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Portland Winter Light Festival

The Portland Winter Light Festival will be here soon! Although it’s the first one, it actually has some pretty rich history behind it. Best of all, this event, hosted by OMSI is free to the public. Here’s what inspired the Portland Winter Light Festival as well as what you can expect to see during it.

The Great Light Way

Portland’s Third Street became the Great Light Way in June of 1914. Ten steel light structures were installed along Third Avenue. The arched structures were paid for by downtown businesses that were worried that business was drifting away from them and toward Broadway.

In a time when lights were largely still considered a luxury, this sign of progress was a big deal for Portland and for those Third Street businesses. Each arch had 96 40-watt bulbs, and the magnificent arches light up the area for 23 years. Today, all remnants of the Great Light Way have been removed (in fact, all traces of the arches had been removed by 1940).

This Festival

The Portland Winter Light Festival is inspired by the Great Light Way and also by other light festivals around the world. It’s a community-wide celebration of Portland’s most talented light artists and designers. The festival is a “collaboration between art and science,” according to the event’s website.

The festival will run for four nights. Each night, the festival’s installations will light up into dazzling displays in the area around OSMI. Each night will feature different artists and musical performances, so no two nights will be the same.

The light displays will include animated projections on buildings, glowing art in galleries and storefronts, light displays in parks, and light dances on the water of the Willamette River. The displays will turn Portland into a “tapestry of light, color, artistry, performance, and imagination,” according to the event’s website.

Other Festival Events

Other Portland Winter Light Festival events include a lighted bike ride, lighted puppet shows, and dance and music performances. All the events (with the exception of the science talks, perhaps!) are designed to be fun for the whole family.

Light and Science Talks

The festival will include a series of talks inside the OMSI (seating is first come, first served). Topics will include lighted flying robots, LED lights, augmented reality, and the human visual system. See a schedule of talks here.

Nighttime Bike Ride

Any Portland festival should include bikes, right? This festival includes an illuminated bike ride. So get those battery-operated lights ready and put them on your bike to join in the three-mile ride. Just remember, the crazier your lights are, the better. Get more information about the bike ride here.

Sailing on the Willamette

The Portland Spirit and the Portland Opera are partnering up to offer a unique way to enjoy the festival. Enjoy the light displays during a free 30-minute cruise filled with beautiful music. (Food and drink will also be available for purchase during the cruise). Mark LaPierre will be sharing his light creations on the ship. See departure schedule here.

Event Details

The Portland Winter Light Festival will be at OMSI and the surrounding grounds, February 3–6, 2016. 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5:00 to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Event is free to the public.

Featured Image: “Downtown Portland Oregon” by Christopher licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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