Dragon Lights


One of the really fun things about living in the Reno area is that for one entire month each year, the city celebrates art, in all its forms.  It’s called Artown and  all throughout July there are movies, dancing, drum circles, music, watercolor displays, workshops, and every else under the sun that supports a form of art.

This year, The Wilbur D. May Arboretum hosted Dragon Lights.  If you ever get a chance to go to a Dragon Lights show, do it. It is the most amazing display of Chinese craftsmanship and color. Tianyu Arts and Culture, Inc. is the creator of the show. The festival travels throughout the US and various countries presenting their displays and talent for 4- 6 weeks.

As well, this was a fundraiser for the arboretum, which made it all the more special to me. Our arboretum is woefully under funded; any special projects are supported through special events and grants. Several of the arboretum volunteers were offered jobs to help at the festival, including myself. It was really hard work, but at the same time, it was a great experience getting to learn more about Chinese culture and their people.  And these folks were the kindest of souls.

So, just what is Dragon Lights and what is so special about it?


I can’t wait to share!

First off Dragon Lights features about a mile long route of different lighted lantern displays.  These are not just small lanterns; each display is huge and is representative of animals, figures, or legends important to Chinese culture.


The main gate of the Arboretum was surrounded by a huge flower arch that you walked through to enter the festival. If you wanted a picture in front of it, there was someone there to do that. At night, the colors were awesome.

At dusk is “magic hour.” This is when the lanterns go on and the dwindling daylight creates this beautiful and eerie glow throughout the park. There were a total of 49 different displays to see along with this undersea tunnel with all kinds of fish and sea creatures. My favorite was the giant carp swimming among lotus blossoms and other small fish.  It was a strikingly beautiful blend of colors.  As you walked along there were giraffes and lions, the Chinese zodiac figures, massive peacocks, and  large array of mystical dragons. At the very end of the tour, was a huge display of the Terra Cotta Warriors and their horses.

There were also performances throughout the night. There were contortionist, acrobats, and jugglers, all bringing on a lot of oooh’s and aaah’s.  On the weekends, there were special events, as well, from martial arts and cooking demonstrations, Chinese language classes, and even an open mic for local performers. The last weekend, they held a lantern auction, where you could bid on the smaller figures, such as the pandas and flowers.

Along with all of that, each night, you could put on Chinese robes and take pictures in from of the ancient backdrops at the Time Travel Booth, or watch the artisans weave aluminum wire, and paint flowery name signs for people.  Once you entered the festival, the shows, photos, and demonstrations were free with admission.

I worked the ticket booth on most nights.  What I really enjoyed was watching the transformation from stressed and tired people going into the festival to laughing joyous people leaving.  They were lighter and happier.


It made a lasting impression.  I think when you open yourself up to new cultures, new creative ideas, and different ways to do things, you become more self aware.  You also are reminded that we as people are not so different. We all have hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families.  We may tackle them a little differently, but we try to do the best we can.    By  experiencing this, we are reminded the world is really a very small place.



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