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Welcome to the Picnic

Local fiber optics company Ants On A Melon lights up festivals across the country
The fiber optic jellyfish by Ants on a Melon at Kaleidoscope Music Festival. Photo by Todd Cooper.
The fiber optic jellyfish by Ants on a Melon at Kaleidoscope Music Festival. Photo by Todd Cooper.

With all the hoopla of Eugene Celebration and Kaleidoscope Music Festival this past weekend, you probably laid eyes on a whole slew of inexplicable sights. And if you saw a giant glowing jellyfish bouncing around Mount Pisgah, don’t fret — you weren’t having a crazy trip; those dancing tentacles were just the far-out fiber optic artwork of local company Ants On A Melon. 

“I found the music festival scene and it just completely changed my view of the world, and I found different ways to connect with people,” says Ants On A Melon founder Joel Pinkham. The idea came to the UO grad after shining a flashlight on a decorative beaded umbrella in his living room; Pinkham was inspired to string colorful fiber optic silicon strands inside an umbrella and send it out over the crowd at Re:Generation Festival at Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Ore. “I thought it’d be cool to contribute and to bring something that was different and brought joy to people in a really cool way,” he says. 

Since then, Pinkham started experimenting with fiber optics, constructing his own flashlights and sharing his illuminating creations with festival-goers across the country. After traveling to major festivals Shambhala, Electric Forest and What The Festival, Ants On A Melon was invited to showcase its art for hometown festivals Faerieworlds and Kaleidoscope.

In the last six months the company has made headway operating out of a small studio in Springfield and launching a website where fans can buy Pinkham’s smaller creations like lightsabers and fiber optic whips and tails. He says the sale of the smaller toys helps fund his larger creative projects, like the jellyfish. But for Pinkham it’s the interactivity, not the money, that makes his artwork worthwhile. “There’s so many people who see what we’re doing, and they come to us with ideas and then we can work with that idea and make it come to life.”  

As day turned to night at Kaleidoscope, the giant glowing umbrella jellyfish swayed above the starry-eyed crowd. Pinkham let people take turns spinning the umbrella, hypnotized by the printed nebula and neon fiber optic veins stretched across its underbelly. For the artist, this is the ultimate way to connect. “Not through words,” he says, “but through light.”

Visit antsonamelon.com for more info