Chinese Lantern Festival Lights Up Cary


L. Condo Photography

Visitors to the amphitheatre got to view beautiful and intricate lanterns up close. Festival goers stopped to take photos at night, making this event an ideal photo opportunity.

Sydney Phillips, Staff Reporter

  For the sixth year, the Koka Booth Amphitheatre was brought to life by Chinese lanterns, celebrating the rich culture behind the tradition. From November 19, 2021 to January 9, 2022, the amphitheatre hosts hundreds of visitors each night, attending to see the colorful lantern displays.

  These lanterns are all handmade in Zigong, a city nicknamed the “lantern capital” of China. All of these lanterns were made specifically for this event; a group of over 25 workers from China relocated here for a month to construct the special-made lanterns and install them throughout the amphitheater. These lanterns are carefully designed, combining lights with art to create truly unique designs. 

  This year, the exhibit featured over 2,500 lanterns to make several different displays, including a butterfly garden, a dazzling peacock that moves and changes colors, each member of the Chinese zodiac, and a cherry blossom forest filled with pandas and cranes.

 Of course, the event would not be complete without its centerpiece: a 200-foot, 18,000 pound, 21-foot-tall dragon floats on the lake for event goers to marvel at. This beautiful display returns to Cary each year, bringing Chinese art, creativity, and culture to the festival. The dragon plays a large part in Chinese culture symbolizing strength and good luck for those who are worthy. Many Chinese proverbs reference this mythological creature such as one that says “Wish one’s son becomes a dragon—hope to see one’s son succeed in life.”

  The festival also highlights multiple performers from across the country, who display their talents on a stage in the center of the amphitheatre as part of the experience. These performers take the stage multiple times a night, allowing all attendees to get a chance to watch multiple performances. One of them even features a girl flipping bowls onto her head atop a unicycle.

  Groups huddled together in the cold weather to take photos in front of giant swans and moving flowers, while others searched for their zodiac sign along a pathway featuring each member of the Chinese zodiac: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the ram, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig. Others still settled down on the steps in front of the stage to eat and drink items purchased from one of the nearby vendors.

  Millbrook Chinese teacher Mrs. Chen went to experience the festival herself and said, “I thought they [the lanterns] were beautiful. It reminded me of my hometown when I was a kid.” Fitting words for the beautiful displays dotted around the amphitheatre walking paths. While the festival may have concluded for the year, those interested should be on the lookout next year for when tickets go on sale again.