HALES CORNERS -- There was a buzz in the air at the Boerner Botanical Gardens Monday, September 18th, as the popular China Lights Wisconsin is set to open for a second year on Friday, September 22nd.
“It’s kind of fun to be the talk of the town. Everybody is talking about China Lights wherever you go," said Shirley Walczak, executive director.
Last year, more than 100,000 people visited China Lights, the first lantern festival of its kind to come to the Midwest.
“Every time we surveyed, it seemed like almost half of them had never been to the gardens before -- so they know where we are, and it raised a good amount of money for improvements here at the Boerner Botanical Gardens," said Walczak.
2017 promises to be bigger and better. Besides the 200-foot-long dragon, 95% of the displays are brand new. There is a colorful phoenix, a wall of pandas and a 40-foot-tall tower made of 60,000 porcelain pieces.
“[It's] amazing that people want to come out and see this, and by the time they left, they feel happy and enriched. I think that’s what makes us want to do this again and again." said Huiyuan Liu, who works with team of artisans and performers from China.
Twenty-six artisans have spent the last six weeks designing, welding, wiring and building each individual piece from scratch. They all come from Zigong, a city in China's Sichuan Province that has a history of lantern-making dating back thousands of years.
“People get a chance to see a little bit about Chinese culture, and it’s not just about lights. We have performers and also handicraft demonstrations," said Liu.
With an additional entertainment stage this year, as well as added vendors and all the lanterns, China Lights will once again be the talk of the town.
China Lights: The Magic Returns opens Friday, September 22nd, at the Boerner Botanical Gardens. It will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, from 5:30-10 p.m. until October 22nd.
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