HALES CORNERS -- China Lights, a world-class Chinese lantern festival, returns to Milwaukee County this fall. During the six-month process, Boerner Botanical Gardens will transform for the event taking place Sept. 21 through Oct. 21.
"This is probably one of the hottest shows that's ever hit Wisconsin," said Ralph Garrity, Panda-Mania producer.
Forty-five larger-than-life lantern displays will illuminate the nine-acre grounds.
"As for the park, it's a perfect fit for a lantern festival like this," said Huiyuan Liu with Tianyu Arts Culture, Inc.
This year, "Panda-Mania" will highlight the show.
"We can't get a real live panda, but it's pretty close," said Garrity.
Tickets went on sale for China Lights 2018 Wednesday, Aug. 8, and lantern artisans were already hard at work creating displays in China -- preparing to ship them to the United States.
"They build them from scratch," said Garrity.
"It's really interesting to see how they weld the lines together perfectly, and the shape," said Liu.
Thirty-two artisans will travel to Milwaukee to construct the lanterns.
"They'll be here sunrise to sundown practically, putting these together," said Shirley Walczak, Boerner Botanical Gardens director.
The festival's main attraction in 2018 will be a giant panda made with thousands of ping pong balls.
"After that we will have the electricians come in and light up all the light bulbs," said Liu.
"It's a big team effort. There are so many people involved to put this together," said Walczak.
China Lights Panda-Mania tickets are on sale now! CLICK HERE for more information and how to purchase yours.
Festival hours will be 5:30–10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The event will be closed Mondays. China Lights admission tickets will be valid any night of the regular 2018 schedule.
PHOTO GALLERY (China Lights displays from years past):