Portland Winter Light Festival

February 4, 2022

Over the past two years Portland has gotten a bad reputation – not all of it deserved. Yes, there are real problems; but it all gets amped up by some in the media to the point many people are afraid to go downtown. Carla and I have intended to go downtown and explore but just haven’t gotten to it. Well, Jonah – who is a board member of the Willamette Light Bridage which puts on the Portland Winter Light Festival – encouraged Carla and I to join him and Linda on the event’s opening night. We had a blast! We were safe and joined by hundreds if not thousands of fellow Portlanders enjoying themselves. Read on and you’ll see your intrepid blogger doing the Downhill Pony for the first time in a dozen years.

The Willamette Light Brigade is a Portland, OR based nonprofit committed to connecting community and enriching the public realm by harnessing the power of artful lighting to transform the cityscape. We light bridges, produce a dynamic winter light festival, and advocate for the importance of night-time identity and place-making.

Willamette Light Brigade Mission Statement

Our mission is to build community by bringing cutting-edge art and technology to diverse audiences while invigorating the city of Portland in winter.

Portland Winter Light Festival Mission Statement

After having dinner at Mingo’s in Northwest – where vaccination cards are required for a reservation – we headed to the downtown area and got ready. Jonah had our supplies ready for us. I was all “What????” but I was eager to try it. We masked up after the photo – as did most of the visitors. We were blessed with cold, but dry, weather.

Howard, Carla, Linda, and Jonah ready to enjoy the Portland Winter Light Festival.

The festival has events throughout the city – North, Northeast, Downtown, Central Eastside, and Southeast. We concentrated on Downtown and the Central Eastside. Our first stop was Pioneer Square – Portland’s Living Room. The pieces were fantastic – I was completely taken aback at the scope of the displays. I have two pictures of quite a few of the displays – they were that amazing.

The first pieces to get my attention were the blue and red tree lights.

White Maple (foreground) and Crystal Flowers trees at Pioneer Courthouse Square

White Maple – Portland Winter Light Festival – Pioneer Courthouse Square

The Crystal Flowers tree with Carla’s favorite Portland building in the background.

Crystal Flowers Portland Winter Light Festival – Pioneer Courthouse Square

The largest installation was a giant disco ball suspended from two arches. There was a DJ playing bumping dance music and performers like a juggler on a lighted unicycle. (He moved to fast to capture in the low light)

Portland Winter Light Festival – Pioneer Courthouse Square

Still photos don’t do the pieces justice, the lights change color and move in different patterns. I also loved Helianthus Enorme.

Helianthus Enorme – Portland Winter Light Festival – Pioneer Courthouse Square

From Pioneer Courthouse Square we walked toward the river to the World Trade Center. Soon after we got there a drumming band and dancers started playing.

Portland Winter Light Festival – World Trade Center

The main piece was an enormous bell of light which could be controlled from a panel underneath.

Portland Winter Light Festival – World Trade Center

I fell in love with Stoicheia – a 12-sided (I think) piece of stained glass in which the images don’t change but the lighting does. I think the LED light of each pane of glass is individually controlled.

Stoicheia – Portland Winter Light Festival – World Trade Center
Stoicheia – Portland Winter Light Festival – World Trade Center

We then headed over to Tom McCall Riverfront Park to see Luna at the Salmon Street Fountain. It is on loan from Lumiere, Vancouver, BC. It has white and blue lights (maybe more); I focused on the blue.

Luna – Portland Winter Light Festival – Salmon Street Springs

I couldn’t pass up this other shot with the Portland Rose in the background.

Luna – Portland Winter Light Festival – Salmon Street Springs

It’s a good thing Carla and I split a dinner – as did Linda and Jonah – so we weren’t too full to enjoy a walk over the Hawthorne Bridge to the Central Eastside.

Hawthorne Bridge at night – Portland, Oregon

Jonah’s organization is also responsible for the Morrison Bridge Light Project. Here it is as seen from the Hawthorne bridge.

Morrison Bridge at night – Portland, Oregon

Portland’s newest bridge – Tilikum Crossing had a special light pattern for the festival.

Tilikum Crossing – Portland, Oregon

We stopped at the Silent Disco on the block of SE 2nd and Clay. There are three DJs simultaneously slamming their beats over the radio. You can rent headphones that will switch between the three with a flip of a switch. The headphones change color to show which DJ you are jamming to. Jonah loaned me his light boa and I did the downhill pony – a dance I made up in college in the 1970s. I haven’t done this step in at l east 10 years.

Your intrepid blogger doing the Downhill Pony at the Silent Disco – Portland Winter Light Festival

See that glove I’m wearing? I lost it shortly after the picture.

We had covered a lot of territory and were ready to call it a day – Jonah and Linda had babysitting duty for two of her grandchildren early the next day so we walked back across the Hawthorne bridge. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to snap the Portland rose on the way back.

Outside the Portland Rose Festival headquarters

This neon light piece spoke to me. The rose reminds me of the Rose City and the hope helped me focus on the pandemic hopefully ending and Portland getting back its deserved plaudits. This was the first large event we have attended in two years; it was just so FUN to be out and about.

I’m glad Jonah has become a part of our lives; he is interesting, engaging, and energetic. I sometimes have the intention to do fun things, but Jonah inspires me to get out and actually do them.

The second week of the event is Friday and Saturday February 11, and 12, 2022. I highly encourage you to visit. Click this link for the program. If you can’t do it this year, make a note for next February.

[Edit: Fixed the date. The event is February 11-12 Friday and Saturday]

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