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Auckland Lantern Festival lights up central city

Saturday 23 Feb 2013 1:40 p.m.

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The 14th Auckland Lantern Festival kicked off a weekend of festivities yesterday evening, with up to 60,000 people expected to fill Albert Park for the three-day event.

The event marks the close of the Chinese New Year celebrations, and features stalls, music and entertainment amid a display of Chinese lanterns.

Auckland mayor Len Brown calls the event “massive”.

“It’s perfectly positioned here in Albert Park,” he says. “You’ve got to get down here. It is a stunning event – great spirit. All Aucklanders are here – the multi-cultural spirit of Auckland here, and so beautifully hosted. And of course as a council we’re backing it. It’s just a wonderful time.”

In the Chinese zodiac, 2013 is the year of the snake, and representations of snakes are woven through the lantern displays at this year’s festival.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says the new “snake woman” lantern is an important addition this year.

“Someone was telling me the story of the woman who fell in love with the herbal medicine farmer, and she was actually a snake,” he says. “I understand it ended happily ever after!”

Mr Shearer says the festival brings a lot of life to the central city.

“It brings a bit of understanding of the Chinese culture and what it offers. To me it breaks down the barriers in our society. It’s just a nice way of seeing Auckland at its best – great summer, warm night, everybody having a nice time.”

In addition to the Albert Park festivities, there are also events at Queens Wharf, Sky Tower, Auckland Library, Auckland Art Gallery, Lorne St and Khartoum Place. Mr Brown says there are no plans to move the event’s venue as its popularity grows.

“No matter how popular it is, it’s a fabulous place to site the lantern festival,” he says. “The trees really frame the lanterns beautifully. Everyone knows where it is.”

But Mr Brown says the added events in neighbouring locations are the future of the festival.

“What is happening is it’s now spreading down into the gallery, some of the side streets, so we’re starting to branch it out around the city a bit. But the base has to be Albert Park. This is not a tradition we want to change now.”

The Auckland Lantern Festival is organised by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The event will close at 10:30pm tomorrow night with a fireworks display on the Sky Tower.

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