Auckland Lantern Festival returns after two-year Covid hiatus
After a two-year hiatus due to Covid restrictions on gatherings, the Auckland Lantern Festival is returning this year and will be celebrated from February 10 to 13.
The year of the tiger will be celebrated across the four-day cultural festival which is expecting more than 100,000 Aucklanders and visitors, according to a press release from Auckland Unlimited.
Last held at the Auckland Domain in 2019, the festival has now moved to Auckland Showgrounds after the Domain lease expired.
The festival this year will feature more than 800 handmade Chinese lanterns, street stalls selling Asian foods and crafts and cultural performances ranging from Chinese opera to modern dance and martial arts.
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A fireworks display is planned at 9.30pm on the last day of the festival, February 13.
Bookings for the event start from January 24 through aucklandnz.com/lantern, and Aucklanders are encouraged to book early and choose their entry time as demand is expected to be heavy.
A valid My Vaccine Pass is required for anyone attending and will be checked at the gates, organisers say.
However, despite two years of missing out on the significant cultural celebration, some members of the Chinese community are concerned about the Covid risks at the event.
East Auckland resident Vinson Yu – father to three young children – said he’s worried about the surge in border cases recently and the potential risks of virus transmission at the gathering.
Yu has three kids aged 12, 9 and 6. The older child is vaccinated, and Yu’s planning to take the younger two for Covid-19 jabs when the vaccine roll-out for 5 to 11-year-olds begins on January 17.
Yu said the Lantern Festival has always been a family-focused event, and he worries that the event poses a risk to children, with child Covid-19 vaccinations just kicking off in January.
Waiata Lin is in her 70s, and is usually active in community cultural events, but she said she won’t be attending this year.
Lin, a member of several Chinese cultural groups, said she’s aware of several community events over the summer cancelled due to the risks of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Auckland Councillor Paul Young said he’s full of anticipation for this year’s lantern festival, and believes the risks are low given Auckland’s overall high vaccination rates.
“There will be risks, but it will be manageable, as long as people follow the protection measures,” he said.
Auckland Unlimited spokesman Richard Clarke said the event would operate to the Ministry of Health’s Orange settings of the Covid-19 protection framework.
He said a vaccine pass was required for entry, as well as for all stall-holders, performers, volunteers and staff.
Clarke said face masks would be mandatory inside the Lantern Pavilion and were recommended outside.