Community Spotlight

Points of Light Committee

Date Posted: March 22, 2024

Meet the Points of Light Committee, the planners behind the annual Points of Light Cultural Celebration and a February 2024 Mini Grant recipient. Points of Light is a spring celebration of unity and renewal that brings together the food, music, and traditions of Lowell’s diverse cultures. During the festival, participants personalize water lanterns and release them at night onto the Western Canal, creating a captivating mass of floating points of light.

We met up with Christopher Glenn Hayes, Points of Light Committee Member and DIY Lowell Co-Founder, to get all the details on what you need to know about the committee behind this spring celebration coming up on May 11, 2024.

Question 1: How did this festival start in Lowell?

Every year, the grassroots organization DIY Lowell asks for community ideas. These ideas are put up for a vote for anyone who pledges to help, and those volunteers form Project Teams to make the winners happen. A community member (whose name is lost to time) submitted an idea of floating lanterns on the canal in a festival similar to Japan’s Tōrō nagashi, and it won the 2017 vote. Several volunteer community members formed a Project Team, partnered with Boott Hydro, Lowell National Historical Park, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Coalition for a Better Acre, BRM Productions, and Lowell Housing Authority to put on the first Points of Light. It was such a success that many of the volunteers and partners stayed on to produce the festival year after year. We are now in our seventh year.

Question 2: Describe the team that organizes the Points of Light Celebration.

The team is a diverse group. Some represent nonprofits like Coalition for a Better Acre or Lowell Housing Authority, and others are simply engaged community members. Because the celebration is about the unity of diversity, we strive for the committee to reflect Lowell in race, ethnicity, age, gender, background, and many other facets. Most of the committee members aren’t professional event organizers, but they learn through doing. We’re constantly looking for new people to be on the committee, and some folks help by being one of the roughly fifty volunteers that help set up and run the festival on the day of the event.

Question 3: What resources or tips do you have for other festival and event organizers?

Many people did not think the festival would work. They thought the company that owned the canals would be too restrictive, that the event would be too expensive, or that the safety and ecological concerns would be too high. We listened to concerns, but did not let them deter us. We developed a safety plan with folks who are experienced at volunteering in the canal (Lowell Canal Water Cleaners) and the canal owners; we sought funding from diverse sources including grants, sponsorships, and donations; and we developed a plan to remove the lanterns, reuse the bases, and compost everything we could to ensure we’d be a “green” event. This is probably our greatest tip: listen to concerns, but don’t let them deter you! Instead, seek partnerships to overcome those concerns.

Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with the Mosaic Lowell Mini Grant?

We hope to expand our art program to two pieces instead of the usual single piece: One art piece will be a “lantern walk” in which an artist teaches community groups to paint silk, which will be hung in 4′ frames to create giant lanterns along the sidewalk. Another will be a free-standing collaborative giant star lantern people can contribute to at the event. The details with artists are being finalized, so the specifics may change by the date of the festival.

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