And so tonight ends the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese horoscope, and we move into the Year of the Earth Horse. Whatever your plans are tonight and for the next two weeks, take care of yourselves. If you’re in the Dallas vicinity, now would be a perfect time to see the Chinese Lantern Festival (especially considering the unusually warm conditions tonight). In our case, the Czarina and I are visiting both the Crow Collection of Asian Art’s Chinese New Year Festival in downtown Dallas and the Dem Cho Hoa festivities in Grand Prairie. Should you head out that way, we’ll see you there.
As mentioned before, as compared to the 2012 event, this year’s Chinese Lantern Festival takes much better advantage of the locale around Fair Park’s Leonhardt Lagoon. Several returning displays, such as the dinosaurs, are much more accessible, and the crowds don’t bottleneck anywhere near as badly as they did in the Festival’s first year. I haven’t heard anything about this becoming a tradition, but based on both the liveliness of the lantern arrangements and the joyous crowds, I can certainly put in an additional voice recommending that this become as much a Dallas tradition as Celebration in the Oaks is for New Orleans.
Along that line, I need to get my friend Debbie out here one of these days. In the eternal garden war between gnome and flamingo, Debbie is a shameless gnome lover. She already knows my side, and nothing would make me feel better than shoving her nose in the impeccably arranged display at the south end of the lagoon:
Just a bit more to follow…
The Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas’s Fair Park has a lot of wonders on display, but arguably the most impressive of all of the displays is the dragon boat in the middle of Leonhardt Lagoon. The lagoon already has a nocturnal mystery, and the contrast between the dark waters of the lagoon and this gigantic neon dragon boat just adds to it in a strange way. Visitors can enjoy it from the shore or, for an additional US$2 fee, they can climb aboard to see the park from a whole new locale.
As a longtime visitor to Fair Park, I can’t help but wonder how the fish and reptiles om the lagoon look upon this gigantic interloper. The various bluegills and other fish seem to appreciate the spectacle, considering how they were jumping in the lagoon as I crossed the bridge to the boat. Most of the water turtles probably ignore it, but the snapping turtles…I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to hear about the occasional big snapper crawling up onto the boat for a quick sunbath on warm days, figuring that they had a cousin watching out for them.
More to follow…
Finally, the idea to keep the Chinese Lantern Festival open until the beginning of Chinese New Year wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but considering the zodiac display behind the old Science Place building, it makes sense. With preparations for the upcoming Year of the Horse already beginning worldwide, Dallas definitely isn’t skipping out.
Goodbye, snake. Time for the horse to move in.
Meanwhile, out in front of the Year of the Rooster lantern, nobody should be surprised to see the hottie I met earlier that night out in front. I should just marry her or something.
And that about does it for this quickie tour of the Lantern Festival. For North Texas residents, and those considering a trip out this way, the Festival continues until February 17, every night from 5:30 to 9:30. Get out there now before it’s gone, because you’ll need some context for what will undoubtedly be an even larger and more impressive event at the end of 2014.
Besides the obvious attractions at the Chinese Lantern Festival, the Festival contains other sights, including the Porcelain Pagoda. While impressive in the evening lights from a distance, it’s only with close examination that one spots the real beauty…
As mentioned previously, the dinosaur section of the Chinese Lantern Festival has a set of animatronic dinosaurs, for unknown reasons but appreciated nonetheless. While the Apatosaurus may technically be larger, the Tyrannosaurus definitely caught more attention. Half of the fun was watching the kids’ expressions while watching their parents: they all enjoyed the dinosaurs, but the idea of moving, roaring dinosaurs among the lanterns was wondrous but not overly unexpected. Their parents and the other adults, though, just couldn’t stop staring.
Right across the pathway from the big dinosaurs was a trio of fiberglass dinosaur eggs. Two were empty and fitted with entrances for kids to peek out, and the third had this (non-operational) baby tyrannosaur emerging from the top. Unlike the big dinosaurs, this one was accessible by passersby, and I was a little disturbed by how many visitors kept poking its eyes as if it would respond.
I suspect that every photographer secretly hopes for that perfect photobomb, and I finally got mine. Just as I was aiming and focusing, this young lady appeared out of nowhere, hugged the baby tyrannosaur, and then went on to see the other sights. We should all be so lucky to get photobombed by such a charming and considerate individual.
On the other hand, then there was this lump of offal oozing out of one of the empty eggs. Suddenly, we have an explanation for why the dinosaurs became extinct. It’s like walking into the middle of a GWAR concert, isn’t it?
For some reason, the Chinese Lantern Festival has three animatronic dinosaurs alongside the lantern ones, all out roaring and waving at passersby. Not that I’m complaining, because any festival is a good excuse for more robot dinosaurs.
Among other sights, I found this hottie standing by the back door of the old Dallas Museum of Natural History, posing alongside the big mammoth skull still in the old space. I know this was my wedding anniversary, but I took her home anyway: how many second chances would a guy get with someone this wonderful?
And before you ask, this Apatosaurus has a water nozzle in its mouth, which was used for a fountain in last year’s Lantern Festival. I’m just glad it wasn’t shooting fire.
