About 6 million tourists are expected to pour into Changhua County’s Lugang Township (鹿港) over the next two weeks for the annual Taiwan Lantern Festival, which opens today.
The main lantern is a 20m tall silver dragon perched on a pedestal of clouds holding an orb in one hand, to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac calendar. The 20m dragon is accompanied by several secondary lanterns, including the Chinese goddess of the sea Matsu (媽祖), deer and sea turtles.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and other dignitaries will be invited to switch on the main lantern at tonight’s opening ceremony.
To compliment the main and secondary lanterns, the organizer has arranged lantern exhibitions based on 20 different themes at venues throughout Lugang, a very different approach from last year’s exhibition in Miaoli County.
In addition to Lugang Stadium, where the main lantern is located, visitors can marvel at lanterns in several historical sites and tourist attractions throughout the area.
For example, visitors can view the “Winding Nine Dragons” lanterns above Chungshan Road or they can see lanterns adorned with Chinese calligraphy at the area’s Wenwu (文武), Huan (護安) and Bodhisattva King (地藏王菩薩) temples.
Prior to the opening ceremony, attendees can also enjoy a series of performances, the organizer said, including a parade by the Tokyo Disney Resort.
The Tourism Bureau said the Japanese amusement park decided to stage its first overseas performance in Taiwan because it wanted to thank the nation for its generous donations to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March last year.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said at a rehearsal in Lugang Stadium yesterday that the lantern festival was held in Lugang this year because it was time to return a favor to the community.
“When we held the nation’s first lantern festival 23 years ago, the Lugang Tianhou Temple (鹿港天后宮) had their members perform a festive parade, which helped attract many visitors to the event,” Mao said.
The Changhua County Government estimates that the two-week exhibition will bring about 6 million tourists to Lugang, which will present a daunting challenge to a town of 80,000 people.
About 200,000 visitors arrived in Lugang during the Lunar New Year holiday to get an early look at the lanterns. Some said the exhibition had not provided enough toilets for tourists.
“We are happy and a bit worried at the same time,” said Huang Tung-lieh (黃東烈), chief of the county’s transportation bureau. “We welcome tourists from all over the country and abroad to see the lanterns in Changhua, but in the meantime, we also want to limit the impact the crowd will put on the transportation system.”
Visitors interested in attending the festival are advised to use the more than 20,000 parking spaces on the outskirts of Lugang because a restricted zone for local residents will be strictly enforced in the city. Visitors can take shuttle buses from the parking areas, which will take them to different venues in Lugang.