No lantern yet? Don't fret. This year, procrastinators will have the opportunity to walk in the Creative Alliance's Great Halloween Lantern Parade.
Pre-parade activities at the new lantern festival, which begins before Saturday's parade, include last-minute lantern-making, hayrides around the park, live music, vendors and a beer garden. Arrive before 5 p.m. and pay $5 to construct your own lamps of bamboo, wax and tissue paper.
Molly Ross, director and principal artist for the nonprofit Nana Projects Inc., an artists' collective, directs the parade, which is in its 10th year, and helps to oversee the festivities. She also created Redmoon Theater's Halloween Lantern Parade in Chicago's Logan Square and the Great Grandview Lantern Parade in Hollandale, Wis.
Its first year, fewer than 100 people participated in Baltimore's parade, and Ross says jokingly that there might have been only three spectators. Now, close to 2,000 people participate, and nearly 5,000 spectators are expected to line the route.
"When we started, nobody ever thought about going into Patterson Park at night," says Megan Hamilton, program director of the Creative Alliance at the Patterson. But the parade "changes how people envision public space."
The parade is a result of a collaboration among the Creative Alliance, Friends of Patterson Park and Southeast Community Development Corp., though a substantial do-it-yourself effort from the community enables the spectacle to achieve its scale. Some participants attend lantern-making workshops at the Creative Alliance.
"It's evolved into a tradition," says Ross. "Whether we show up or not, people will still go to Patterson Park the Saturday before Halloween with lanterns."
Many customs persevere - parade marshals, it seems, always wear pagoda lantern hats. This year's spectacle will feature a "spangly showgirl aesthetic," Hamilton says. The parade will also include backpack skeleton puppets, stilt walkers and the Bone Band, whose percussion instruments are made from trash.
The parade will conclude with Ross' Magic Lantern Show, which Hamilton describes as "a hybrid of a Victorian magic lantern show and a shadow puppet show." "Eureka," based on a prose poem of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe, uses puppets and three overhead projectors that scroll colorful scenery across a 20-by-40-foot screen to tell a 15-minute tale. The story, accompanied by an original, live score by Chris Pumphrey, also presents themes from more popular works, such as "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart."
If you go
The 10th Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival takes place Saturday in Patterson Park, at Eastern and Linwood avenues. The festival starts at 3 p.m., and the parade lines up at 7 p.m. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.