By Jane and Vincent Kavaloski
A few hours before sunset on August 4, an annual festival of hope will take place at Twin Valley Lake in Governor Dodge State Park — a family-friendly festival that envisions a compassionate, sustainable and peaceful world — and you are invited.
This year’s “Lanterns for Peace” event begins at 6:30 p.m. the first Saturday of August and will feature professional singer, composer and guitarist Rich Baumann, who will share his songs of hope for children and adults. Together families will create paper lanterns and share in activities and conversations. Later the lanterns will be floated in a stunningly beautiful procession of lights across the darkening waters of Twin Valley Lake.
“Lanterns for Peace” began in Japan as a commemoration of the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. “Lanterns for Peace” was a way of saying “Never again!” to nuclear weapons specifically and to war in general.
The ceremony was brought to the United States in the early ’80s by James and Peggy Baumgaertner of LaCrosse. The idea spread rapidly across the country as part of the people-to-people, anti-nuclear peace movement with the people of the Soviet Union and Japan.
Later, Joel Gaalswyck, a Vietnam Veteran for Peace, and Chloe Weil initiated “Lanterns for Peace” on the Wisconsin River near Spring Green. Cathy Palzkill shared that “one of my most vivid memories is that of Joel planting his American flag in the sand at Peck’s Landing on the Wisconsin River and explaining that we all should be proud of our patriotism to confront the threat of nuclear weapons.”
About 15 years ago, when Joel’s health began to fail, Grassroots Citizens for Peace and Justice brought the event to Governor Dodge State Park on Twin Valley Lake. Jane Kavaloski remembers how everyone worked together to expand Joel’s dream. Fanou and Bryan Walton perfected the art of lantern assembling; Marie Baker set up a “green” system for food sharing; JorJan Borlin provided art displays; Mary Ann and Michael Wolkomir provided music; Judy James and Jean Luecke organized name tags and petitions; Jane Kavaloski became the emcee and her husband, Vince, provided the documentation about the arms race and nuclear weapons.
Over time this anti-nuclear event broadened to include a vision of the Earth in harmony with nature and life itself. Chuck Tennessen from Sustain Iowa County joined the planning team and created children’s activities. “Lanterns for Peace” has become a paean of hope to our shared future as a human family all across this planet. For Tennessen, the “Lanterns for Peace” is “a time for folks to gather to remind ourselves of the continued threat of war and nuclear weapons and to celebrate peace in the serenity of our beautiful valley.”
This year there will be a special “send-off” for Father Jim Murphy, whose conscience calls him to commit civil disobedience against the use of nuclear weapons. His action will take place in early August at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, which would be the epicenter of a nuclear war. As he enters Offutt AFB, Father Jim will carry with him hundreds of letters written by citizens who call for a worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.
Then, at dusk, a long chain of glowing paper lanterns, decorated with hopeful messages and images, will slowly drift out over Twin Valley Lake. Marie Baker remembers one year when the event was threatened by a pending tornado. “But a group gathered nevertheless and as they slowly descended to the lake, the clouds miraculously parted and the skies cleared.” This resplendent vision of harmony, beauty and light ignites within our hearts a deep hope for a world beyond war, greed and destruction.
We hope to see you at Governor Dodge State Park on Aug. 4. Please bring a kind-heartedness, a hopeful spirit and finger-food to share. Water will be provided. A day pass or park sticker will be required.
This year’s gathering is co-sponsored by the Iowa County Citizens for Peace and Justice and Sustain Iowa County. However, we are looking for a new generation of local visionaries to carry on (and re-design, if desired) this local, yet international, festival of hope. As ancient prophets said: “Without a vision, the people will perish.”
Jane and Vince Kavaloski have been involved in peace and justice issues for almost 40 years. In the midst of rearing four children in beautiful Iowa County, they taught and worked in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Central America. They also taught peace and conflict resolution in the Madison Metropolitan School District and Edgewood College. Read Vince’s latest “Parables & Ponderings” column here.