NC Chinese Lantern Festival shut to public several days early after storm damage

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The North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival is closing several days early after Tuesday night’s severe storms caused damage to a festival centerpiece and other lanterns.

The festival, which was scheduled to end Sunday, Jan. 14, is shut to the public, ending more than five days early.

The festival venue itself, Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre, was not damaged in Tuesday’s storms, but a spokesperson said one of the festival’s largest lanterns — the dragon boat on the lake — was damaged.

Organizers originally planned to reopen the festival Wednesday night, but significant structural damage caused the festival to close for the season.

Sky 5 flew overhead Wednesday at 1 p.m. as crews were clearing debris from the festival grounds.

A statement released Thursday read: “The decision comes as festival engineers completed their thorough evaluations of the lantern displays and it was apparent that some of the larger, signature displays suffered severe structural damage from the storms earlier this week. Engineers concluded that proper repairs could not be completed in time before the festival’s scheduled conclusion.”

“Our heart breaks for those who had plans to attend the Festival in its final few days,” said William Lewis, Cary’s Cultural Arts Manager. “Public safety is paramount, and we appreciate the careful analysis and thoughtful conversations with all stakeholders in making this joint decision. It’s a reminder that these grand outdoor art exhibits are ephemeral, and we enjoy and appreciate them while they are here.”

People who already purchased rickets will get an email with refund options.

The festival will return Nov. 22.