The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is being held through January 13, 2019, at the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, North Carolina. We had an opportunity to tour the event and came away impressed with the beauty and a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.
In case you are wondering, 2019 is the Year of the Pig in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the lunar calendar. Pigs are diligent, compassionate and generous. There were pigs aplenty at the festival.
Zigong, The Chinese Lantern Capitol
The lanterns are created by hand on silk fabric stretched over steel frames then lit with hundreds of LED lights. In fact there are more than 15,000 LED lights contributing to the glowing masterpieces . It takes 19 tractor-trailers to deliver all the lanterns for the festival.
Zigong, Sichuan, considered the capitol of Chinese lantern-making for thousands of years, is where almost all the lanterns are made. The skills of the artisans are passed from one generation to the next.
There are 25 different displays ranging from traditional palace lanterns and traditional oil-paper umbrellas to a fairy dancing with phoenixes. My favorite was the fairy tree, making its world premiere this year, a glowing silver tree that looked like a sea anemone with strands of pearls.
A Life-Size Dragon
The Chinese Drum is an impressive display and is even more engaging when you strike the drum to change the colors of the lanterns. Dignity and grace is exemplified in the Swan Lake display of two swans in the lake. There is also the Closely Attached Hearts display which has two buttons that require two people to press so that the light in the massive heart will illuminate.
Dominating the scene is the glowing yellow Chinese Dragon lantern, which is longer than three school buses and weighs 18,000 pounds. It stands 21 feet tall and is 200 feet long. It’s head had to be installed by a 15-person crew.
Ticket prices start at $10 and food trucks offer refreshments for sale. Cultural acts run regularly on the main stage and we enjoyed hat jugglers (we didn’t know there was such a thing!), plate spinners and acrobats.