Lanterns Light Up Boerner Botanical Gardens in October

Sep. 26, 2016
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Anyone familiar with the Boerner Botanical Gardens (9400 Boerner Drive), located in Whitnall Park, knows that it is a beautiful place. But, this October, the gardens have been transformed into a spectacular evening lantern light show, that until very recently, you could only see in China. It's taken a great deal of planning, organization, and logistics to bring this event to Milwaukee. Over 30 artisans traveled from Zigong City in China to construct a multitude of lanterns over a period of five weeks. These are not some simple paper orb lanterns that you would find at Pier 1 or World Market store. The lanterns featured in the show are first constructed out of shaped metal frames, then painstakingly covered with colorful silk fabrics, and lit from within by LED lights. Everything from a 200 foot long Dragon to a three-foot tall Panda have all been constructed on-site and will be displayed over nine acres of the gardens.

Along the garden's Bog Walk, there are cultural displays that will all be lit up with hundreds of lanterns, and on each side of the walk visitors can read interesting cultural facts about China. Live performances each night could range from traditional Chinese dancing and singing, to jugglers and facemask changing. A nightly light parade will wend its way through the display areas adding to the festival atmosphere. "I don't think there's ever been anything like this in Milwaukee," says Ralph Garrity, producer of the China Lights Festival. "Just walking through it all, it's shockingly good. There's just so much to see."

Every weekend will have a different theme. The first weekend, Oct. 1-2, features a special opening ceremony, giveaways and tours. The second weekend, Oct. 7-9, will focus on Asian Cuisine with food samples, demonstrations, free fortune cookies and tea. The next weekend, Oct. 14-16, is the Moon Festival weekend. The local Milwaukee Chinese Community Center will be on hand to demonstrate traditional Chinese calligraphy, painting, knot-tying, cooking and watermelon carving. Kids will have the opportunity to make their own paper lanterns and kites. October 21-23 will be all about tea, featuring a special tea ceremony sponsored by Milwaukee's own Rishi Tea and presentations about the history and importance of tea in China. The fifth and final weekend will include a special closing ceremony.

Even seeing it during the day, it's a sight to behold. The gardens will continue to be open regular hours throughout the run of the festival. The silk creatures and displays promise to be lovely, arranged among the beautiful flowers and plants. And, as an incentive to return in the evening to see everything lit up, those whom have visited the gardens during the day will receive a discounted entry to the light show that night.

"This show is something that has been unique to China, and is a great way to learn and experience another culture," says Shirley Walczak, director of Boerner Botanical Gardens. "Everyone should come and see it for themselves, because it's truly spectacular."

The China Lights Festival runs from Oct. 1-30, 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., closed Mondays. For more information visit



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