Have you ever heard of a city setting its river on fire three times a year on purpose, participants having to dress in all black and carry torches, and the community rallying around the events? If you have, you know all about WaterFire Sharon! If not and you live close enough, you need to check it out. Mr. Locke and I were asked to partake in the gorgeous art display that engulfs the city’s entire Downtown area and, with a huge, resounding yes, we drove to Sharon, PA, for its August 20th event and the theme of “Artists at Work”. Here’s a recap of our fabulous day- and night!
What is WaterFire?
Waterfire, to put it precisely is a “world renowned, multi-sensory art event that can be experienced in Providence, Columbus, Kansas City, Singapore, Rome, and Sharon.” With over 50 floating braziers anchored to the Shenango River, each is filled with wood and set ablaze producing one of the most beautiful art displays that I’ve ever witnessed. Haunting music fills the air and the opposing forces of fire and water are brought together in a way that sends happy chills up my spine.
Staffed entirely of volunteers, the art display brings up to 70,000 folks to the Downtown Sharon area for the nighttime fire spectacular. But the event isn’t just lighting the braziers and torches; it’s all about community togetherness and the love of the small town.
During the afternoon of August 20th, Mr. Locke and I hit the streets of Downtown Sharon to see what WaterFire is all about. The main streets were blocked off compliments of thousands of visitors and community members having a fun time, enjoying food, local artisan wares, and lively music on several stages.
Why a Smudge Can Be a Good Thing.
I’d seen smudging on television and had always wanted to see the rite performed in person. Before the water procession began, I had the honor of receiving a cleansing smoke bath from an American Indian tribesman. Believed to purify the human aura, body, and energy, I happily accepted.
I was smudged from head to toe. What an honor. Using Bald Eagle feathers, the sacred herb smoke was bathed over me and I seriously felt so calm and happy.
After the smudging it was time to hit the streets and head to the bridge as a Torch Bearer.
Bearing the Torch
With more than a bit of wind (but still completely safe!), we Torch Bearers stood on the bridge waiting for our part of the ceremony. Beautiful music and the water procession kicked off the night event.
We had the best view in the city, in my opinion.
Waiting for our time to shine, the fire was passed from torch to torch. I held the torch alight for only five minutes but, man, what a five minutes it was! Artists from the area stood along the bridge with us and, dressed in all black, the only thing the massive crowd could see was the fires.
Small boats traveled up and down the Shenango River, first lighting the braziers and then keeping the fires blazing by adding wood.
In a Nutshell
WaterFire Sharon is a must visit at least once if you live anywhere nearby Sharon, PA. It was a true honor to be asked to participate in the event and I’d seriously do it again in a heartbeat. The event itself is free to attend but bring some pocket money for food and goodies. There’s one more WaterFire this year on September 24, 2016 as well, so if you didn’t have a chance to see it in person, next month is the time to go- but head to the city early for a good parking spot and to check out the vendors. There’s also a Children’s Area and crafts to keep the kiddos busy.