Attendance boomed in the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival’s second year, according to the Town of Cary.
More than 90,000 people flocked to the month-and-a-half celebration of Chinese culture featuring intricate lighted displays, performances and fireworks.
The displays – of 15,000 LED lights – occupied Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre each week from Tuesday through Sunday from Nov. 25 to Jan. 15.
The estimated 90,000 people who attended represent a 58-percent increase from the 52,000 people estimated to have attended the inaugural event in 2015. Even that number was greater than expected – so much so that the festival was extended by two weeks to accommodate demand.
Ticket sales grossed $1.16 million, up from $675,000 in the event’s first year.
“Last year we had budgeted it to break even, but we realized approximately in $100,000 in revenue,” said Lyman Collins, Cary’s director of parks, recreation and cultural resources. “We haven’t calculated that for this year yet, but obviously seeing the change in the gross, you can see there will be an increase in the net.”
The light displays included snowmen, elephants and a 200-foot-long Chinese dragon on Symphony Lake. Additions included cultural performances, such as traditional Chinese dances and Chinese acrobatics, artisan crafts and demonstrations on how the lanterns are built.
Organizers already have announced that the festival will return to Cary for a third time this year from Nov. 24 to Jan. 14, 2018.
Collins said the town and the festival’s production company, Tianyu Arts & Culture, have discussed inking a multi-year contract to keep the event in Cary.
“We have talked about an extended contract, but part of the discussion is how extended to make it,” Collins said. “We know how people’s interests can change, and we don’t know at what point. Even though we do change out the lanterns, people’s interest will start to wane.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan
By the numbers
▪ 6,934: The highest attendance on opening day, Nov. 25, 2016. The second highest attended day was Dec. 27, with 5,843 visitors.
▪ One-third of all attendees (nearly 30,000) visited between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
▪ The New Year’s Eve celebration featuring fireworks attracted nearly 5,000 attendees.