SANFORD, Fla. – This year, every single lantern in Central Florida’s Asian Lantern Festival is brand-new.
The handmade pieces coming straight from China not only showcase colorful art, but encourage visitors to learn the culture.
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“In ancient times, people would celebrate their harvest and family unions using the lanterns and they set up the festival so everybody can enjoy it, and nowadays, people are still using lanterns for fun and a chance for family to get out together and enjoy their night,” Wun-Li Eve said.
Wun-Li traveled from China with her team from Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc. to organize the Asian Lantern Festival at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Nearly 50 large authentic Chinese lantern displays light up a path throughout the zoo.
“We did most of the work in China manufacturing the lanterns. About 50 people finished all the lantern making, and for installation, we have 17 people here, including people who are doing the structure work and electrician work and people decorating the lanterns on site,” Wun-Li said.
Each lantern is handmade and the structure held up using iron and steel pipes, with colorful fabric bringing each lantern to life.
“It’s part of our tradition because we think, in China, the colorful things will bring people luck and fortune,” Wun-Li said.
The largest lantern at the festival is the traditional Chinese dragon spanning about 140 feet long and more than 30 feet high. While it’s the detail that may draw you in, Wun-Li said she wants each visitor to leave with an experience.
“It’s not always about the outside, the beauty. We want to leave an impression and want people to know a little about our culture,” Wun-Li said.
For example, the dragon pillar-lanterns represent those used in China more than 4,000 years ago to identify roads with the dragon heads indicating direction of travel.
“We have Chinese zodiac lanterns. There are 12 animals and each of them represents a year and if you are born in a certain year, the animal represents your personality and it’s believed that in China, the year you were born and the animal that represents you will influence your future and your fortune,” Wun-Li said.
Some of the exhibits are interactive, including one that requires the beating of drums to prompt a lantern to light up.
The festival also includes panda, warrior and cherry blossom lanterns.
“I’m really happy about it. I feel proud of myself and our crew and our lanterns. I’m thankful for people’s interest,” Wun-Li said.
The Asian Lantern Festival begins Nov.18 and runs through Jan. 15 at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The event also gives you an opportunity to visit the zoo after dark.
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