Dozens of lighted windmills burst with color onto the paths of Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre while a 196-foot-long dragon floats in the venue’s Symphony Lake, reflecting its bright, fiery colors on the calm waters below.
Hundreds of lanterns hang from the amphitheater’s crescent, which overlooks a three-story tall Chinese lotus pagoda and a Christmas tree.
On Monday, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht flipped the switch to light the displays for the first time in Cary at the preview event, signaling the swift approach of the town’s first Chinese Lantern Festival.
Cary’s celebration, which will begin Saturday and will run through Jan. 3, will feature more than 20 sets of displays, each comprised of hundreds of parts and thousands of LED lights. Tianyu Arts and Culture, a Zigong, Sichuan-based company, is presenting the festival.
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The Chinese festival, a celebration of good fortune, is normally celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, usually in February or March. Although the Chinese Lantern Festival will visit Cary a little early this year, it will coincide with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, offering some diversity during the holiday season.
“It’s a great merging and melding of the two cultures,” Weinbrecht said.
Throughout November, 24 Chinese artisans were in charge of assembling the displays. Because many of the pieces were too big to be shipped from China – even in pieces – the artisans had to craft them on site, including the dragon.
The three largest displays are the dragon, Chinese lotus pagoda and Christmas tree, but other displays include zoo animals, flowers and a giant fan. Some displays, including the dragon, are on the lake next to the amphitheater.
“The colors are so vibrant,” said Lyman Collins, Cary’s cultural arts manager. “It’s going to be amazing to just wander through this lighted wonderland.”
Throughout the displays, there will be traditional Chinese music and food. Food trucks with authentic Chinese food will be at the event on weekends.
It will take about an hour for visitors to stroll through the festival site.
Throughout the month-long festival, town staff are encouraging visitors to take photos and post them on social media with the tag #ncchineselanternfestival.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon
Want to go?
When: Saturday through Jan. 3. Operating hours are 6:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6:30-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Where: Koka Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary
Cost: $20 for 18 and older; $12 for 3 to 17; and free for children 2 and younger. Four tickets are $50.
Parking: Free in venue-owned lots.