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Lanterns! a glowing event

By Jennifer Nixon

This article was published February 13, 2014 at 3:12 a.m.

the-lanterns-festival-transforms-wildwood-park-for-the-arts-into-six-different-cultural-vistas-to-give-visitors-a-taste-of-asia-new-orleans-jamaica-mexico-rome-and-shakespeares-england

The Lanterns! Festival transforms Wildwood Park for the Arts into six different cultural vistas to give visitors a taste of Asia, New Orleans, Jamaica, Mexico, Rome and Shakespeare’s England.

It’s the world in 105 acres. Well, parts of the world. This weekend is the sixth annual Lanterns! Festival at Wildwood Park for the Arts, a celebration of culture through cuisine, performances and crafts.

Wildwood’s patron relations coordinator Seth Barlow says “[Lanterns] dates back to the different Asian new year festivals. We hold it every year on the first full moon of the lunar new year, which this year is Valentine’s Day weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be able to actually see it.”

For Lanterns, Wildwood’s gardens and performance spaces are transformed to represent six “cultural vistas.” This year, those are Mexico, Jamaica, New Orleans, Asia, Rome and Shakespearean England.

Each vista presents “a little bit of a taste of each culture” with snack foods, decorations and performances. In Jamaica, there are steel drummers. Visitors can watch members of the Arkansas Shakespeare Company perform scenes in England.

There should be something for all ages because the planners have made it a point to include child-friendly activities at each venue. That includes a treasure dig in Jamaica, traditional games in Asia and crafts in Rome.

“We want it to be educational for kids but we also want it to be really tactile and really fun,” Barlow says.

They’ve also made an effort to partner with local restaurants like Local Lime and A.W. Lin’s Asian Cuisine for the food at each vista, he says: “We’re not only showcasing different cultural things but we’re also showcasing restaurants here in west Little Rock.”

Most of the vistas are outdoors under tents, with New Orleans and Shakespearean England in the park’s theater. At this time of year, of course, weather can be a big factor. Contingency plans are in place to move the tents closer to the theater to reduce people’s time outside or to even move the venues indoors if necessary, though that would require smaller venues and some juggling.

“We’re still crossing our fingers for a balmy 40 degrees,” Barlow says with a chuckle.

Regardless of the weather, one thing people don’t have to worry about this year is standing in long lines to buy tickets at the gate, something that Barlow says has drawn complaints in the past.

This year they’ve added an online ticketing system so guests can buy and print their tickets at the Wildwood website and thus avoid the wait to enter.

Lanterns! is 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 6-9 p.m. Sunday at Wildwood Park for the Arts, 20919 Denny Road. Tickets are $10, $5 for children ages 6-12. Call (501) 821-7275 or visit wildwoodpark.org.

Weekend, Pages 34 on 02/13/2014

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