My daughter is a huge admirer of Asian Culture. It is a very beautiful and storied culture but witnessing it through the eyes of my daughter makes it nothing less than extraordinary. She is so knowledgeable and appreciative of this ancient/modern culture. It is one of her passions that is uniquely all her own and I find that to be so very cool. Through her I have become an admirer as well and I try to share in her passion as much as I can.
Last year, while planning a little weekend away to the Jersey Shore, I was going to take my family for real Philly cheese steaks. I had forgotten how we got on the the topic of cheese steaks but both my kids mentioned wanting to try them. We would be passing through Philly on our way to and from the shore so I added it to the agenda. I also wanted to see the Liberty Bell. It was on my Bucket List. I figured maybe we could make a day of it in Philly on our way back from the shore.
I started doing some research on things to do in Philly since I am not nearly as familiar with Philly as I am with NYC. As I began perusing through my Google search for Philadelphia events, I came across a Chinese Lantern Festival that the city would be hosting for a few months in the Spring. I pulled up the website and immediately became entranced by the pictures of these huge glowing lanterns all stunning and vibrant. I knew in that moment that I had to take Heather to see this. This was a must do! She would love this.
This wasn't just a little rain storm either. It was a torrential downpour of epic proportions. Within 10 seconds the three of us were completely soaked. I felt like I was standing under Niagara Falls. Well okay, that may be a little dramatic but never let the truth get in the way of a good story right? We sloshed our way through the blinding rain to the only shelter the festival had from the storm. That shelter happened to be The Dragon Beer Garden which set up under a canopy diagonal from the main attraction of the festival, the 200ft Chinese dragon. Makes sense.
Unfortunately the rain was so heavy and the wind so gusty, that we really didn't get much relief from the storm under the canopy. The ground was flooded with about an inch of water. I noticed an extension cord running to a popcorn machine lying in the same water we were standing in. Instantly I became panicked. I told the kids to move over to the rubber floor mat running along the the front of the bar. The rain was now pelting us vertically and the wind was knocking over anything it could on the bar. Could it get any worse?
Oh yes....yes it could. Queue in the cracking lightening and earth rumbling thunder. I glanced at the giant illuminated dragon just as a huge bolt of lightening cracked behind it in the sky. That bolt definitely touched ground somewhere pretty close. Then there was another crack. Then another one. Each crack was followed by a long, angry rumble. Sirens began blaring through the historic district. And they didn't stop. I looked up into the Philly sky. It was dark as night, illuminated only by the constant flashes of plasma. We are all gonna die! Panic mode was now reaching def-con 5.
|Enter......The Dragon. This thing was huge!!|
I turn to look at my kids. My daughter was ordering an Asian inspired beverage from the bar while my son was snickering at the other soaked people under the canopy. They were a riot. I felt myself calm a little. Eventually we were all laughing under there. The heavy downpour began to turn to a light rain so we decided to venture out to see the lanterns. I also checked the time on my phone. It was 6:30pm. It would not be dark for another two hours.
We were drenched, our cloths heavy and uncomfortable from absorbing all that water, and my Jeep was in a very expensive parking garage 7 blocks away. It was also beginning to drop a little in temperature. With a heavy heart I informed my daughter that we were probably not going to be able to stay here until dark. I felt so bad. I told her we would stay as long as possible but with our soaked clothes, nowhere to change and not being able to move the car anywhere closer, eventually we were going to get too cold.
Turns out, we weren't allowed to leave the festival and come back in without having to pay again anyway and the bank of mom was now depleted. She was a little disappointed as was I. I wanted to see these lanterns glowing in the night sky as much as she did. We decided to make the best of it though because that is what we do in this family. We take life's lemons and throw them back with some tequila. Well I do anyways. My kids would probably just make lemonade. And that makes me happy that they do not drink tequila.
Let me just say, rain or not, daytime or night, these lanterns were unbelievably stunning. All were hand painted by Chinese artists then brought over to the US especially for this festival. We walked slowly through the rain, admiring and studying each lantern display in the park. The craftsmanship of each piece left me astounded. How did they do this I wondered? How can someone craft something so meticulous and picturesque and flawless? I can't even draw a straight line on a piece of paper with the assistance of a ruler.
Along our little stroll through the park we also noticed that the festival had incorporated Asian foods, Asian art, gift stands and Asian entertainment into the festivities. Unfortunately, most of the entertainment was either delayed or canceled due to weather and a lot of the stands remained closed. We were there for the lanterns though, so that was all that mattered. But enough talk. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
|Right before the sky opened up and drenched everything.|
|It's a blurry pic cuz my phone was wet.|
|The detail is mind blowing.|
|One of my favorites...the peach trees. The colors are gorgeous.|
|Bumblebees, Flowers and Mushrooms. Love the colors.|
|The Panda Bears.....So Stinkin' Cute!|
|Water Lilies. Beautiful|
|Flowers and Fountains|
|Another of my favorites, the flower arches.|
As it was nearing 8 o'clock, the chill was really beginning to sink into our bones. The temperature had dipped even more. My son was shivering. It was getting more difficult to walk with our heavy clothing. The rain was also getting heavy again. It was time to make our way back to the car. We were so sad to not see the lights in the night sky. The weather just wasn't cooperating with us and there was really no relief from the weather in the park.
Once we arrived at the parking garage, we had to hold my big beach blanket up as a make shift tent so we could each take our turn changing out of our soaking wet clothing. There was no way I was making the two hour trip home in drenched clothes. Fun times.....said no one ever. Thankfully no one walked by otherwise, that could have been really awkward. Then again, I parked in the most expensive parking garage in Philly so there weren't many cars in there to begin with.
I will say this, if you do have a chance to catch a Chinese Lantern Festival in your area, it is a must see. I know there are several that take place across the country in major cities each year. I am hoping another one comes to a city near me sometime soon. I will make sure that this time, we get to see the lights at night. I feel they are worth every penny. Just be sure to keep an eye on the weather before you go.