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Prime Minister to open Lantern Festival


ASIA 2000 LANTERN FESTIVAL MEDIA RELEASE

10 February 2003

Prime Minister to open Lantern Festival

The Year of the Sheep will get off to a bright start in Auckland on Friday night (14 February) when Prime Minister Helen Clark opens Asia 2000's Chinese New Year Lantern Festival in Albert Park.

The official opening ceremony for the three-night festival will begin at 8pm when the Prime Minister will switch on the hundreds of lanterns decorating the park and perform the traditional ceremony of painting the eyes on the dragon. There'll also be a fireworks display and a unique dragon dance group from China performing during the ceremony.

"I am very pleased to be opening the fourth annual Asia 2000 Lantern Festival and I congratulate everyone involved in organising this marvellous event. I encourage all Aucklanders to share in this wonderful cultural tradition with their families and friends," Ms Clark said.

"The previous Lantern Festivals have been extremely successful and have shown the significant contribution Auckland's Chinese community makes to the city, as well as reflecting the rich cultural diversity of New Zealand society today."

The Festival runs from 14 - 16 February from 5.00pm until 10.30pm and will feature a full programme of free activities for families, including the unique Lotus Lantern Dragon Dance from China, a shadow puppet troupe from China, music, fortune-telling, dancing and martial arts. There will also be food and craft stalls. Albert Park's trees and paths will be decorated with lanterns of every shape and size, many made specially for the Festival in China and Singapore, and including brand new lanterns made in China.

The Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations and is usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. This is the fourth time the Festival has been held and last year it attracted more than 100,000 people.

Central Parking in Chancery Street is staying open until midnight for the three nights of the Lantern Festival. This will cost a flat $5.00 on the Friday and $2.00 an hour in the weekend up to a maximum of $7.00 (on condition that the vehicle leaves by midnight).

The Lantern Festival is organised by Asia 2000 in partnership with Auckland City. HSBC is the Festival's core sponsor, supported by AIA, Lee Kum Kee, Sky City Auckland, Telecom/One Card, MORE FM Auckland, Cathay Pacific, COSCO (New Zealand) Ltd, Triangle Television and Golden Raindrop Chinese TV.

Check out Lantern Festival information on www.asia2000.org.nz or www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/lantern.


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