By Eren Simpson
This month, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden will be transformed into a magical landscape as it becomes home to the Chinese Lantern Festival, featuring 800 lighted lanterns in the form of large wild animals.
“It’s the largest exhibit we’ve presented to date, and our goal is to present items in the garden that are aesthetically pleasing, create beauty in nature and help people appreciate that,” Hoffman said. “Obviously, gardens themselves give us opportunity to teach about different cultures, so the lantern festival fits very well into that.”
The garden is working with Hanart Culture to produce the exhibit. The company has held similar festivals in Dallas, Calgary, Virginia and Boca Raton.
“It’s a pretty expansive experience,” Hoffman said. “We’ll have lighted lanterns that are presented throughout the garden, from the pavilion all the way through the formal gardens, up to the orchid conservatory. There’ll be lanterns throughout the garden – 800 of them.”
Hoffman explained the lanterns are produced in China, in the city of Zigong in the Sichuan province.
“These lanterns are produced in that city, and that is the center for lantern culture in China,” Hoffman said. “The lanterns are produced by shaping and welding and bending metal and wood structures, and then placing rayon over them in various colors. Then they’re lit with LED lights from within. Most of the displays are made from that process. They’re actually created as lanterns. There are also exhibits with medicine bottles with colored liquids in them. And maybe one or two produced from cups, saucers and plates, so they create shapes of other things out of china -– so there’s various techniques they use to create these shapes.”
The theme for Daniel Stowe’s festival is “The Wild,” so the 800 separate pieces will be animals from each of the seven continents, including lions, tigers, bears, flamingos, elephants, penguins and more. Some of the lanterns will be life-sized, while others will be larger than life.
In addition to the lanterns, there will be two kung fu shows a night, presented by a team of performers who travel with the lantern festival. There are also six Chinese artists who will be visiting during the run of the show, demonstrating traditional Chinese folk art such as silk weaving, fabric art, sugar crystal art and more. They will be selling their wares.
The horticulture staff at the garden has also developed an Asian-themed display that was installed this summer, which includes things such as a bonsai exhibit and a wide array of flora from Southeast Asia.
During the festival, which runs Sept. 7-Oct. 29 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, there will be food trucks featuring Asian culinary delights.
“It’s a pretty immersive experience and a pretty far-reaching experience,” Hoffman said.
The garden’s educational staff will also have activities for children during the festival to help them better understand the culture.
“The interconnectedness that plants provide … Plants connect people, cultures, countries and continents, so I think it’s a natural next step for us to host an exhibition to help people better understand another culture,” Hoffman said. “I think it’s a great extension of what we do and fits nicely in our mission to instill a love of nature and the beauty of nature. So these man-made displays, I think, enhance the natural beauty of the garden.”
To learn more about the festival, pricing and more, visit www.dsbg.org.