The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday March 30th

Chapel Hill Lantern Festival brings about 10,000 people out for Chinese New Year

Chapel Hill Town Mayor, Pam Hemminger, celebrates the Chinese New Year at Univeristy Place with Lantern Festival participants.
Buy Photos Chapel Hill Town Mayor, Pam Hemminger, celebrates the Chinese New Year at Univeristy Place with Lantern Festival participants.

The event was held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at University Place and attracted an estimated 10,000 visitors throughout the day, said Huina Chen, director of the festival.

The turnout was much greater than anticipated. Wendy Pan, the event’s volunteer coordinator, said they had visitors from Raleigh, Cary and Greensboro.

“It’s just amazing, we’ve had so many more guests than we expected,” Pan said. “I’ve been walking around for the whole day and I don’t think I’ve seen a single booth without a large crowd around it or a long waiting line.”

Popular booths included free crafts featuring Chinese culture, lantern decorating, demonstrations of dragon dancing and a food court featuring local Chinese restaurants.

Jihong Wu volunteered at a table where children were encouraged to decorate cookies with traditional Chinese symbols. She said she never thought so many people would show up and was glad the kids were enjoying themselves.

“(We have cookies with) a Chinese character that says ‘spring,’ one says ‘lucky,’ ‘music’ and ‘lantern,’ so (kids) have been asking about what those are meaning,” Wu said. “They are very interested and having such a good time.”

Sultan Al-Ismaili, a student at N.C. State University, traveled from Raleigh to attend the festival.

“We wanted to have a taste of the Chinese culture, especially on their New Year’s,” Al-Ismaili said. “It’s been pretty nice, but it has been mostly targeted for kids and there’s not much here to do as adults.”

For $3, festivalgoers could purchase a paper lantern to decorate at various stations with the help of local artists and artists from the FRANK Gallery. Additionally, a silent auction was held with lanterns decorated by students from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

All 55 lanterns featured in the auction were sold. Chen said $1,440 was raised, which will support the arts programs of participating schools.

The festival concluded with a lantern parade around the exterior of University Place. Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger led the parade after making a short speech about the importance of diversity in the community.

“Every time we have a cultural event that brings people together in the community to celebrate each other and build those relationships, it’s a win-win for the community,” Hemminger said. “It makes us stronger, it makes us better and it makes us more inclusive.”

Chen said she was excited by the community’s support for the event.

“I think the theme of the community coming together makes it a very shared celebration,” Chen said. “We have this lantern as a medium that is shared by a lot of different cultures to celebrate and wish good wishes.”



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