The FireFish Festival is back in downtown Lorain!
The FireFish Festival is back in downtown Lorain!

The FireFish Festival is back in downtown Lorain!


Returning to the downtown Broadway streetscape for the first time since 2019, this 2023 festival celebrates the growth of downtown Lorain. With its stunning architecture, streetscape, and many new businesses serving as a backdrop for this year’s festivities, the event promises amazing art, food, fun, fire performers, and the much-anticipated and iconic FireFish Finale with its parade and performance.

“With Broadway fully activated with so many exciting businesses, it makes sense for FireFish Arts to return to the heart of downtown Lorain and to highlight the growth and development of the area, while also connecting back to those businesses and highlighting them as part of the festival” states Candice Pettigrew, FireFish Arts Operations and Marketing Director.

According to Joan Perch, FireFish Artistic Director, “an exciting part of this year’s FireFish Festival is enhanced opportunity for community involvement in making and planning almost every piece of the festival, especially our new Lantern Parade, reflecting on the festival theme: Transcending Dark and Light.” This year’s event was developed with community feedback from the FireFish Festival Artist Board and the FireFish Board of Directors. Planning the festival involves connecting with the community in broader and deeper ways.

This year the festival has a greater emphasis on local artists and public art installations, especially in the Art Alley location. “In the early days of FireFish, there were no artists living and working in Lorain, and most of the art installations were created for the “pop-up” event to exist for only one weekend, to show the potential of downtown, and the impact artists can have on a community. As downtown grows, and professional artists are living and working here, this festival is an opportunity to highlight them in new ways, and to install art and murals that can live on beyond this one-day event,” adds Perch.

Local visual artists engaged in the FireFish Festival this year include Jason Shaffer, who designed the event logo and poster, Troy Daugherty, who created the event map, mural artists Mike Sekeltar, and Valerie Fiehl who will be painting live in the Art Alley, alongside the new mural by Bob Peck.

Other artists featured in the alley include Frank DeTillio, Hiatt Hernon, Sarah Kempton, Alyssa Hoffee, Jasmelyn Gonzalez, Ryan Craycraft, Camara Goodrich, and Jeff Pye. Temporary murals by teen participants of Leaders of Today, art by the ACES teens, and other participants from Start w/Art round out the visual art installations. The Art Alley will also feature live painting demonstrations by artists Camara Goodrich, visiting artist Maia Arubuli of the International Artists in Doha, and interactive art activities provided by local non-profits and FireFish partners.

Always FREE, the 2023 FireFish Festival opens at 2 p.m. with food trucks, a vendor market, and three stages. Visitors are encouraged to explore adjacent downtown Lorain’s many new bars, eateries, shops, and FireFish artist sites.

A “Pied Piper” parade at dusk leads community members along with performers, musicians, fire performers, and lanterns to the much anticipated and iconic annual James Levin FireFish Finale taking place at sunset. Lanterns were created throughout the summer at workshops at the Lorain Public Library, Little Library on the Lake, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, and by ACES teens and Lorain High School art students.

Also included this year is local singer/songwriter and musician Jaclyn Bradley and her students from Rock Town Academy, singing fire-themed songs. “The vocal and expressive abilities by these young singers is so impressive and certainly highlights the vast talent of our community,” states Jaclyn.

The exciting  FireFish Festival Finale itself has become iconic to the community of Lorain, and this year includes a new “Illuminator” skeleton structure that will be “revealed” at the end of the finale. With a summer marked by air quality concerns here and across the country and world, it became important for the FireFish staff and artists to look at how to safely pivot plans for the construction of the FireFish into a permanent steel sculpture and pyrotechnics.

The steel structure of the new “Illuminator” FireFish has been designed by artist Ryan Corrigan, FireFish Finale Artistic Director Danny McNamara, and Schuyler White, from the Ohio Burn Unit, in collaboration with Lorain business owner Dave Mihalick. And Lorain High School welding students are excited to be assisting as apprentices.

FireFish Finale Artistic Director Danny McNamara  says “this year’s finale will be like none other. While the key iconic elements that fans of the festival have come to expect will surely be included, we have a few new surprises up our sleeve to continue this unique transformative tradition that Lorain and surrounding communities have come to know and love. Do not miss this year’s epic FireFish Finale!”

A “FireFish Finale After Party” celebration of music and dance will follow on the Main Stage and in the Art Alley and continue until 11 p.m. Bernadette Kathryn & The Lonely Days Band will perform their classic Nashville sound infused with motor city rock on the main stage at 9 pm. Speak Lounge will also be performing at 9 pm in the Art Alley along with fire ariel performer Flow with Tay.

Also featured on the main stage during the day are The Rollin Rust at 4 pm and One World Tribe at 6 pm and Lorain’s DJ Rey will be Emcee spinning tunes throughout the day. Live music can be found in the alleyways around 6th Street featuring local musicians. Sky Ariel Studios and Hiatt’s Theatrical Comedy Improve will both perform in the Art Alley in the afternoon.

The Artisan Market on Broadway features over forty local artisans selling their handcrafted products and art. Lorenzo’s will be there with their pizza oven, along with Homestyle BBQ, GeeGee’s Kettle Korn,  Babcia’s Kitchen, Dominic’s of New York, and many other food trucks. The Artisan Market is open from 2 pm – 11 pm.

FireFish Festival 2023

The FireFish Festival is supported by grants, sponsorships, and the generous support of community members, businesses, and partners. These include the Ohio Arts Council, the Fowler Family Foundation, the Nord Family Foundation, the Nordson Corporation Foundation, the City of Lorain, the Lorain County Visitors Bureau, the Specialized Trust Company, the Campana Family Foundation, Lorain County Community College, and Buckeye Community Bank.

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