When:opens Saturday; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and weekends from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., through May 31
Where:Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa
Tickets: admission is separate from zoo admission; $24.95 adults, $22.95 seniors age 60 and older, $19.95 for children age 3 to 11, free for children age 2 and younger; www.lowryparkzoo.org/lantern
An example of one of the many lantern displays that will be on display at Zoominations at Lowry Park Zoo. D. MCGIRR
BY VALERIE KALFRIN Tribune correspondent
Published: February 26, 2015 | Updated: February 26, 2015 at 10:56 AM
When: opens Saturday; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and weekends from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., through May 31
Where: Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa
Tickets: admission is separate from zoo admission; $24.95 adults, $22.95 seniors age 60 and older, $19.95 for children age 3 to 11, free for children age 2 and younger;www.lowryparkzoo.org/lantern
A 30-foot-tall Chinese gate at the Lowry Park Zoo entrance acts as a red-and-gold threshold to wondrous sights: illuminated displays of giant temples, dragons, lotus flowers, even pandas in a bamboo forest.
Zoominations is the official name of the Chinese lantern festival the zoo hosts nightly Saturday through May 31, but organizers have another word handy.
“Magnificent,” zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said. “It’s the first time the southeastern United States has hosted a large-scale Chinese lantern festival.”
The festival celebrates the ancient art of Chinese lantern-making, which began roughly 2,000 years ago during the Han Dynasty, organizers say. The festival includes Asian cuisine and a Chinese artisan marketplace around a replica of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. The real temple, built in 1420, is larger than China’s Forbidden City. The replica is 39 feet high and 59 feet long.
Forty craftsmen from VYA Creative Lantern Co. in the Sichuan Province in China constructed the displays. They feature symbols of Chinese history and culture, such as arches decorating Zoo Boulevard in the form of sashes tied at the waists of hanfu, or traditional clothing. Most of the lanterns are made from steel frames covered in silk and lit with LED lighting. The craftsmen also used 10,000 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain cups, bowls, spoons and plates to form a 52-foot-tall replica of Manfeilong Pagoda at the site of the zoo’s Manatee Fountain. The real pagoda was built in the year 1024 and is dedicated to Hinayana Buddhism. It also is called the Bamboo Shoot Pagoda because of its overall shape.
Other displays include an array of goldfish and lotus flowers, symbolizing good fortune and spiritual purity, in Lake Sharon and a bamboo forest with playful pandas around the Jungle Carousel.
The zoo’s executive team had been presented with the opportunity to bring the festival here, in part because of the zoo’s large Asian habitat, Nelson said. The festival also has appeared in London, Toronto and Beijing.
Colorful Displays At Chinese Lantern Festival
CBS Dallas-Fort Worth
Speaking through an interpreter, Li Zhongwen, the craftsmen’s general manager, said the crew typically worked before the zoo opened or after hours, sometimes during the night, to build the displays without disturbing visitors.
The zoo offered reporters a preview of the festival on Feb. 19, the traditional Chinese New Year. To thank the craftsmen, about 30 children from the zoo’s preschool wished them a Happy New Year in Mandarin, causing smiles from the workers. The children also carried a Chinese dragon they’d made, decorated with tinsel, construction paper and tissue paper around the Asian Gardens.
Yue “Meredith” Li, a zoo intern who is a graduate student at USF, acted as a translator during the preview. The 26-year-old native of China marveled at the detail, such as the fan-like lanterns above the Asian Gardens boardwalk that she said were like the palace lanterns the emperors’ wives would paint with bamboo brushes to compete for his affection.
“It’s amazing,” said Li, who has lived in the U.S. for five years during her education. “I never saw signs like this in America.”