Photograph by Erin Cuddigan

I heard about WaterFire after it happened the first year and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.  It was such a beautiful way of combining the elements of fire and water. I loved that it could bring so many people together to enjoy it. I had been acting in several plays and the idea of being in this type of performance was too good to miss.

I have been a wood boat Captain for many years. My job is to drive the wood boat to all the braziers so that my crew can light them and then feed them all night until the performance is done. One night I was approaching a row of braziers and as we pulled up we noticed a squirrel in the unlit brazier. I decided to skip it and light the rest. When they were lit I drove back and noticed the squirrel was still there. We tried coaxing him to leave and my first mate, Kathleen extended the net to him. There were a lot of people watching us and they were all wondering what we would do next. The squirrel then leapt into the water and swam away, which surprised us all because we didn’t know squirrels could swim. Everyone on shore gave us a resounding cheer. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE being involved with the WaterFire Community. I have made many good friends while volunteering and I love driving the boat.  I also love to see all the people watching it and enjoying it. When people thank us during the event, it really makes me happy. I think the most important work WaterFire does is in celebrating the community by encouraging local artists of all kinds to share their work. The events themselves bring together the entire city. I volunteer because I love it. I love seeing how happy it makes the large number of people who watch each WaterFire event.

One of the most memorable evenings for me was the WaterFire night which fell on July 31st several years ago. My daughter Jami was born on July 31, 1976 and she and I worked together at WaterFire for a few years. She died in February 2001. About ten years later, on that date, I brought a lot of red roses to the WaterFire event, which had her picture tied to each one. I gave many roses to the audience and I gave several to each boat captain. We placed them in many of the lit braziers. It was a very moving experience for me, my crew, the other boats and for the audience. I sure hope the nightmare we are experiencing now which forces us to be isolated will end soon so we can all come back together and enjoy WaterFire together.

– Fern Rouleau