Tag Archives: Leonhardt Lagoon

Chinese Lantern Festival – Flamingos

Chinese Lantern Festival - Panda

As mentioned before, as compared to the 2012 event, this year’s Chinese Lantern Festival takes much better advantage of the locale around Fair Park’s Leonhardt Lagoon. Several returning displays, such as the dinosaurs, are much more accessible, and the crowds don’t bottleneck anywhere near as badly as they did in the Festival’s first year. I haven’t heard anything about this becoming a tradition, but based on both the liveliness of the lantern arrangements and the joyous crowds, I can certainly put in an additional voice recommending that this become as much a Dallas tradition as Celebration in the Oaks is for New Orleans.

Along that line, I need to get my friend Debbie out here one of these days. In the eternal garden war between gnome and flamingo, Debbie is a shameless gnome lover. She already knows my side, and nothing would make me feel better than shoving her nose in the impeccably arranged display at the south end of the lagoon:

Chinese Lantern Festival - Flamingos

clf_flamingo_1092014_2

Chinese Lantern Festival

Just a bit more to follow…

Chinese Lantern Festival – The Dragon Boat

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dragon Boat

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas’s Fair Park has a lot of wonders on display, but arguably the most impressive of all of the displays is the dragon boat in the middle of Leonhardt Lagoon. The lagoon already has a nocturnal mystery, and the contrast between the dark waters of the lagoon and this gigantic neon dragon boat just adds to it in a strange way. Visitors can enjoy it from the shore or, for an additional US$2 fee, they can climb aboard to see the park from a whole new locale.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dragon Boat

As a longtime visitor to Fair Park, I can’t help but wonder how the fish and reptiles om the lagoon look upon this gigantic interloper. The various bluegills and other fish seem to appreciate the spectacle, considering how they were jumping in the lagoon as I crossed the bridge to the boat. Most of the water turtles probably ignore it, but the snapping turtles…I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to hear about the occasional big snapper crawling up onto the boat for a quick sunbath on warm days, figuring that they had a cousin watching out for them.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dragon Boat

clf_dragonboat_1092014_2

More to follow…

Chinese Lantern Festival – Hope For the New Year

Chinese Lantern Festival - Overview

Finally, the idea to keep the Chinese Lantern Festival open until the beginning of Chinese New Year wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but considering the zodiac display behind the old Science Place building, it makes sense. With preparations for the upcoming Year of the Horse already beginning worldwide, Dallas definitely isn’t skipping out.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Snake

Goodbye, snake. Time for the horse to move in.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Horse

Meanwhile, out in front of the Year of the Rooster lantern, nobody should be surprised to see the hottie I met earlier that night out in front. I should just marry her or something.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Rooster

And that about does it for this quickie tour of the Lantern Festival. For North Texas residents, and those considering a trip out this way, the Festival continues until February 17, every night from 5:30 to 9:30. Get out there now before it’s gone, because you’ll need some context for what will undoubtedly be an even larger and more impressive event at the end of 2014.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dragon

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 – 6

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

clf_1092014_24

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

More to follow…

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 – 5

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Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas

More to follow…

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 6

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

As mentioned previously, the dinosaur section of the Chinese Lantern Festival has a set of animatronic dinosaurs, for unknown reasons but appreciated nonetheless. While the Apatosaurus may technically be larger, the Tyrannosaurus definitely caught more attention. Half of the fun was watching the kids’ expressions while watching their parents: they all enjoyed the dinosaurs, but the idea of moving, roaring dinosaurs among the lanterns was wondrous but not overly unexpected. Their parents and the other adults, though, just couldn’t stop staring.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Baby tyrannosaur at Chinese Lantern Festival

Right across the pathway from the big dinosaurs was a trio of fiberglass dinosaur eggs. Two were empty and fitted with entrances for kids to peek out, and the third had this (non-operational) baby tyrannosaur emerging from the top. Unlike the big dinosaurs, this one was accessible by passersby, and I was a little disturbed by how many visitors kept poking its eyes as if it would respond.

