Lantern night had kids mesmerised

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 09:48 16/12/2013
Lantern Celebration
VIRGINIA WOOLF/FAIRFAX NZ
LITTLE FACES LIT UP: Jolina Hunger, left, Ella Blackbourn, Charlotte Hunger, Kati Maeder, and Lilia Hunger amongst the crowds at the Lantern Celebration on Saturday at the Centre of New Zealand.

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A magical evening at the Centre of New Zealand left children spellbound, and wondering if what they were seeing at the Lantern Celebration was real.

"What is she? Is she a human? Is she real?", one bewitched youngster asked of the aerial dancer in the trees, illuminated by ultraviolet light and suspended among hundreds of twinkling lights.

Christmas in Nelson and the city council's summer festival programme is heralded by the annual Lantern Celebration, and Saturday's event was topped off by sublime summer weather and a golden sunset.

Hundreds queued at the Botanical Reserve for the start of the hike up the hill, where they were met by supernatural and legendary creatures, courtesy of Nelson's theatrical and performance communities.

A fairy queen welcomed the crowds who were soon stalled by a white witch and her unicorns, and Doris the Owl hooting from the trees and terrifying unsuspecting children with her questions.

Fairy toadstools and blue goblins lay hidden among the trees, and higher up two creatures which appeared to be a hybrid of a hound and a cat played guitar and sang perfect harmonies.

Undersea creatures danced with silk ribbons among seahorse props, a golden "Hindi guru" silenced the walkers with his electric sitar and Maui was busy trying to harness his large legendary sun before it sunk into the night.

The crowd was still coming up the hill in droves by nightfall, gathered at a spot in the Sir Stanley Whitehead Park near the Centre of New Zealand to hear the rhythms of Nelson's community percussion group Samba de Sol.

Festival director Sophie Kelly said she was always "totally blown away" by the diversity people who attended the event.

"I see people there I never see at other events.

"I also met lots of people there who were not with their kids. They said, ‘they don't come any more, but we still do'."

Ms Kelly said while there was no way of counting the people who went, she was confident the crowd numbered 3000 or more. She credited community events co-ordinator Michaela Blackman for contributing to the success of the event, which included a strong performance element.

"I think what's also really special about the event is that there's no commercial element. It's completely about community and families coming together," Ms Kelly said.

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