Dragon Lights Festival


Celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar moon, the Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival period. This year the Dragon Light Festival will be held on March 16th through April 22nd at Chilhowee park. Knoxville’s Dragon Lights Festival gives visitors a chance to experience traditional Chinese culture. The event features 42 colorful Chinese lantern displays with thousands of lights in the shapes of dragons, pandas, sea creatures, flowers, moons and other designs.  

Attendees can walk through the 17-acre area in the evening and view the illuminated displays, Chinese performances and crafts while listening to Chinese music. The festival is presented by SMG Knoxville. The festival will open, rain or shine, from 5:30-10 p.m. nightly. Tickets cost $16 for adults, $10 for children (ages 3-13) and children under 3 get in free. (More pricing options can be found at https://dragonlightsfestival.com.)

The Dragon Lights Festival will have 42 lantern displays, and two of them are inspired by Zoo Knoxville’s Asian Trek exhibit. The two displays will feature Malayan tigers and gibbons. While some of the lanterns were brought from other festivals, around 30 to 40 Chinese artisans built most of the festival’s lantern displays in Knoxville.

Aspen Hosey (10) also decided to go see all of the lights.

“Although it was kind of expensive, it was all well worth it to experience a little of the Chinese culture.” said Hosey.

The artisans first design the displays and then bring them to life by welding steel frames together in different shapes, ripping colorful silk pieces, attaching the silk with a Chinese adhesive and then painting the silk.

In addition to the artisans, SMG employees are helping put the festival site together. Around 50 people have been working since the first weekend in March. This event is the second largest Chinese lantern festival in the U.S.

While the lantern displays take center stage at the Dragon Lights Festival, the event offers other traditional Chinese experiences. The festival site has a stage that will feature Chinese performances. They are included with admission and will take place at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and at 6:30, 8 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Chinese artisans will also present sugar painting and inner painting crafts. Sugar painting involves pouring melted sugar juice on a stone and creating sculptures from it. Inner painting involves painting designs on the inside surface of glass bottles. Attendees will be able to watch and purchase the crafts.  The festival will have a variety of food options including traditional Asian cuisine, rotating food trucks, and snacks.

All in all the light festival was very appealing to the eyes and the heart. It displays beautiful lights and gives you the chance to experience a different culture without traveling very far.