The first hint that there was something big coming from the Missouri Botanical Garden came with the cute but cunning guerilla press tactic of an Asian-inspired media invitation. Naturally, the real announcement, debuted in front of about 200 people at the garden's visitor center this morning, followed the same theme -- complete with party favors -- in a considerably more exciting way.
So here's the scoop: From May 26 to August 19, 2012, the garden will host "Art by Day, Magic by Night," the first Chinese lantern festival to be hosted in the United States, and only the second to find a home in North America.
"I'm amazed we've managed to keep it a secret until this morning," said Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, the garden's president.
Actually, he makes a good point.
The photos shown at the press announcement were pretty darn cool, we must admit. The three-month festival will find MoBot hosting 26 separate lantern scenes forged from steel and silk, including images of dragons, palaces and Terracotta warriors. Coincidentally, those are three pretty awesome things. The festival hails from Zigong, the lantern capital of China, and there's some heavy significance in the fact that it's leaving Asia.
The garden's attentions have already been turned to China since 1988 as part of its collection of the flora of China, which includes upwards of 30,000 plant species native to the country. Next year will mark the 25th year of the garden's partnership with China.
The new festival, sponsored by Emerson, marks the opportunity for a considerable amount of revenue to flow through the city through tourism. It also raises the stakes for St. Louis's claims in the cultural arts community.
"It is difficult for me to describe the enormity and complexity of the lanterns," Wyse Jackson told the assembled media gaggle this morning, "so let me show you." At this point, he pointed to an enormous video screen. Since we can't do the same, we'll link you to the festival's Flickr account, where you can preview a large portion of the lanterns on your own screen.
Like we said: Pretty cool.
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