Year of the dragon

Chinese Lantern Festival at the State Fair of Texas takes you somewhere over the rainbow


Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell
Chinese Lantern Festival
Photo by Conner Howell

It's been compared to Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum and the fireworks at Disneyland. It's an incredible new attraction at the State Fair of Texas, and it comes from China by way of Toronto.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is the newest attraction at the 2012 State Fair of Texas — following the "Big and Bright!" theme — and one that represents its continued migration away from its roots as the place where you munch on a corny dog while gaping at pigs and steers in pens.

More than 45 artisans and workers from China, experienced in creating the lanterns and sculptures, were flown in to install the exhibit. Designed to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the display takes place inside the lagoon at Fair Park. Some pieces were so large that they had to be dropped into the lagoon by helicopter.

The festival comes from Toronto-based Hanart Culture, which has installed similar Chinese lantern displays around the world. The organization chose the State Fair of Texas for its first exhibit in the United States.

By day, the lantern festival is a display of Chinese art, with pandas, flamingos, dinosaurs, longhorns and a dragon made of 15,000 plates, bowls, cups and spoons. Adjacent to the display is a marketplace with crafts, souvenirs and a food court with Chinese food. Shown here is a detail from one of the displays.

The dragon comprises 15,000 plates, bowls, cups and spoons.

"[Hanart Culture] hosted another festival in Toronto about a year and a half ago and decided they wanted to break into the United States," says State Fair spokesperson Katie Niederee. "There have been similar festivals at Missouri Botanic Gardens, but that was a different company. This is the first time they’ve done one in the U.S. They chose the State Fair of Texas because it draws more than 3 million people."

The installations emanate a brilliant rainbow of colors that cast reflections on the surface of the water.

At night, the exhibit becomes a light fest. 

Like the other attractions at the State Fair, you pay extra. For adults, it's $20 or 40 State Fair coupons. But it's an attraction unlike any other.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is a three-year deal, which means the lanterns will be at the State Fair for the next two years.