Beginning Oct. 5, the Dragon Lights Festival, previously called the Chinese Lantern Festival, made its return to Expo New Mexico. Vibrant lantern displays were powered by more than 15,000 LED lights, accompanied with captivating performances and vendors. The festival was able to offer a piece of a China to our city.
New Mexicans from all over the state gathered for opening night. As the sun was beginning to set the curtains of the main stage drew back, revealing the performances for a night of cultural radiance. Plate spinners, China jar juggling, contortion, face changing and other performances were all presented to the public to enlighten the community on the elements of Chinese culture.
“We have a small, but vibrant and very important part of our city that is Chinese,” said Tim Keller, mayor of Albuquerque. “What a wonderful bridge to the Chinese people of Albuquerque that is the Dragon Lights Festival, which we are so happy to have in our city.”
The festival is back for an extended period of time this year, with new and exciting installations. The three story tall “Temple of Heaven” lantern is a new addition to the festival, making its first North American appearance right here in the city of Albuquerque.
The signature 40-foot-long dragon lantern will also be present at the festival again, to reinforce why the event recently changed its name to “Dragon Lights.”
“Chinese mythology says that the Chinese people are descendants from the dragon, so that’s why we changed our name this year to ‘Dragon Lights,” said Stephanie Zhou, the event manager for Dragon Lights Albuquerque. “The symbolism of the dragon in modern Chinese culture is: power, prosperity and good luck — and we wish that for all of our festival guests during the next eight weeks.”
The Dragon Lights Festival is presented by Tianyu Arts & Culture, whose headquarters are located in Zigong, China, which is regarded as China’s cultural capital for the ancient art of lantern making.
The 25 artisans who made all of the lanterns for Dragon Lights traveled from Zigong to stretch the silk fabric over the steel frames that structure each and every lantern in order to create the individual masterpieces within the Expo.
“The lights are absolutely beautiful, all of the colors are so vivid,” said Erika Garcia, a New Mexico resident. “I was very impressed by the contortionists and the agility of the performers overall.”
Along with the artisans who contributed to the event, all of the performers on the Dragon Lights main stage traveled from China as well, allowing the people of Albuquerque to take a look inside a culture that has been around for centuries.
After enjoying the performances and lantern gazing, guests had access to traditional Chinese cuisine to enjoy under miniature lantern lit areas, tying in the celebratory feel for the art of Chinese lantern making.
“This is much more than just a show, it is a cultural feast,” said Dan Morning, general manager of Expo New Mexico. “I thought last year was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, this year by far surpasses it.”
Albuquerque is one of the few cities in the United States that is hosting Dragon Lights. People all over the state and beyond are welcome to visit the festival until Dec. 2 to see and learn about a culture thousands of ocean miles away.
“We are sharing our venue, our home, and being apart of this magnificent celebration,” Morning said. “We are welcoming everyone to come see this amazing event and show.”
Macey Rose is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maceyrae9.