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Brookgreen Summer Lights Festival

Festivals & Events

Brookgreen Summer Lights Festival

Visitors and locals alike have flocked to Brookgreen Gardens every Christmas Holiday Season for 18 years to be dazzled by the truly spectacular display of over 5,500 hand-lit candles and strings of lights at Brookgreen Gardens for the Night of a Thousand Candles.  This summer, you will be able to experience another extraordinary display at the Lowcountry Zoo and Botanical Gardens from May 24, 2018 through August 19, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday evenings.

For the Summer of 2018, Brookgreen Gardens will be lighting up your nights with larger-than-life, illuminated silk lantern sculptures in a variety of native animals, insects and plants created by Chinese Craftsmen in the tradition of famous Chinese Lantern Festivals. There will be butterflies, otters, bees, deer, bald eagles, turtles, alligators, dandelions and Venus fly traps lighting up the paths as you stroll through the gardens in amazement, awestruck by the beauty of the lanterns.

“This is a first for us and we are hoping it will be very successful, something we can continue to do to attract people in the summer time, that normally may find Brookgreen Gardens too hot during the day,” Brookgreen President Page Kiniry said. “We are just thrilled for the opportunity to bring this here and we think it will be an amazing entertainment option for the evenings.” (

Spencer Tan of Lantern Fest Creative from Singapore, the genius behind the Summer Lights Festival, said that there are approximately 600 big Chinese Lanterns and 5,000 little Chinese Lanterns bringing the East Culture to the West Culture.  Tan said, “No need to come to my world.  We will bring our world to yours.” Large scale lantern festivals have been a beloved tradition in China for about 2,000 years but have just recently come to America.

According to Tan, the Chinese Lantern is a symbol of celebration, and Brookgreen Gardens is a place where families gather to view the trees and gardens; therefore, Brookgreen Summer Lights Festival is a celebration of the family gathering among the culture of trees.  In keeping with the culture of the gardens, the lanterns are created in the forms of the native flowers and animals that are indigenous to the area.

Chief Operating Officer of Lantern Fest Creative, Charles Zidar, said the designs were custom-made specifically for the gardens by groups of artists, welders, electricians, and “skinners” in China.  “Once the design is complete, they will draw the patterns out on the concrete in chalk, then they bend the steel in two dimensions and weld it up in three dimensions.  Then the electricians add the LED lights.” (

Once the sculptures are built, the skinners, who are exclusively female, take over.  They glue brightly colored silks and satins on the iron frames by tearing the pieces of silk to fit and covering the seams with gold piping.  “This is the more difficult part, because these will be different colors,” said Tan, “The way we identify, because this is everything in a rush, this is the indication. If we want this to be green color we’re gonna take this green color [silk] and we tie it here. So, the skinner will know this is green color, so we tie a yellow [silk] here, then she’ll know that this is yellow.  Even unlit, the glossy fabric glows in the sunlight.  Last, the artists add some airbrush work to give them the patterns you would find in nature.”

The silks, made specifically for lantern festivals, are strong enough to withstand strong winds but will fade over time. Tan has tried to rip the silk and can’t, but the female skinners tear the fabric as if they were ripping off a piece of notebook paper. They use surgical scissors to cut more precise shapes.

Many of Tan’s artisans are related. Lantern-making is an art form passed down through the generations.  “The father works for me and then when the father retires, the son comes,” said Tan, 44. “And the sculptures get more and more elaborate. Where I grew up there was little entertainment and the lantern festival was small, people carrying paper lanterns and maybe one or two big sculptures. Now there are different sculptures, different movements, music.” (

Some of the materials that are used to create the Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture lanterns are recycled such as plastic bottles according to Zidar.  “What makes this display at Brookgreen unique is that all these are flora and fauna, native plants and animals of this area,” Zidar said. “It is still the traditional way of creating them, but a bit different angle and approach, which we are pretty excited about.”   (

The Brookgreen Summer Lights Festival will launch on May 24 and run Wednesday-Saturday nights through August 19, 2018.  During the Festival, Brookgreen will close at 5:00 p.m. as usual, and re-open from 7:00 p.m. to 10 p.m.  The event will be in Brookgreen’s Lowcountry Zoo. You’ll enter through the main gate any time after 6:30 p.m.  If you get there before dark, you’ll see them in the daylight and watch the transformation as the evening darkens.

The festival will also include games, performances, Chinese paper cutting, Chinese horoscopes, music, and local food truck vendors. Tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for children 12 and under; ages 3 and under are admitted free. Members receive a $5 discount. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Brookgreen Gardens is located at 1931 Brookgreen Garden Dr., Murrells Inlet, SC 29576.

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