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Chinese Lantern Fest boasts handmade luminary displays

By Jennifer Nixon

This article was published December 7, 2017 at 1:46 a.m.

More than 30 colorful light displays offer a showy demonstration of Chinese culture at the Arkansas Chinese Lantern Festival, opening Friday on the State Fairgrounds.

Arkansas Chinese Lantern Festival

5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Jan. 14, State Fairgrounds, 2600 Howard St., Little Rock

Sponsor: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Tickets: $15; ages 65 and older and military $12; children 3-17 $10; family four-pack $40

(888) 484-2698

arkansaslanternfest.com

There's a giant dragon at the State Fairgrounds. It doesn't breathe fire, but it does glow in the dark.

With all the Christmas light displays around the state, this one offers a nighttime, colorful wonderland that's a bit different.

The traditional Chinese dragon is part of the Arkansas Chinese Lantern Festival, a traveling event making its first-ever stop in Arkansas starting Friday and continuing through Jan. 14.

Event manager Stephanie Zhou explains, "The Chinese Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival which is the end of the Chinese New Year. It's really an important festival for Chinese people."

The festival dates back at least 1,000 years, when lanterns were made with paper.

This particular festival features more than 30 sets of light displays with handmade lanterns of bulbs, frames and fabric. Some of the lanterns are huge, like the dragon that stretches more than 150 feet long and towers two stories tall.

"It's really a highlight for us," Zhou says.

The lanterns and light displays will offer some visual stimulation, but that's not the only thing to see at the festival.

Organizers have also brought acrobats, contortionists and folk dancers, who will perform at 6:30 and 8 p.m. daily and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Crafters will demonstrate and sell traditional Chinese handiwork like calligraphy, name painting and wire weaving. And drinks and food will also be for sale.

The festival is something Chinese people love and look forward to, according to Zhou, and this festival is a way to share that with the people of Arkansas.

"We know that a lot of Western people don't know too much about the Chinese culture," she says. "We want to provide [Arkansans] with a really unique chance to learn more about Chinese culture and we want to bring the essence of our culture to the people here.

"It's a really good experience to enjoy Chinese culture, but they don't need to take a 24-hour flight to China. We've brought all the things here."

Weekend on 12/07/2017

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