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China Lights brightens Milwaukee this month at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Setting up this month’s China Lights Chinese lantern show at Boerner Botanical Gardens began in the heat of summer as workers carried colorful caterpillars, orange and yellow squirrels and a couple friendly-looking pandas from more than a dozen semi-trailers.

This was only the beginning – weeks later, a couple dozen artisans arrived from China, shepherded by the company Tianyu Arts & Culture, to stretch new fabric across the menagerie’s metal frames, most of them studded with LED lights. Then began the painstaking job of positioning the more than 1,000 individual figures (e.g., a yellow squirrel) throughout the palatial gardens, where electrical hardware hides behind bushes, ready to set the county facility ablaze with color.

Some 110,000 people came to last year’s event, making it one of the area’s most popular festivals despite having a hard-to-find entrance down a quiet street in Hales Corners. This time around, from Sept. 21-Oct. 21, the organizers are promising a more interactive event with food, drink and Chinese craft demonstrations – not to mention a 34-foot-tall panda (part of the Panda Mania theme) built using millions of black and white pingpong balls. Around each corner, visitors will find something new.


“Panda Mania at China Lights” appears in the October 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning Oct. 1, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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