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Tens Of Thousands Celebrate Year Of The Sheep

Tens Of Thousands Flock To Celebrate Year Of The Sheep

More than 120,000 Aucklanders enjoyed three nights of "light and magic" at the fourth annual Asia 2000 Lantern Festival in Albert Park over the weekend.

People of all ages and of many different ethnic backgrounds crowded into Albert Park to enjoy the sights, sounds, tastes and atmosphere of a traditional Chinese Lantern Festival, view the hundreds of colourful lanterns and enjoy the free family entertainment.

Organisers, Asia 2000 and Auckland City, are thrilled by the turn-out.

"The Lantern Festival is a huge success," said Jennifer King, Asia 2000's cultural programme manager. "Not only is it New Zealand's largest Asian cultural event, it has become, in only four years, one of Auckland's most popular festivals. It truly reflects the multicultural diversity and excitement of Auckland."

Highlights of the Festival, opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark, included the Lotus Lantern Dragon Dance group from Zhejiang province in China, a traditional shadow puppet troupe also from Zhejiang (both performing for the first time outside China) and many local performers. There were also two spectacular fireworks displays.

"Everyone we spoke to had an amazing time," said Ms King. "There were crowds of people enjoying the entertainment, buying lanterns and, of course, sampling the many different types of food on offer.

"Being the Year of the Sheep, a flock of special sheep lanterns made in China delighted the crowd and the "Guess What Breed" sheep lantern competition was very popular. The winner of the competition was G. Dunkley of Akaroa who won $200 worth of Sky City dinner vouchers (the mystery sheep's breed was a Suffolk).

"We are really proud to be involved with an event that is proving so popular with the Auckland community, and shares Chinese culture with so many people. We are extremely grateful to Auckland City, in particular events organiser Barbara Strong-Mackinnon, the Chinese community, the overseas and local performers and of course the thousands of people who came along. It was a fantastic few days, a great family event and great fun.

"Our special thanks to our sponsors, HSBC, AIA, Lee Kum Kee, Sky City Auckland, Telecom/One Card, MORE FM Auckland, Cathay Pacific, Cosco, Triangle Television and Golden Raindrop Chinese TV for their commitment to making this Festival a success."

Auckland school children made hundreds of lanterns for the school lantern-making competition. Winners of the competition (who won $100 Edpac art supply vouchers) were Rooms 12 and 13, Clendon Park School, Manurewa; Rooms 13 and 14, Marlborough Primary School, Glenfield; and Central Auckland Home Educators, Mt Eden.

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