From this evening and for two months, more than 500,000 spectators are expected in Blagnac, for the first edition of the Chinese Lantern Festival, once offered in Gaillac. The largest and longest popular event ever organized around Toulouse.
For three years, before the pandemic, 300,000 inhabitants of the Toulouse metropolitan area went to Gaillac, to admire the Lantern Festival Chinese. From today until February 1, 2022, they will have it at their doors. The Ritouret Park, in Blagnac, offers a majestic setting for this event almost unique in Europe (in Ireland, in another form), and simply duplicated in Toronto, Sydney, Dallas and Singapore.
To a lesser extent. “Blagnac will be the biggest festival in the world, outside of China,” assures the organizer, Patrice Gausserand, who imported the concept to Gaillac in 2017. With success: more than a million spectators in three years, including 480,000 in 2019.
After a two-year hiatus, the momentum should continue. The goal is over 500,000. “There is an expectation. Over 80,000 tickets have already been sold. At the moment, it’s more than 4,000 a day, ”smiles Joseph Carles, mayor of Blagnac, who rolled out the red carpet for the Chinese consortium of 300 companies. “We have never had so many reservations at Gaillac. We already have 300 buses from the entire southern half of France, ”opines Patrice Gausserand.
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Everything is new
Gaillac regulars will not have the impression of déjà vu. “We have completely renewed ourselves. We started from scratch, with new themes, many more new lanterns. With its lake, stream, waterfall, embankments, hills, the Ritouret site, twice as spacious, offers us more possibilities. On 8 hectares, it will be more comfortable ”analyzes Patrice Gausserand.
He offered himself some daring: a 20 meter dragon, a 33 m imperial pagoda floating on the lake, an 18 m tower, a 25 m parchment, a giant panda, a shopping street with its characters, whales , turtles and flying fish … And a few nods to Toulouse, about fifty violets, two planes, an evocation of the pioneers of aeronautics, Clément Ader, Latécoère, Aéropostale …
For three months, 74 Chinese craftsmen, metalworkers, painters, welders, seamstresses, competed in dexterity. “They took care of the details, we gained in quality,” says Patrice Gausserand. “Gaillac, it was already good. There, it’s a cut above, it’s magnificent ”, confirms a privileged spectator, who was able to visit the park in preview.
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Access, the key to success
Tuesday evening, during the inauguration, the organizers displayed their enthusiasm and confidence. Despite two unknowns in the equation. Will the return of the Covid spoil the party? And above all, in a city that is already quite obstructed in the early evening, will we be able to easily access the park, despite the expected crowds, especially at the end of the week? There was a bitter taste of corks in Gaillac.
“We benefit from public transport and airport parking, whereas in Gaillac, we were limited. If we succeed in the mobility challenge, we win the match, ”says Patrice Gausserand. “I’m not sleeping very well at the moment,” admits Joseph Carles. I have no doubts how fun people are going to have. We think we have planned everything to limit nuisance, promote fluidity but we do not know how people will behave. I hope I am not mistaken ”.
For all ages
La Dépêche du Midi was able to preview the Lantern Festival. Even if we know little about Chinese culture, of its ultimately unsuspected richness and variety (if only the calligraphy, honored on an immense parchment), it is difficult to remain insensitive to the forty-five scenes, all explained by tables. Beyond the spectacular overall views, the reflections of the lanterns on the water of the lake, one can remain stuck in front of the infinite details of certain sculptures. With the lapping of the water, the lights more muffled than flashy, the atmosphere is Zen. ” It’s calming. We forget our problems for two hours ”assures the mayor of Blagnac.
Adults will especially spend time near the Chinese horoscope and its twelve carved animals. The children will have fun recognizing hundreds of animals, widening their eyes in the forest of pandas, one of which is giant, among the bamboos. Not to mention the impressive dinosaurs, life-size, animated, with disturbing cries …