An ancient Chinese tradition takes over Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo starting Feb. 28 when Zoominations comes to Tampa Bay.
Workers from the Sechuan province of China, home to the lantern festival, arrived earlier this month to begin building their illuminated sculptures throughout the zoo.
The festival will run for three months. It's the first festival of its kind in the Southeast U.S.
The enormous lighted dragons, elephants and scenes are made from from steel wire, silk and satin. They'll will be lit with LED lights.
When it opens, Zoominations will feature 30 displays spread across Lowry Park's 26 acres. The art will cover traditional Chinese themes from nature and folk lore, along with larger-than-life zoo animals such as elephants and rhinos.
A key feature of the exhibit will be a reproduction of the 600-year-old Beijing Temple of Heaven.
Lantern festivals have part of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations for 2,000 years. Celebrations run from mid-February through early March in China. New Year falls on March 5 this year.
The festival at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo will include Chinese acrobats and a market with handmade crafts. You can find out more at the Zoominations Facebook page.
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). It has been rated No. 1 by Parents magazine, “10 Best Zoos,” (2009) and Child magazine, "The 10 Best Zoos for Kids" (2004).
The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48) and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Parking is free.