I can’t say that I celebrated the Summer Solstice in quite the same way as I did in the Finger Lakes. People in the Midwest don’t get nearly as excited about it –maybe because they didn’t have as many cool things to attend!
By far the coolest thing I’ve done to celebrate the official start of summer was attend a Ring of Fire event on Bare Hill a few years back. I think this celebration has moved to labor day weekend now, but apparently Conesus Lake still hold theirs on the 4th of July weekend. I highly recommend attending one if you’re in the area, but this event will always represent my Summer Solstice experience.
Traditionally a Senecan celebration of gratitude for bountiful summers and hopeful harvests, a Ring of Fire is also a celebration of community and togetherness –it takes multiple participants to pull it off!
The view from the top of the Bare Hill alone made the short hike up the hill worth it. You can see for miles over Canandaigua, Honeoye, and Keuka Lakes. But the main event this time is surprisingly not the water itself. Instead, the attraction involves the rolling glacial hills that surround the lakes and make them seem nestled right into the land.
Starting with Bare Hill, sun went down and the biggest bonfire I’ve witnessed (and I’ve seen my fair share of pyrotechnic-lover’s bonfires) was lit after a Senecan chanting prayer. Then, one by one, little fires and flares lit their way around the hills until the circle of fire surrounds the entire lake, crowning it in a red and yellow glow. Drums and music played while someone taught a group of people a traditional Senecan dance while others lounged on their blankets in the plush summer grass. Some shoreline residents even set off fireworks.
Growing up in the bonfire culture of the Finger Lakes, I crave the calm joy and relaxed summer nights by a good outdoor fire. I vividly remember this one being so comfortable and social –the fire kept away mosquitos and the lake looked so cool with all the reflected colors. I met new people, played new games, and further developed my love for a good flannel shirt and jeans. The smoky smell on the clothes the next day made me smile as I remembered some of the kids daring each other to jump over the ashes at the end of the night.
I’m pretty sad that I won’t be attending this sort of solstice celebration again. But apparently the longest day of this year ends with a full Strawberry Moon –maybe I’ll break open a bottle of strawberry wine and light a ring of candles around my bathtub. I’m sure my kitten would like to try to catch the lights.