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Chinese Lantern Festival Brings A Thousand Year Tradition To Cary

The second NC Chinese Lantern Festival at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre consists of 20 displays made of silk and over 15,000 LED lights.
Ryan Wilusz

Since Thanksgiving, Cary has been hosting the fourth annual Chinese Lantern Festival. Every year, around 85 to 90,000 people visit Cary to see the lights.

The lanterns featured in the festival come from Zigong, Sichuan, which has been making lanterns since the Han dynasty in 206 BC. The festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year. Red designs are predominantly featured as a symbol of good fortune.

The lanterns are handmade and assembled in China, then shipped into North Carolina ports. Artisans construct steel frames into various shapes and then stretch silk fabric over it. LED light bulbs are placed strategically inside to light up the lantern. In this year's festival, visitors walk through a bright, red pagoda and can see pandas, giant koi fish, and a 200 foot-long dragon floating on Symphony Lake.

Taylor Traversari, the Booth Amphitheater's general manager, recommends at least 45 minutes to walk through the full park.

"A lot of people are making this a family tradition, which is one thing we're excited about," Traversari said. "It's a changing show, so you come one year and it's not going to be the same thing like the other holiday light events. And this is not just about Christmas, it's about celebrating Chinese culture."

Tianyu Arts and Culture, a cultural events company from Sichuan, China, works with different cities around the world to host this festival. Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles join Cary in hosting the festival this year, but in years past it has been in cities including Atlanta, Milwaukee, Milan, and Dubai.

Miao Zhang, the festival's manager, travels around the world with a 70-person crew of performers, vendors, and maintenance workers who assemble and dismantle the lanterns.

"We just provide... Chinese culture all around the world and let you know you can feel it, you can touch it onsite and you don't need to go for a long China to enjoy it," Zhang said.

This year's festival runs through January 13th.

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