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Event Snapshots: 4th annual Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

By Jakob Bermas

From May 1 to July 14, Philadelphians were enthralled by Chinese culture at the 4th annual Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival held in historic Franklin Square. Attendees witnessed 27 lantern displays that were larger than life and made of more than 2,000 lit sculptures and 20,000 LED lights.

The lantern displays were created by Chinese artisans employed by Tianyu Arts & Culture. They arrived in Franklin Square at the beginning of April to begin setting up. Each lantern is hand-made by covering steel frames in paper silk, painting the exterior and lighting them with LED lights. 

All the lanterns this year were new, and some had an interactive feature for guests such as the 200-foot walk-through dragon tunnel or the illustrious fortune telling wheel.  

“People walk into the festival and are literally blown away by how gorgeous everything is,” says Amy Needle, CEO of Historic Philadelphia, Inc. “When you initially walk into the festival you hear beautiful music and feel that you are transported into another place.”

Every night, performers from China graced the stage with martial arts demonstrations, folk dancing, a contortionist performance and jar juggling. 

At the Dragon Beer Garden, located within Franklin Square, guests grabbed themed cocktails like the Eastern Sunrise, made with rum, lychee juice, orange juice, pineapple juice and pomegranate syrup or the Lantern Lemonade, made with vodka, lemonade and Thai basil. At the Great Lawn Grill, guests dined on authentic Asian cuisine such as spring rolls, mochi ice cream, chicken satay and beef bao.  

Franklin Square sits next to Philadelphia’s  Chinatown, and to partner with local Chinatown restaurants and businesses, the festival had “Panda Promotions.” 

“We work very closely with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation,” Needle says. “Many Chinatown businesses had pandas or signs in their windows, and if visitors go to those locations, they can receive a discount on anything from a dessert to their bill.” 

The Lantern Scavenger Hunt, new to this year’s festival, had guests search Franklin Square with a close eye by counting how many pigs or pandas they spotted. If guests completed the hunt, they received a free ride on the Parx Liberty Carousel. 

“I see people from multiple generations bring their kids and their grandkids,” says Needle. “It’s a wonderful way to introduce kids to different cultures and a beautiful night out for everyone.”