LORAIN — Linda and Daniel Pataky watched together as hundreds of people surrounded a fish sculpture and chanted “burn the fish” as it was set ablaze.
They watched the structure become engulfed in flames, the smoke and embers dancing in the autumn night sky. They felt the heat from the fire contrast with the night air. They observed the chanting and hollering from the crowd and the roaring and crackling erupting from the sculpture.
This was their first time seeing the FireFish Festival since moving to Lorain in December. The couple saw a lot of lights and activity while they were sitting on the balcony of their home by the Black River, so they went to see what was happening and stumbled upon one of the biggest festivals of the year.
“I feel like I’m back in high school watching a bonfire for homecoming,” Linda Pataky said.
“It’s just so cool, it’s very interesting, it’s exciting,” Daniel Pataky said. “It’s sparkling for Lorain.”
This was the fourth year for the festival, which ran Friday and Saturday, but it drew quite a number of first-time attendees Saturday.
The festival featured performances and art in unexpected places along Broadway and culminated with the burning of a giant fish sculpture, which was designed by interdisciplinary theater and performance artist Daniel McNamara this year.
First-timers Chris Camp, 48, and his kids, 7-year-old Julian and 10-year-old Nicolette, enjoyed the day and evening festivities.
Camp, who grew up in Lorain but now lives with his children in North Olmsted, heard about the festival from a friend and thought they’d come see what the buzz was about. The family’s favorite part was visiting the studio of local Lorain fashion icon Jevon Terrance.
“She got to see some dresses and he go to hold a shoe (Terrance) made,” he said. “I’m so proud of Lorain right now … things like this. People need to come out and be a part of Lorain, and we can get it back to where it was.”
Julian and Nicolette also loved the lighting of the fish sculpture.
“I liked that it was warm for a second and it was a huge fire; it was just really fun,” she said.
The fish sculpture, made from upcycled paper and cardboard, was built with the help of students from the Lorain County Community College STEAM Teen Academy.
In addition to the sculpture, the event featured live performers, like jugglers with lighted hula hoops, glow-in-the-dark bowling pins and sticks on fire, as well as ballerinas and fire dancers.
OCircus!, a circus performance troupe from Oberlin College, entertained festival-goers through the two-day event with its mesmerizing acrobatics and gravity defying feats.