Gallery: Last light for Lewis

Published 11:04 am Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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Final St. Lucia Festival a memorial to former organizer

An Austin tradition is coming to an end while honoring a former resident.

This year’s Lucia Festival is the last Lucia Fest, according to director Madlain Vander. Vander is planning on moving next summer.

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“I wasn’t even going to do it this fall,” she said.

Yet the death of noted resident Darren Lewis this fall, who many remember for being active in the community, gave Vander and other Lucia organizers pause. Lewis and family were always active in Lucia Fest, and Lucia organizers saw the opportunity to do some good with one last show.

That’s why this year’s Lucia Fest is a memorial to Darren Lewis, who died Sept. 24 at age 38.

“So many of us were so close to them,” Vander said. “I said, ‘I think we can use this to raise money and get a memorial done.’”

Proceeds from the event will go towards a Pacelli Catholic Schools Guardian Angels Fund for the Lewis children, along with a ceiling star and permanent seat fixture at the Paramount Theatre.

“It felt like it was the right thing to do,” Vander said.

The show will still contain all of Austin’s favorite Scandinavian traditions. Santa, elves, gingerbread men (and women), skaters and more will dazzle the stage. More than 100 participants from age 3 through adult representing Jane Taylor Academy of Dance, Pacelli Shamrock Singers and Clover Choir, Pacelli Elementary Students, Sons of Norway, Matchbox Children’s Theatre, and community members are in the production.

The musical performance illustrates the story of St. Lucia, who was said to have been a Sicilian saint who died for her Christian beliefs sometime around 300 AD.

Her sacrifice has, for years, been represented by lights. That’s a tradition that is still practice today, with young girls around the world dawning a crown of candles, accompanied by a white dress, to celebrate the holiday.

Theresa Tusfvesson, an Austin Rotary Exchange Student from Gothenburg, Sweden, plays Lucia this year. Tusfvesson has been in plenty of Lucia processions before, but never a production quite like this.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “We do this every year at home. It was really nice to know the people of Austin celebrate Lucia.”

This year’s production is massive even by Lucia standards. An intricate set will set the stage, the first such set in the show’s 19 years. The dances and songs are even bigger as well, according to Vander.

“It’s just bigger than it’s ever been, just because of everybody involved,” Vander said.

The last Lucia Fest will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Paramount Theatre, which is partnering with Lucia organizers for the event. Admission is free, but a free-will donation is requested. People can also leave memories of Lewis in a memory box, and a silent auction will take place, according to Vander.

Yet the show will go on, at least for one more time.

“It’s the last Lucia,” Vander said. “We’re doing this, and then we’re done.”