Story Behind Night Lights
Back in 1998, I was in the charming city of Providence, Rhode Island for two weeks due to work training. On a Saturday night, I went for a walk outside the hotel and serendipitously stumbled across Providence’s large public art project called “Waterfire” – a mile-long series of torches in the middle of the city’s downtown river. The flaming torches, accompanied by a low-key soundtrack on the riverwalk, created a very cool, atmosphere for the hundreds of people who were walking alongside “Waterfire.” The visual beauty, the vibe – I never forgot it. It was very contemplative and so interesting. In the back of my mind for many years, I thought it would be fun to take the feeling I received from witnessing “Waterfire” and recreate it in my home turf of Western New York.
After attending numerous Great Blue Heron Music Festivals in Sherman, NY, I started to do a little festival volunteering and got acquainted with Julie Rockcastle, festival co-producer, and owner of the property in which the festival is held. Knowing my special events background, Julie told me that she would be receptive in hearing any ideas I had that could be implemented on her beautiful piece of land. Due to Julie and husband Steve’s unending maintenance and improvement to the land, the Blue Heron property is truly one of the most unique and efficient (for event planners) spaces in the Northeast. I mulled over in my head doing a concert, or an weekend art show on the property. The possibilities were endless. However, this one idea kept coming back into my head…”what if the Blue Heron woods were lit up in lights, and people walked around and checked out cool light and artistic displays?”
After conducting loads of research, if I was to create a “Night Lights” attraction it would be a one-of-a-kind attraction in North America. Throughout the country there are holiday light displays, and concert and special event light displays, but not one that would take you on a journey through the forests at night. Of course, I had no idea how or if this could be accomplished…lighting up the forest, that would take many extension cords, wouldn’t it? I also spent numerous brain cells on constructing a plan that would fit into the natural environment and complement the “feel” that the Great Blue Heron Music Festival provides its guest. Also, through my previous position as communications manager for a WNY tourism agency, I wanted to create an eco-tourism attraction that would help attract visitors to Chautauqua County. I wanted NIGHT LIGHTS to be a destination for our region’s summer and fall-time visitors.
The idea festered in my head for two years before I approached Julie and Steve Rockcastle about the project – just to see if they were interested. On a January day in 2008, I trekked out to Sherman and presented them with idea for NIGHT LIGHTS. I was relieved to know I wasn’t crazy when they actually seemed to like the idea. With a tentative approval to explore deeper into the project, I once again put the project on the backburner – it just didn’t seem like a priority – and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if I could “pull it off?”
The idea rested in my brain for another year, but there were two people (Steve Rockcastle & Anna Shaffer) who through their enthusiasm and words inspired me to move forward on this project. At the end of May 2009, it was determined that NIGHT LIGHTS was going to see the light of…um, NIGHT!!! It has been a total blast creating NIGHT LIGHTS at The Heron. The task of creating NIGHT LIGHTS is fun and entails plenty of nights walking around in the woods with an LED light in hand. We hope you enjoy it. It’s been a long journey to this point, and now we’re looking forward in sharing something fun!
Doug Sitler – July 2009