Solstice Lantern Walk

A giant wolf lantern was a highlight of the 2016 Solstice Lantern Walk.

The annual Solstice Lantern Walk is an interactive event for children and adults alike, but this year, the Hillsborough Arts Council has invited the community to get even more involved.

This year, the arts council has added a photography contest to the lantern walk. Teaming up with The News of Orange County, the four best participant or viewer submitted photographs will be published in the Jan. 9 edition of this newspaper. Winners will also receive new Hillsborough Arts Council “swag” and four lantern kits for the 2019 walk.

Photographs should be submitted via email to with “Solstice Photo Submission” in the subject line. Participants are limited to one photograph each and must include the name of the photographer in the body of the email. All photos must be in JPEG format and submitted by Jan. 1, 2019 for consideration.

The Solstice Lantern Walk, originally scheduled for Friday, Dec. 21, has been rescheduled to Sunday, Dec. 23 due to forecasted rain. 

The walk will wind through Riverwalk, lighting up the darkened town with creative lanterns of all shapes and sizes, and finish at the Weaver Street Parking Deck. 

The event will begin at 5:45 p.m., but participants are asked to arrive at 5:30 p.m. to line up at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. The only entry point to Riverwalk for this event will be through the Farmer’s Market Pavilion off of E. Margaret Lane. All other routes will be redirected by HAC volunteers.

The Solstice Lantern Walk is held in celebration of the Winter Solstice, an event that signals the changing of seasons. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and the marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. 

“This astronomical event is significant to many cultures, religions, and traditions, for many different reasons,” the arts council website states. “For the Hillsborough community, it has become a beautiful evening to gather and recognize the peaceful quiet that the darker, colder months of the year can bring.”

This nondenominational event, now in its fourth year, has secured a prime position in the lineup of Hillsborough holiday events.

Artists, residents, and children prepare their lanterns months in advance, creating masterpieces with moving parts – in previous years, lanterns shaped like giant wolves, owls, and fairies lit up the night and were visible from atop the Weaver Street Parking Deck. 

Smaller handheld lanterns, often shaped as stars or moons, are most common. They bob beside children as they participate in the annual event.

The Hillsborough Arts Council asks that all registered participants have a handmade white only lantern with a LED light or other battery-operated white light source. No flames will be allowed. Participants without lanterns will be asked to observe the walk from the parking deck.

This event is for all ages, and the arts council urges those who take pictures to send them in and post them online with the hashtag #HACLanternWalk2018.

During this year’s event, the Hillsborough Arts Council will bid farewell to the beloved Stickwork sculpture, A Sight to Behold, by artist Patrick Dougherty. The life of the sculpture was limited due to the nature of the braided saplings and branches. The sculpture delighted visitors for three years, outlasting its predicted lifespan of two years.

Hillsborough Arts Council volunteers will decorate the sculpture for its final lantern walk and have Native Flutist Erika Alexander accompany the sculpture. 

The sculpture will be removed in mid-January, though another public art piece will soon be installed. The Hillsborough Arts Council is in the process of treating the wood from the Calvin Street historic tree that fell during Hurricane Florence. The wood will be fashioned into a public art piece, currently deemed the Calvin Street Tree Project, which is still a mystery to the public. 

For updates surrounding weather, visit the Hillsborough Arts Council on their website or Facebook page. 

To participate in the walk or attend the farewell ceremony, one must be a registered participant. The event is free. To register online visit