Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts’ ninth annual LANTERNS! Festival gave visitors a taste of seven different locales and illuminated the park’s lake and woods under the first full moon of the lunar new year.
The three-day festival, which was held at 6 p.m. from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12 in Little Rock, presented seven vistas that Wildwood staff and volunteers had spent months preparing.
The vistas were based on the cultures and features of Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, the Moon, the UK and the Wild West. Each vista was accompanied by entertainment, food, crafts and games associated with the respective locale.
The festival’s live entertainment included a performer on stilts at the Wild West vista, two musicians at the UK vista, a classical jazz pianist at the France vista, a singer at the Canada vista and fire performers at the Moon vista.
“We’ve been preparing for the festival since the end of Summer 2016, but we are always thinking about ways to improve the festival,” Wildwood Park Volunteer Coordinator Angela Collier said. “We have an AmeriCorps team of 10 people that have provided great assistance to our small staff of less than 10 people. We have over 300 individual volunteers who are helping.”
The LANTERNS! Festival began as a way to celebrate the first full moon of the lunar new year, and lanterns have long been one of the festival’s main attractions.
As in years past, the park’s walkways were bordered by luminaries, and colorful paper lanterns floated on the lake’s surface.
Two blow up moon models decorated the area around the Wildwood lake.
“[My favorite part about the Wildwood LANTERNS! Festival is] probably the lights,” fire performer Meghan McFadden, 24, said. “I love the moons and the paper luminaries, all the lights on the lake. It’s just beautiful.”
Collier said Wildwood Park’s mission is to create a community for all Arkansans through a recognition and celebration of nature and the arts. Events like the LANTERNS! Festival can help introduce performing arts and other cultures to Arkansans who may not have had significant exposure to them.
“A lot of people see fire spinning for the first time [at Wildwood],” McFadden said. “I can tell that there is definitely a lot of bewilderment and people wondering how on earth we could possibly be doing this. I do feel that [Wildwood events] are a good introduction to performing arts for people who aren’t really exposed to [the arts].”
Photo by Sophia Ordaz