Wetaskiwin’s sister city Ashoro’s travelling students stayed in the central Alberta community in early fall 2017, but their memory still played a role in the inaugural Luminaria Wetaskiwin event, held Jan. 1 to help celebrate the new year.
Luminaria Wetaskiwin took place in Wetaskiwin’s Ashoro Friendship Park, and featured festive hot chocolate, kids’ games, fire pits, a light display and Luminaria bags — placed in memory for the Japanese students.
The event was a joint venture between the Wetaskiwin-Ashoro Friendship Society and the Wetaskiwin Arts and Music Festival Society.
“We would love to see an annual Luminaria,” said Sandra Kim, secretary of the Wetaskiwin-Ashoro Friendship Society.
Greg Felske, president of the Wetaskiwin-Ashoro Friendship Society, says the venture was held in celebration of both the new year and the Ashoro students, as the New Year’s holiday is an important time in Japan.
“New Years is probably one of the biggest Japanese celebrations,” said Kim. It is a time when people visit with family and friends.
“The purpose of Luminaria is to bring people together. It’s about starting off the new year fresh with family and friends,” Kim added.
Felske says home-stay families were invited to attend the celebration, and purchase lit Luminaria bags to be placed for the students.
The proceeds from the Luminaria bag fundraiser will go to the Wetaskiwin-Ashoro Friendship Society.
Along with recognizing New Years the Ashoro students, Wetaskiwin Arts and Musical Festival Society president Susan Kokas says the event is also a great way to utilize the park and showcase the community.
One of the home-stay families in attendance was the Fletts family. For Niki Flett, participating for the first time as a home-stay family had many close ties with her past.
“I had actually lived abroad for many years in Asia,” said Flett, who has a strong interest in Japan and Asian culture.