Wow, Wow, Wow. That’s all I could say after I saw the stupendous, mind-blowing, over the top Chinese Lantern Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden. I was absolutely, positively blown away. You will be, too.
Last Thursday night was a special one for all us Master Gardeners. We get great perks as volunteers of MoBot, including free entrance to the Chinese Lantern Festival last week. My friend, Meg, joined me for the night. We really didn’t know what to expect, and that was a good thing.
We arrived about 7 p.m. on a grey Thursday night and were surprised by the large crowd. We didn’t even try to park in the MoBot parking lot; we went straight to the lot across the street from the Monsanto Center. We made an excellent choice because all the parking in the front lot was for handicap visitors only. Save yourself a little time and just figure that you’ll need to park off site if you go at night.
My suggestion is to make your first trip to the lantern display at night. Walking in and seeing all the brightly colored lanterns au natural lends an air of mystery when the lights go on at 8pm. As darkness crept in, visitors kept checking their watches, not really knowing what to expect when the magic hour arrived. Meg and I happened to be on our way to the Kemper Center and watched the Four-Faced Buddha light up. It was insane! Lights swirled in a pinwheel fashion, and the interior of the lantern lit up. We stayed a minute, then hit the ground running to see the Chinese acrobats preform. A tiny woman spun a blue and white urn with her feet, sending it spinning and rotating in all directions. As quickly as she started, she was given a red table to spin. She kept it moving clockwise, counter clockwise, and then flipped it off her foot to the gentleman nearby. After that feat, two men used each other as a jungle gym and proceeded to amaze and astound the crowd. As they finished, clapping, hoots and whistles filled the air. That was our cue to find the closest lantern display!
I love Bottlebrush Buckeyes and the grove at MoBot is among the best. Numerous smiling moons lined the pathway. They looked kind of like a jack-in-a-box, but with jovial crescent moon faces instead of a clown. Each display was wondrous, unusual, colorful and outstanding. I won’t describe all of the lanterns, I am going to describe my favorite displays of the night. They’re the “Porcelain Dragons.”
In front of the Climatron, in the space usually occupied by the Chihuly “Walla Walla Onions,” is the most wondrous creation. The dragons are made entirely of blue and white porcelain. Teacups, spoons, saucers, platters, you name it. And they’re all tied together with string. In the daylight, the construction is an amazing feat of skill, craftsmanship and sheer perseverance. At night, it is the most awesome and amazing spectacle ever. At 9pm Meg and I happened to be right in front of the dragons. I asked Meg if she saw the dragon’s head turn. Meg thought she had, but wasn’t sure. The more we looked, it seemed that a puff of smoke was emitting from the dragons mouth. Did we really see it? Yes, oh yes we did! By now more smoke was puffing from each dragon. And, we were right- they DID move their heads! Soon, all the visitors were in awe. One little girl shouted: “This is better than fireworks!” Another group of kids, ages 4 or 5 sat on the edge of the lily pond and kept repeating… “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” Meg and I just kept laughing because it was the most amazing thing we have ever seen at the garden or anywhere! I am not exaggerating when I say that and Meg lived in the “Big Apple” for years and nothing really stuns her anymore. But this did! The smoke kept puffing, the dragons heads kept turning, the crowd kept squealing and the kids kept their eyes wide open and mouths totally slack-jawed. It would have been impossible to remain calm and collected. At that moment in time a 3-year-old child was as mesmerized by the magical event as the 85 year old man in his wheelchair. Try and repeat that!
In closing, all I can say is this: go to the event between 6 and 7pm. Walk around a bit, viewing the lanterns before the light show. Keep the map of the exhibits close at hand. At 8pm, the bewitching hour, see as many displays as you can. At 9pm, make sure that you’re in front of the Climatron for the Porcelain Dragon exhibit. If you can, sit on the edge of the lily pond. Keep your camera close at hand and snap away. Scream, yell, hoot and holler, clap and whistle. Make a fool of yourself. Finally, consider yourself lucky to live in a town that puts on an exhibit of this magnitude.
Interested? Here’s the breakdown on admission:
Your regular garden admission allows you to see the lanterns during the day.
The night time lantern festival on Thursday thru Sunday is an additional fee. I have the particulars below:
- $22 for adults (kids 13+)
- $10 for kids (3 to 12)
- $15 for garden members (kids 13+)
- $5 for garden members kids (3 to 12)
- Kids under age 2 are free
As you can see, becoming a member has benefits during the lantern festival. If you’re not a member now, this would be the perfect time to join.