The Lantern Light Festival brings acrobat performances, activities and huge light displays to Canterbury Park

All photos courtesy of Pinnacle Production Group and the Lantern Light Festival

By Lianna Matt

For the past few months, more than 50 artisans from Zigong, China, came to Minnesota on artist visas and created 30-foot tall pandas, lantern tunnels, flowers and more for the Lantern Light Festival at Canterbury Park Sept. 7-Oct. 22.

“Most of the lanterns are built on site,” says Sanjay Syal, the president and CEO of Pinnacle Production Group, which puts on the festival. “Some we do transport, but you know, it’s really difficult to transport a 400-foot dragon.”

The festival, which has already had immediate success in Memphis and Miami, is partially inspired by the incredible Chinese lantern festivals Syal has been to as well as America’s ingrained love of holiday lights. This Twin Cities has been particularly fun to work on for the team because Pinnacle Production Group is a Minnesota-based company. Instead of researching the big landmarks to customize each festival, they already know what to include about their home state. Paul Bunyan and Prince tributes will be in lights, as will our state bird, the loon, and, in a tongue-and-cheek moment, our unofficial state bird, the mosquito.

Although the pictures and videos of the festival offer breathtaking and immersive views of the lanterns—it’s hard not to use the word “immersive” when you see people peering up at colorful castles or a blue whale floating above the water—Syal says nothing can convey what it’s actually like at the festival.

To make the lanterns, the artists sketch on the floor, their sweeping chalk strokes outlining the paths the first wire frames must follow. Then wire after wire, the structure is built until it is time to stretch colorful fabric across it and put LED lights inside. While some of the technology has changed, the artists follow a 2,000-year-old lantern-making tradition that stretches back to the first lanterns that Emperor Hanmingdi wanted displayed to show respect to Buddha. Since then, a lantern festival has become a traditional way to end Chinese New Year. Minnesota’s fall season doesn’t line up with Chinese New Year, but the Lantern Light Festival helps to serve the same purpose of bringing families together for a celebration with merriment and wonder.

Between wandering around the expansive grounds at Canterbury to look at the lanterns, people can also watch free performances by musicians and visiting Chinese acrobats. Children can mine for emeralds, traverse the Forbidden City maze or play on the inflatables, and everyone can enjoy mini golf, Chinese food and the marketplace. Since looking up to see the lights becomes so second nature at this festival, there’s no way you’ll miss the first fireworks of the night.

All photos courtesy of Pinnacle Production Group and the Lantern Light Festival.



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