Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

200,000 to gather for Auckland Lantern Festival this weekend

More than 200,000 are expected to visit the Domain over the weekend to celebrate the close of Auckland's Year of the Dog celebrations.

The Auckland Lantern Festival, which starts tonight and runs until Sunday, is the country's largest cultural celebration by numbers.

Hundreds of lanterns will light up the Domain for the 19th annual festival to celebrate Chinese New Year.

This year is the Year of the Dog, the 11th of 12 zodiac signs and considered to be the most loyal, faithful and friendly.

Auckland fengshui master Francis Lui is predicting it to be a challenging year for Kiwis, with elements presenting "significant difficulties" for many.

However, he is optimistic that things will improve in the later part of the year.

"The second half of the year is slightly more positive ... as elements there support those who have been patient and hardworking."

The lantern festival traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations, which is observed for 15 days.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) event producer Eric Ngan said visitors can expect several new things this year.

"The Harbour Bridge is lighting up, we've got a new area called the Cultural Courtyard where you can experience some craft demonstrations from our international performers from China," Ngan said.

"We've also got a new Lion Dance Lawn, where people can check out the lion dances and shadow puppets as well."

Until Sunday, at 30-minute intervals from 8.30pm to midnight, there will be a three-minute solar energy light and sound show on the Harbour Bridge.

A special animation of a dog has been created as part of the light show, which utilises 90,000 vibrant red and gold LED lights, pulsing across the bridge.

Ateed general manager destination Steve Armitage said: "Visitors and Aucklanders have given Vector Lights glowing reviews ... with each new light show we've been able to showcase more and more of the creative capabilities this installation offers."

Back at the Domain, among the hundreds of handmade lanterns, traditional favourites like dragons and fish will feature along with new additions.

About 100 stalls are set up, with 62 food stalls selling a wide range of traditional and fusion food items.

Visitors are being advised to plan your trip, and to take the bus, train or walk to avoid parking nightmares.

There will be maps and information kiosks at the festival site to help visitors along the way.

Auckland Lantern Festival 2018

• From tonight, March 1 to Sunday March 4 at the Auckland Domain.

• Tonight is Lantern Appreciation Night, without foods, stalls, performances or amusement.

• International and local artists will perform in a range of entertainment areas from tomorrow.

• Nearly 200,000 attend each year, so parking is restricted and roads closed.

• Plan travel well ahead of time, and take public transport to avoid parking nightmares.

- NZ Herald

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