Nighttime programming boosts revenue and cultural awareness

The Calgary Zoo’s Illuminasia Lantern and Garden Festival is the first of its kind in Calgary and in western Canada.

It includes an installation of nearly 400 handmade Chinese lanterns, and features entertainment programming showcasing the cultures of India, China and Japan.

Each segment of the festival, called Experience nights, features programming that highlights specific elements of each nation.

During the Japanese nights, guests are offered workshops in sushi making, sake ceremonies, origami and more. The eclectic entertainment features Japanese performers performing both traditional and non-traditional acts.


Produced by Paul Rodgers

 The aesthetic layout of the zoo provides an ideal setting for an arts-based, multi-faceted event such as Illuminasia.

America’s Got Talent winner Kenichi Ebina gives the audience his tribute to Michael Jackson. Photo by Paul Rodgers

“The zoo is the most unique setting in the city,” says Roz Freeman, the special events advisor for the Calgary Zoo.

“We’ve got beautiful venues everywhere, but here we have this incredible garden that’s full of animals, some of which are still out at night during Illuminasia. It gives us that diversity and space that we can play with and create a unique experience.”

As well as adding upwards of $1 million to the zoo’s revenue stream, after-dark programs also serve a strong cultural function.

“Calgary is growing immensely as a culturally diverse community so for us,” explains Freeman, “we wanted to bring to life some of the cultures that have already grown, such as the Chinese and the Indian community.Paula Neickar showcases her skills as a traditional Japanese Taiko drummer. Photo by Paul Rodgers

“They’re vast in our city and they have a lot of rich heritage and offerings for us to educate people on, but Japan as an example is a smaller community so we felt, not so much an obligation but an honour of being able to present their culture to the city and help evolve it in Calgary.”

Thumbnail photo by Paul Rodgers

The editor responsible for this article is Zarif Alibhai Zalibhai@cjournal.ca

prodgers@cjournal.ca