Sanjay Syal specializes in large, grand-scale events. In the past, he’s done home and golf shows and brought dinosaurs to life. On Friday at the Agricenter, he’ll unveil his latest project, the Lantern Light Festival, which features lit steel-framed lanterns covered in silk. We’re talking a 400-foot dragon and 30-foot pandas. There are nods to Memphis as well with a lantern depicting rock-and-roll, another of the state of Tennessee, and yet another of B.B. King.
Syal’s inspiration to create this Chinese festival is very American: Christmas lights. He says he likes the spectacle and describe the lantern lights as tenfold of what one might ordinarily expect.
Syal estimates it takes about 90 minutes to go through the 10-acre display. He suggests guests get to the display before dark to get the full effect. There are acrobats performing and live music as well.
Putting on the festival, which debuted in Miami, is work intensive. It took 80 artisans five months to complete, and because the silk is delicate, constant repairs are needed. Syal says they’ll have someone there on the grounds to make repairs weekly. There are also unforeseen hiccups to deal with, like when that 400-foot dragon was knocked over by high winds at the Agricenter.
Here’s some data provided by Syal:
· Over 80 tons of steel
· Enough LED lighting to light 4 city blocks
· 50,000 man hours
· Over 100 miles of electrical cable
· Over 40 miles of colorful silk used making the lanterns
· Over 400 handmade lanterns
· $ 1.2 million to produce
There is one more figure to consider: 2. There will be two chefs brought over from China for the festival. Though, Syal says, there will be other fare, too: “You can’t have an event in Memphis without fried chicken and ribs.”
The Lantern Light Festival runs 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays through Sundays, March 31st through May 2nd at Agricenter International (7777 Walnut Grove Rd.).
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