Feeding the Flames at Lorain, Ohio's FireFish Festival

Discover how this beloved Northeast Ohio tradition is transforming from a once a year event to a year-round organization.

When FireFish Festival started in Lorain, Ohio, in 2015, it was seen as a day to energize a postindustrial downtown through innovative art installations, live entertainment and — as the name promises — the lighting of a giant papier-mache fish. 

But the pandemic changed the direction of FireFish.

“We decided we wanted to be a year-round organization and not just a festival organization,” explains FireFish operations and marketing manager Candice Pettigrew. “We’ve really situated ourselves to be the arts organization for Lorain.”

The festival’s theme this year is “Fire in the Sky: Transcending Dark and Light,” a nod to next year’s eclipse. The event takes place in downtown Lorain Sept. 16, starting at 2 p.m.

To get the community more engaged, FireFish has made lantern kits that can be assembled at home and then used in this year’s parade down Broadway at dusk. The festival also helps run an arts camp and, next year, will put up art installations in connection with the Lorain Historical Society to commemorate the centennial of a series of tornadoes in town.

Another thing that’s changed is the fish itself, which Pettigrew says will be taller and “look like it’s jumping out of the water.”

But the biggest addition this year is the Arts Alley, between Fifth and Sixth streets near Speak of the Devil, a popular local bar. 

“All summer long, we’ve been working on activating the alley,” Pettigrew says. “A lot of the stuff there will end up being permanent.”

One happy development since FireFish launched nearly a decade ago is a renaissance along Broadway in Lorain. 

“It’s still growing, but it’s great to be a part of that amazing experience,” says Pettigrew. “It’s become a cool place to be, and it’s really fun to sell that to people.”