Sweet 16: That One Time at ArtPrize

Thousands of fire lanterns fill the Grand Rapids skyline behind the words, "Our Super Sweet Sixteen"

Last week LinkedIn alerted us to the fact we are 16 years old. You’d think we would keep track of such a momentous occasion…we didn’t. It’s pretty on par with our tagline, It’s About You. We don’t do a great job celebrating our accomplishments or recognitions, cause we’d much rather celebrate you.

Since it really is a big deal (sixteen is the new fifteen), we wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few of our milestones. We’d also like you to save the date for our Sweet 16 party, which will feature food, drink, and a very inside look into the world of 8THIRTYFOUR. Coming this November…

There are some events or projects that just stick with you and in 2012 we outdid ourselves.

We’ll continue to reminisce in future blogs, so make sure you subscribe.

That one time at ArtPrize

Back in the heyday of 8THIRTYFOUR, when we were known as 834 Design & Marketing, we undertook a project that no one—and we mean no one—wanted to be a part of. It might’ve had something to do with all the stuff that could go wrong: burning down Grand Rapids, letting people play with fire, and the ridiculous short timeline (a month and half).

My better half, Adrienne Wallace, was the voice of reason and suggested we maybe pass on the project. I, being me, saw the possibilities, not the risks. 

A group of women pose behind a black table and chairs with a lake as their backdrop.

Lights in the Night was born and planned within a month. We were managing the media, logistics, design, volunteer coordination, set-up, social media and so much more. It was a massive success driven by blood, sweat, tears, and a bunch of die-hard interns – Leah, Kristen, Renay, Ashley and so many more. 

On Friday, September 28, 2012, at 7:45 p.m., thousands of people gathered along the riverfront, each equipped with a lantern and a lighter. The launch was scheduled to take place at 8:00, but by 7:50 the anticipation had clearly overwhelmed the crowds as rogue lanterns began to float toward the rooftops. By the time the air horn signaled the start of the launch the bridges and sidewalks lining the river were already starting to glow and Ah-Nab-Awen Park was alight with thousands of lanterns.

Once the launch was really underway, the sky above the Grand River appeared to be speckled with thousands of teetering stars, soaring up above the city before the wind came up and swept the entire fleet toward the south. With every passing minute, more lanterns were being lit and released.

It was quite possibly the coolest and most beautiful thing, I have ever been involved with. 

A wide angle shot of Grand Rapids at night while thousands of fire lanterns ascend into the night sky behind the words, "For a while 50 thousand + people stood in awe and joy. No color, not politics, just wonderment. Thanks again for the memories." - Donna Fras
A close-up view of the Grand River as thousands of fire lanterns begin their ascent into the Grand Rapids skyline.

We won a bunch of awards and got lots of media but no one really knew we were behind it all. It’s just how we like it. The event ended up in the ArtPrize Top 10, maybe Top 3 – hard to remember 10 years ago. 

I’ll forever be grateful to these amazing women and the fact we pulled off the impossible.

Six women standing in a line and posing for the camera

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