This year signifies a strong bond between Canada and China because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced in September 2016 that 2018 would be the Canada-China Year of Tourism. The year 2018 also marks the 30th anniversary of Winnipeg and Chengdu becoming sister cities.
In 1988, former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie, with the former President of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Dorothy Dobbie, went to Chengdu to twin the province with Winnipeg, resulting in the exchange of polar bear cubs and panda bears.
On a local level, the coming of the pandas brought international recognition to Winnipeg, while adding to the Winnipeg Zoo.
Monica Wood, member of the LOTN organizing team, said this event is going to be the largest Chinese lantern festival in all of Canada. It will be held at the Red River Exhibition Park and open to the public between Aug. 31 and Oct. 14.
LOTN also reported that they have more than 75 artisans contributing to the festival.
“They’re making a 200-foot-long dragon that will be comprised of over 100,000 pieces of china,” Wood said.
“They have a polar bear where you’re going to have all of these little pieces of ping pong balls attached. So you’ll have all of these exhibits […] It’s going to be magical.”
She said that all of the artisans are from Chengdu, China. Besides the artisans, there will be an array of food and entertainment such as acrobatics and dancers performing. LOTN said in a press release that the entire event will cover nearly 10 acres of land.
“We were down at the site where the chefs were making up the Sichuan food, but you’ll also be able to get something from a food truck as well, beer gardens, interactive exhibits for children,” Wood said.
“So it’s a really an intergenerational opportunity. Children, family, grandparents, completely wheelchair accessible.”
The only other city in North America that is twinned with Chengdu is Phoenix, Arizona. This is important because it will make Winnipeg the first Canadian city to host this large a light show.
“We anticipate around 200,000 people coming to the venue during the timeframe, but it’s not just the LED lights — there’s going to be exhibitions on the mainstage and you’re going to have the very famous and infamous Chinese acrobats, you’re going to have face-changers,” Wood said.
She went on to say that face-changing, a Chinese art form based on costume design, music and dance, is passed on from generation to generation.
“That art form is passed down from family to family to family,” said Wood. “It’s not something where you can sign up for a course and learn how to be a face-changer.”