Hanging lanterns cast a colorful glow over the Crooked River Lighthouse Nov. 11 for Lantern Fest, held each year in honor of the lighthouse’s birthday, now over 127 years old.
None more impressive in that mystic light was the enormous wooden boat that will serve as the new sound stage and playground.
The lighthouse grounds had once featured a playground area that weaved through the wooden ship Carrabella, but that structure burned down on Mother’s Day 2015.
Since that time, Steve Allen, president of the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association, has spearheaded a drive to raise tens of thousands of dollars, in both private and public monies, to rebuild the ship.
But Allen, trained as an architect, went further in the design, and incorporated a state-of-the-art sound stage into the design.
At Lantern Fest, The Currys from Gulf County served up their smooth assortment of original folk-rock, with brothers Tommy and Jimmy Curry on vocals and guitar, and cousin Galen Curry on vocals and bass.
“It’s the first of many events we’ll have where we’ll have this venue,” said Allen. He said he foresees that people from around the region can hold events there, including weddings.
“Every month we have a concert for full moon events,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who want to play on it, it’s a pretty cool stage.”
The boat is not yet officially named, but won’t carry the moniker Carrabella. “I call it the Phoenix, because it rose from the ashes,” Allen said.
The Currys delighted the audience with the debut of many of their newest songs, all performed into a new sound system, funded by a grant from the Franklin County Tourist Development Council, built into the permanent stage.
It’s a state-of-the-art, app-driven system with 32 channels of audio and 10,000 watts worth of speakers, “There are outlets that are meant to power your electric guitar and amp and all that’s wired into it,” Allen said. “I can do recordings on it, a 16-person band can do an orchestra piece.”
The “boat” itself is 55 feet from tip to stern, adjacent to a “dock” that once it is fully extended, will be connected to the driveway where parents can sit and watch their kids play.
Allen is now at work completing the entire giant pirate ship playground, complete with slides, a wheelhouse helm with a steering wheel, telescopes, rigging, and even a playful “brig, to lock the little bad kids in.”
Plans are to place sloped amphitheater seating that can accommodate 200 people, plus many more who have a sight line to the stage from around the park
Joan Matey, the lighthouse curator, said Lantern Fest drew a comfortable crowd of about 400 people. “This was the first Lantern Fest to include the new Fresnel lens exhibit and science room installed earlier this year,” she said.
In addition to the Currys, the fest featured performances by the Tallahassee Community College Dancers, who dazzled guests with their imaginative use of glow-in-the-dark props. Master Zheng Player, Dr. Haiqiong Deng, an internationally renowned player of the 21-string Chinese gu-zheng (zheng), returned to Lantern Fest to join the dance company for part of their performance. Ancient crafts demonstrators, including blacksmiths, also shared their talents.