amusement Park Dance Pavilion, long-time Portland Winter Light Festival sponsor Mayer/Reed Landscape Architects erected an installation they called “Kaleidoscopic Canopy”.

“Why Oaks Amusement Park?” was the question we asked of the project’s organizer Carol Mayer-Reed.

Mayer-Reed disclosed that she’s a member of the Oaks Park Association Board of Directors – that’s the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Oaks Amusement Park. “I have been thinking of ways we can safely bring families back to the park during this challenging time of COVID,” Mayer-Reed told East Portland News.

Visitors stand in awe, as they take in the shimmering lights reflected at the “Kaleidoscopic Canopy” installation at Oaks Amusement Park.

“I asked myself, who has more colorful lights than Oaks Park? Can we, as designers, add some artistic effects to what is already there?” explained Mayer-Reed.

“Some of the oldest 80-foot-tall trees on the Oaks Park property are situated in a tight grove next to the Dance Pavilion, near the waterfront. They gave us a ‘statuesque scaffold’ for our light installation!” continued Mayer-Reed. “As landscape architects, we think at a large scale, in our design projects.”

After strolling along the Oaks Amusement Park Midway, guests spend a moment or two near a warming fire.

Visitors who came by the carload looked excited as they walked through the park, illuminated by the glow of the amusement rides and historic buildings. As they entered the Midway, the installation of 30 and 40 foot Mylar curtains suspended from cables high in the trees came into view, reflecting a shimmering kaleidoscope of color from lights situated below the silvery sheets, and accented by Midway’s lights.

“We hope that everyone looking at the installation will find a different conceptual reference: perhaps a waterfall, or a drapery, or perhaps the aurora borealis,” Mayer-Reed said.

After we toured other East side attractions in the festival this year, none of them seemed to measure up to the beauty and joy of this installation, at Oaks Amusement Park.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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