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Hong Kong to enjoy month long Mid-Autumn Celebration Extravaganza

Travel News Asia 1 September 2003

With the excitement of Strato-Fantasia still running high since it commenced 17 August, Hong Kong is readying itself for another round of spectacular, large-scale festivities that will keep visitors coming and sustain the recovery.

Once again, the city has proved itself to be the Events Capital of Asia with a massive, month-long Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). The Celebration, which spans from the land to the sky and sea, will feature unprecedented events including what is believed to be the world's largest "Lantern Wonderland"; the legendary Tai Hang Fire Dragon dancing in Victoria Park; an urban hot air balloon ride; a magnificent  "Lantern Boat Parade" and unique "Wishing Lantern Trails".

Traditional Chinese festivals always hold special appeal to many visitors, in particular those from the long-haul markets. This year, the HKTB is combining the traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival with a diversity of spectacular events and attractions to demonstrate Hong Kong's fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. For the first time, the month-long extravaganza of festivities will include activities organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and new, enticing events that take place on land, in the sky and sea. The  HKTB hopes that the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration, which highlights the city's cultural fusion and caters to different needs and interests, will help maintain a balanced portfolio of visitors from the long and short-haul markets.

Announcing details of the Celebration at a media event today, HKTB Chairman The Hon Mrs Selina Chow, GBS, OBE, JP said that the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration would promote the rich Chinese heritage and traditions of Hong Kong and further cement the city's standing as one of the main Events Capitals of Asia. "In bringing together the enticing events, we have based on our extensive studies of our existing products, visitors' expectations and their different interests. We know from the HKTB surveys that close to 30 per cent of our visitors and 40 per cent of those from the long-haul markets are interested in traditional Chinese festivals.

"This mega Celebration, which builds on the many strengths of Hong Kong as a destination including dining, shopping, entertainment and the magnificent Victoria Harbour, will attract visitors to stay longer, enrich their experience and spend more. Besides creating a festive ambience for the whole community and an unforgettable experience for visitors, it will provide a marketing platform for our travel industry to develop their business," Mrs Chow explained.

The HKTB has been actively promoting the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration through its worldwide offices. In Taiwan, joint advertising with China Airlines and four travel agencies has been arranged while in Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and Mainland China, special Mid-Autumn Festival itineraries have been introduced. In long-haul markets such as the US and Australia, the HKTB has reinforced its publicity efforts and is bringing in media representatives to cover the various events and activities.

In Hong Kong itself, the Board is strongly encouraging the travel trade to package the programmes together with special tours. To complement the festive celebration with unique culinary delights, 20 restaurants have introduced special Mid-Autumn menus and offers while key dining locations such as Knutsford Terrace, Hillwood SoHo, Lan Kwai Fong and Peak Galleria have put up festive decorations.

Victoria Park is always the scene of the city's biggest Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations and this year will be no exception. From 7 to 16 September, the HKTB will set up a giant "Lantern Wonderland" occupying the space of a football pitch. An application has already been filed with Guinness World  Records for recognising Lantern Wonderland as the world's largest lantern.

The Lantern Wonderland design is chosen from entries of a competition organised by the HKTB and Hong Kong Designers Association. This dome-shaped lantern, which combines Chinese art and contemporary design concepts as well as modern architectural know-how, is a true reflection of  Hong Kong's living fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. Festive decorations and a giant 962-square metre lantern featuring 360-degree multimedia show will be staged inside as well as a "Wishing Well" in the middle. All receipts collected at the well will be donated to Po Leung Kuk.

Alongside Lantern Wonderland will be a lantern designed in the image of Sleeping Beauty Castle, which will be a key featured attraction inside the Hong Kong Disneyland park opening in 2005/06. There will also be lanterns featuring Mickey and Minnie. In addition, there will be exquisitely designed and crafted traditional lanterns arranged by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The Celebration in Victoria Park is set to reach a climax between 11 and 14 September, as a Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration Carnival will be staged by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in association with the HKTB. One of the highlights will be the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. For more than a  century, the Fire Dragon Dance has been one of the most fascinating attractions of the city's Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. This year, the 66-metre long Fire Dragon created from thousands of burning joss-sticks will, for the first time, dance in Victoria Park for three consecutive nights on 10-12 September.

Visitors will be able to gain further knowledge of Hong Kong's traditions at the "Must Buy Corner" of the Carnival where merchants will promote Hong Kong Must Buy souvenirs and festive items such as handicrafts, Chinese tea, assorted cakes and mooncakes. Other activities of the Carnival include cultural performances, fortune-telling and lantern riddle games.

The celebration in Victoria Park is not just restricted to the land. On 7-14 September, the public will be able to ride on a tethered hot air balloon, the first time such an experience has been available in the city. By donating HK$50 or more on the spot to Po Leung Kuk, visitors and local residents can enjoy a ride on the balloon at a height of about 30 metres to enjoy a breathtaking view of the colourful carnival below. This is the very first pilot run of an urban hot air balloon by the HKTB to gauge the technical feasibility and appeal of such an attraction to visitors and residents.

While water and lanterns do not normally come together, Victoria Harbour will be the picturesque setting this year for a brand new Mid-Autumn Festival event: a Lantern Boat Parade. On 10-12 September, about 40 fishing boats, all illuminated with colourful lanterns, will be led by the traditional Chinese junk, Duk Ling to parade around the harbour, further showcasing the magnificent night views of the harbour and skyline. The focal point will be a 10-metre tall giant lantern mounted on a fishing boat. The public can watch the parade along the waterfronts of Hung Hom, Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.

Based on the popularity of events featuring a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures among visitors, the HKTB has created the unique "Wishing Lantern Trails" for the Celebration. Between 1 and 30 September, visitors will be given a paper "wishing lantern" on arrival. They will be encouraged to write down their wish on the lantern and hang it up along the unique Wishing Lantern Trails at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (1-30 September) and Victoria Park (7-16 September). A competition was organised by the City Junior Chamber earlier on to invite local students and residents to submit creative wishing slogans for printing on the lanterns.

Besides the above events, a number of activities are also being organised in different parts of Hong Kong during this festive period. These include a "mega-lantern" display in Salisbury Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui, featuring a 10-metre, three-storey high lantern; and a themed lantern cluster on the Chinese legend of Chang O at the Cultural Centre Piazza from 7 September to 19 October. Altogether they will culminate in the most spectacular Mid-Autumn Festival celebration ever seen in Hong Kong.

To help visitors participate in these activities, the HKTB will publish full details of the events in different districts in a special leaflet. Besides putting up festive decorations at the Visitor Information and Services Counter, the HKTB will arrange two artists, dressed up as Chang O to distribute the leaflets and wishing lanterns to visitors at Hong Kong International Airport on 7-16 September so that they can experience the festive atmosphere as soon as they arrive.

Following the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration will be the Hong Kong International Musical Fireworks Competition in October, Hong Kong WinterFest from November to early January and the International Chinese New Year Night Parade early next year. Another major programme is the pre-launch of Avenue of Stars in March 2004 to cater for visitors' interest in Hong Kong movies.

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