Volunteer Spotlight: Joe and Anne DeFaria

When Joe and Anne DeFaria first visited WaterFire, they mostly stayed at the basin and watched the fires burn against the skyline backdrop. They didn’t really venture very far down the river. Now, years later, they are the volunteers who know the ins and outs of Starry Starry Night – at the other end of the event – and are a major part of that installation’s incredible beauty.

Hanging Stars. Photo by Jennifer Bedford.

Joe and fellow volunteers hang stars at the Starry, Starry Night installation in Memorial Park. Photo by Jennifer Bedford.

The DeFarias began volunteering when their kids grew up and, as it tends to go, they had enough time to give their Saturday evenings to something they believed in. “We decided to volunteer to give back what we had appreciated before,” said Joe, and Anne agreed. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” she said, “and to help all the WaterFire guests that are there.”

Anne’s greatest joy from volunteering is interacting with everyone who is simply in love with the event and what it means to the community. “It’s really amazing to be part of WaterFire in that sense – there are so many people that really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s nice to do our little part to help WaterFire go on that evening, and that is rewarding.”

At Starry Starry Night, where visitors make wishes upon stars and light a luminaria with a written dedication to a loved one, the beauty lies within the visitors as well as the environment. “It just looks beautiful all lit up,” Anne said. “Waterfire guests are mesmerized by the beauty of Starfield… Some people get really emotional with the dedication. Anyone who’s lost a parent or loved one and writes  a dedication can get really emotional, and we try to be accommodating in that sense.”

Joe Defaria, photo by John Nickerson.

Joe Defaria, photo by John Nickerson.

Joe remembers one woman who left an impact on him. “I had one woman come up to me and grab my sleeve and go ‘My candle went out!’ She was stressed out because she lost her mother and someone else the week before, and someone else was in the hospital, so she lit these candles. I told her I’d keep an eye on it for the rest of the night, and every once in a while I’d go over there and relight it. She gave me a hug for it.”

Wrapped up in the smoke and music, the Starfield during a WaterFire plays host to many incredible moments like these. As volunteers, Anne and Joe get to bask in the area the whole night. “The prettiest thing at Starry Starry Night is when it’s really dark and the stars are all lit up with the luminarias,” said Anne. “It’s an interesting station to be at.”

Joe’s favorite part of volunteering at the area is “towards the end of the night – you can sit there at the end of the field and look out and see all the different stars. A lot of times you get some people that will put a blanket out and just lie underneath all of the stars. It’s a very picturesque moment – you can see the stars and all the luminaria down at the bottom.”

Anne Defaria

Anne Defaria. Photo by Joe Defaria.

It’s also a major part of the community-building that WaterFire aims to do. When asked what WaterFire means to the community, Anne described the friendliness which she finds so enchanting. “People can come to a relaxing environment, where they can enjoy different activities offered at Waterfire.” And Joe agreed. In fact, he recalled one evening where the invitation extended to him and his wife. “It’s really a community gathering place. One time, these people brought candelabra, had a whole bunch of food, and invited us to come and eat with them.”

It’s an important part of the event and the art, and it wouldn’t be the same without Anne and Joe DeFaria. They continue returning to Starry Starry Night because of its beauty and the opportunity to interact with the community, but ultimately, as Anne said, they come back to keep enjoying themselves. “If we weren’t having fun, we wouldn’t still be here,” she said. “This is the end of our third year, and you’ll see us next year.”

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