The Chinese Lantern Festival

The Holidays are a season for lights, they help to bring some cheer to the short, often dreary days.  There are numerous lights festivals and displays around Indianapolis during the holidays - The Exhibit at Newfields, the Zoo, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, not to mention the Festival of lights downtown.

Jenny and I were in the mood to see one of these this year but with the end of the semester at Butler, and impending holidays, the schedule filled up quickly.  We found time to go to the new Christmas Market and skating ring in Carmel before Christmas passed us by.  After it did, it seemed a little odd to go look at Christmas lights.  Europeans stretch Christmas out past the 25th without skipping a beat until New Year's, but we tend to be done with it by then.  Perhaps we shouldn't start in August and then pace ourselves better.  We did research and soon discovered another interesting option.  There was a Chinese Lantern Festival at the State Fair Grounds that ran from early December until Jan 8.  Admission was $15 which made it very cost effective relative to the other options, so we decided to go ($75 for Christmas lights...Really?)

Normally a Lantern Festival (as I understand it) is a spring time festivity, it seems there are now traveling festivals that tour the US from town to town, nearly year round (like circus carnivals of old).  Likewise, I associate Lantern Festivals with the release of hundreds or thousands of floating candle lit balloon lanterns carrying the hopes and prayers of their decorators for the coming growing season.  These are often very beautiful spectacles captured very well by various travel photographers.  I admit - one day I would like to shoot one of these in person.

This festival was different.  Very enjoyable, but different.  The Lanterns were colorful illuminated pieces of nylon animation.  There were about 15 different biomes of lanterns each with a different theme.  Some were very large:  An underwater reef featuring several 3 story jelly fish and hundreds of other sea creatures;  A platoon of terra cotta warriors;  Various wildlife displays.  Some were small and accessible - a set of all the Chinese Zodiac symbols and a pond of frogs on petite mushrooms and lilly pads to mention a few.

Another (unintended) feature of the festival was bitter cold.  We managed to avoid the -10℉ evenings the prior two evenings, but it was still zero as we walked the grounds. There was a small carnival show, but it was down to 6 performers from a cast of 100's that began in early December, casualties of late December's bitter cold (😉).  The performances were fine, I've seen larger Chinese acrobatic shows and this one didn't measure up to the main attractions - the Lanterns.  Empathy was felt for the performers who carried on despite the cold, in costumes not meant for a midwestern winter.

I took pictures until frostbitten fingers seemed a likely outcome.  I have picked of few of the better ones in the slide show below.

We had dinner at The Aristocrat in Broad Ripple, finishing our evening listing to live traditional Irish music (Just seemed somehow appropriate 😄).  Overall, If such a show travels through your area - expect that it and a nice dinner afterwards would make for a splendid evening.