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Saturday, April 11, 2015
Birthday party-goes light the night with sky lanterns at the conclusion of the city's sesquicentennial celebration tonight at the Historic Palace Theatre. Approximately 150 of the lanterns were launched. (PHOTOS BY HEATHER N. GRIMMER / ENP Photographer)

Sky lantern launch highlight of birthday celebration

By Scott Leffler

A party guest fills his sky lantern with warmth, about
ready to launch it to the heavens. 
Lockport's 150th birthday celebration featured performances by four musical groups, two actors, a historic re-creation of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and a surprise visit by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. But for those in attendance at the end of the night, the sky lantern launch will likely be the most memorable part of the grand evening.

With East Avenue closed off from Elm Street to Charles Street, birthday party guests packed the street with 150 sky lanterns, each 20 inches tall. The goal was to light fuel cells inside the lanterns, which would heat the air inside the paper bags, sending them skyward. Fire, paper and wind turned out to be an at-times comedic combination.

Those in attendance ooh'd and ahh'd as the sky lanterns took flight, heading northeast. Guests were overheard exclaiming how pretty they looked flying into the dark night sky. Some of the lanterns, however, chose not to fly, but rather skip along the ground, narrowly missing guests of the grand party. Others caught fire. Two got stuck in trees. It was not a sight for the squeamish as some were worried that something — or someone — might catch fire.

In the end, no damage was done, though. And most in attendance took the hiccup at the conclusion of the evening in stride ... or with laughter. It was certainly a memorable conclusion to a grand celebration.

The evening began with another surprise, as word spread less than an hour before the start of the party that Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was en route to the show. The city's former Congressional representative was coming to read a citation from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, congratulates the City of Lockport on its 
150th birthday. Mayor Anne McCaffrey claps.
Hochul began discussing her fondest memories of Lockport, dropping in numerous references to city businesses and landmarks to show the audience she truly meant the high praise she gave the city. Then it was on to the citation.

"The true greatness of a community comes from the heart and soul of the people who live there," the citation reads, adding that "residents of Lockport can be remarkably proud of the region's impressive cultural, educational, recreational, social and historical offerings and attractions — and those with the good fortune to visit this gracious locale know they, too, have discovered a very special and charming place."

Citations were also given from the offices of Congressman Chris Collins, State Sen. Rob Ortt, and the Niagara County Legislature.

There was cake and ice cream for 500 people. 
Performances were offered by the Lock City Glee Club, which sung a song written for the city's centennial ― 50 years ago; the Lockport Chorale; and Voice Male, an acapella group from Lockport High School. Patrick Hannigan played the role of Benjamin Carpenter, the city's first mayor, while Charles Begley offered his interpretation of Birdsall Holly. James Updegraph played John Wilkes Booth, while Jason Millis sat in for President Lincoln during the assassination recreation. And an abridged version of the video vignette was played for the audience of approximately 500.

At the conclusion of the pomp and circumstance, it was time for cake and ice cream — then the sky lanterns.

The city has nine more days of celebrations planned — beginning June 27 with the Downtown Arts and Crafts Festival and concluding with the Taste of Lockport on July 5.


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