Still more coming…
Anyone keeping up with dinosaurian palaeontology knows about some of the spectacular dinosaur finds coming out of China over the last twenty years, so a special assemblage of dinosaur lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas makes perfect sense. Last year, many of the dinosaur lanterns were jammed into one end of Leonhardt Lagoon, preventing easy viewing. This year, they’re right out in front of the old Dallas Museum of Natural History building, stretching across the west side of the lagoon.
Is this it? Not by a long shot. There’s a lot more to see.
Festivities on December 28, our wedding anniversary, almost didn’t happen. We’d hoped to have a celebration for our 11th anniversary, seeing as how the day of the week had swung around to where it was when we married. The previous Friday, though, the norovirus striking half of Dallas got us as well, leaving us barely able to move except to clear out our GI tracts just a little bit more. Saturday, though, we were just mobile enough to get in the car and go to Dallas’s Fair Park, where it all began.
Unlike 11 years ago, we couldn’t go to the exact spot where we married, as it’s no longer accessible to the public. The Dallas Museum of Natural History is no more, its collections mostly moved to the new Perot Museum, and the former Texas Giants Hall now turned into administration offices. We still had reason to come out that way, because the grounds of the old museum and Leonhardt Lagoon were hosting the Chinese Lantern Festival for another winter.
As with the show in 2012, this year’s Chinese Lantern Festival was extended past the run of the State Fair of Texas. Unlike last year, it’s now running all the way through the end of the Chinese New Year. Also unlike last year, the Lantern Festival does a much better job of utilizing the area around Leonhardt Lagoon, to a much improved effect. For the next two hours, we ignored the last twitches of the norovirus, completely engrossed by the view.
Over the next few days, keep checking back for photos of the Lantern Festival, but if you have the opportunity to do so, visit it directly. The images are, as with many things inadequate compared to the actual experience.
More to follow…
I’d be lying if I said we attended the Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park solely for the Czarina, but it’s also mostly true. She wanted to catch this from the moment she heard about it, and I figured “Well, this should be interesting, but it’s for her.” How was I supposed to know that one particularly primordial end of Leonhardt Lagoon would be full of dinosaurs?
As for this first photo, for some reason, the Festival had two animatronic dinosaurs, probably brought out during the Museum of Nature & Science’s move, on display as well. Not only was nobody complaining, but at the end of October, it was actually quite charming.
And for those who now regret not coming out to the Festival while it was running, the Festival was such a success that it re-opens on November 1 and runs until January 6, 2013. I recommend getting out there this weekend, while the weather remains this pleasant. Of course, this being Dallas, we could have this sort of weather holding out until after Christmas, but make plans to visit it early anyway. Maybe next time, I’ll come out there with fully charged batteries in my camera, just so I can photograph the rest of the dinosaurs.
One of the biggest selling points in the promotion of the Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park is that this isn’t a touring exhibition. This was designed specifically for Fair Park, and as such, it has a lot of touches endemic to Texas. Hence, longhorns.
More to follow…
When the Chinese Lantern Festival opened at Dallas’s Fair Park, the automatic assumption was that this was going to be more like a Japanese lantern festival, with paper lanterns filled with candles being released into the sky. This was more of an ongoing exhibition of what could be done with silk, wire, and lighting. It includes everything from the childlike (a landscape of cartoonish pandas playing and ambling through the undergrowth) to the surreal (a gigantic dragon composed of porcelain plates and cups, outlined in neon). A high point, and the festival is nothing but highlights, is the tremendous lotus in the middle of Leonhardt Lagoon, which opens and closes slowly while frogs on lily pads slowly rotate around it.
More to follow…
This time of the year gives plenty of reasons to visit the State Fair of Texas, and the Czarina and I finally got out there the Thursday before its closing on October 21. Those who haven’t attended before can’t understand the sheer joy of wandering through Fair Park this time of the year, especially at night. By the end of October, the skies are as clear as they’re ever going to get, adding a particular clarity to everything outside. Neon doesn’t just glow: it snaps. With the air quality comes a certain crispness to both vision and hearing, and it’s perfectly reasonable to just stand in one spot, watching people and events, without ever visiting a single event. I was first exposed to this when I lived across the street in Exposition Park two decades ago, and the sight of the Texas Star ferris wheel in full neon still thrills me to no end.
“I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE, AND I GIVE YOU FIRE!” (photographer unknown)
This year, it was eventful, too. The news of Big Tex, the mascot and symbol of the State Fair, catching fire on October 19 reached an international audience. Some people cried. Others told dark jokes, such as the tale of two fellow Texas icons being caught fleeing the scene and giving their only statement to the police. In my case, thanks to the batteries in my camera dying at the worst possible time, I told myself “Oh, I’ll get a photo of Big Tex at night next year.” Now my biggest regret is that we’ll never see the ultimate in Lone Star daikaiju, with Big Tex going into battle against the Sinclair dinosaurs in Glen Rose.
The real reason to go to the Fair this year, though, was to see the Chinese Lantern Festival, wrapping around both sides of the old Museum of Nature & Science and taking over Leonhardt Lagoon. Let’s just say that anybody seeing the Festival during the day was definitely missing out.