Central Ohioans will have the opportunity to participate in a Chinese tradition that dates back centuries.

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival, which will feature almost 40 illuminated displays with thousands of individual lanterns, will be held Nov. 17 through Jan. 7 at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair, 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus.

In addition to the lantern exhibition, the festival will feature dancing, live music, acrobatics, food and merchandise from vendors, including an artist who uses tiny brushes to paint images in small bottles.

“What we have going on here (is) not just the lantern stations, for sure,” said Grace Zhou, project manager for Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc., which is bringing the event to Columbus.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 6 to 17. Children 5 and under will be admitted free. Tickets are available for purchase at the gate or online at ohiolanternfestival.com.

Parking is $6, cash only.

Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly at the Natural Resources Park at the fairgrounds.

Zhou said the lantern festival dates back to the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) as part of the country’s spring celebration.

It is a huge cultural event for the Chinese – and a homecoming of sorts, she said. People leave their work behind and celebrate with family, friends and, of course, lanterns.

“After the spring festival is over, everybody goes back to work,” Zhou said.

She said the lanterns are made by artisans in China, broken down and shipped to the United States, where they’re reassembled in cities across the country.

Qina Cibulskis, who grew up in the Guangdong province of China, said she recalls the lantern festivals of her youth, specifically lighting the lanterns and letting them float away into the night.

“When we were there, we were little kids, dressing up and seeing all these beautiful colors and spending time with your parents – and the food,” said Cibulskis, co-founder of Banyan Food Service with her sister, Qini Kear. “It’s more of a family, friend gathering and getting together with people you know.”

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