Immersive Zoo exhibit celebrates Asian culture

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A large dragon tunnel will greet visitors at the front of the John Ball Zoo at this year's lantern festival, appropriate as 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. The Lunor New Year (also known as the Chinese New Year) starts Feb. 10.John Ball Zoo courtesy photo.

The magical and immersive Grand Rapids Lantern Festival is returning to John Ball Zoo after its very successful inaugural debut last year. The event saw more than 110,000 guests take the one-mile tour illuminated by dozens of handmade lanterns experienced. This year will feature all new lanterns and interactive experiences, with general admission tickets on sale today, Monday, Feb. 5.

This year’s festival begins on Wednesday April 10, and continues through June 16, 2024. Every Wednesday and Sunday 7:30-11:30 p.m. throughout the duration of the exhibition,  festival goers can immerse themselves in an enchanting story of wildlife and Asian culture. It’s the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, so a large dragon tunnel will greet visitors at the front of the Zoo.

“After an incredibly fun and successful lantern festival in 2023, we are so excited to welcome people of all ages back for an even bigger and better event the second time around,” said Darci Napolillo, promotions and events manager at John Ball Zoo. “The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival offers an amazing opportunity to learn about Asian culture and its ties to wildlife conservation, and is one guests won’t want to miss.”

Grand Rapids Lantern Festival. Courtesy of John Ball Zoo.

The lanterns come from Tianyu Arts & Culture, a leading Chinese lantern festival producer that promotes conservation and sustainability through its festivals. These core values align with John Ball Zoo’s commitment to the conservation of wildlife and wild places, as well as providing fun, engaging and educational opportunities for guests. The lanterns are made through traditional lantern-making skills and come in many shapes and sizes, from animals, plants, insects and more.

Also new this year, Tianyu is bringing authentic entertainment to the festival, featuring a group of traditional performances like face changing, artistic hula hooping, acrobatics and more.

Timed tickets will be sold for every half hour from 7-10:30 p.m. and cost $22 for non-members on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets for non-members cost $24 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and the Zoo offers a lower rate for a four-pack of tickets. Tickets can be purchased online.

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