Baby tyrannosaur at Chinese Lantern Festival

I suspect that every photographer secretly hopes for that perfect photobomb, and I finally got mine. Just as I was aiming and focusing, this young lady appeared out of nowhere, hugged the baby tyrannosaur, and then went on to see the other sights. We should all be so lucky to get photobombed by such a charming and considerate individual.

Baby tyrannosaur at Chinese Lantern Festival

On the other hand, then there was this lump of offal oozing out of one of the empty eggs. Suddenly, we have an explanation for why the dinosaurs became extinct. It’s like walking into the middle of a GWAR concert, isn’t it?

Crack in the egg

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 5

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival dinosaurs

For some reason, the Chinese Lantern Festival has three animatronic dinosaurs alongside the lantern ones, all out roaring and waving at passersby. Not that I’m complaining, because any festival is a good excuse for more robot dinosaurs.

Chinese Lantern Festival dinosaurs

Among other sights, I found this hottie standing by the back door of the old Dallas Museum of Natural History, posing alongside the big mammoth skull still in the old space. I know this was my wedding anniversary, but I took her home anyway: how many second chances would a guy get with someone this wonderful?

Czarina

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 4

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 3

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 2

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

And before you ask, this Apatosaurus has a water nozzle in its mouth, which was used for a fountain in last year’s Lantern Festival. I’m just glad it wasn’t shooting fire.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Still more coming…

Chinese Lantern Festival 2013 Dinosaurs – 1

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Anyone keeping up with dinosaurian palaeontology knows about some of the spectacular dinosaur finds coming out of China over the last twenty years, so a special assemblage of dinosaur lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas makes perfect sense. Last year, many of the dinosaur lanterns were jammed into one end of Leonhardt Lagoon, preventing easy viewing. This year, they’re right out in front of the old Dallas Museum of Natural History building, stretching across the west side of the lagoon.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Dinosaurs

Is this it? Not by a long shot. There’s a lot more to see.

The Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park – 3

Chinese Lantern Festival - Czarina

I’d be lying if I said we attended the Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park solely for the Czarina, but it’s also mostly true. She wanted to catch this from the moment she heard about it, and I figured “Well, this should be interesting, but it’s for her.” How was I supposed to know that one particularly primordial end of Leonhardt Lagoon would be full of dinosaurs?

As for this first photo, for some reason, the Festival had two animatronic dinosaurs, probably brought out during the Museum of Nature & Science’s move, on display as well. Not only was nobody complaining, but at the end of October, it was actually quite charming.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Apatosaurus

Chinese Lantern Festival - Triceratops

Chinese Lantern Festival - Triceratops

Chinese Lantern Festival - Ouranosaurus

And for those who now regret not coming out to the Festival while it was running, the Festival was such a success that it re-opens on November 1 and runs until January 6, 2013. I recommend getting out there this weekend, while the weather remains this pleasant. Of course, this being Dallas, we could have this sort of weather holding out until after Christmas, but make plans to visit it early anyway. Maybe next time, I’ll come out there with fully charged batteries in my camera, just so I can photograph the rest of the dinosaurs.

The Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park – 3

Chinese Lantern Festival - Longhorns

One of the biggest selling points in the promotion of the Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park is that this isn’t a touring exhibition. This was designed specifically for Fair Park, and as such, it has a lot of touches endemic to Texas. Hence, longhorns.

Chinese Lantern Festival - trees

Chinese Lantern Festival - tower

Chinese Lantern Festival

Chinese Lantern Festival - Peacock and peahen

More to follow…

The Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park – 2

Chinese Lantern Festival

When the Chinese Lantern Festival opened at Dallas’s Fair Park, the automatic assumption was that this was going to be more like a Japanese lantern festival, with paper lanterns filled with candles being released into the sky. This was more of an ongoing exhibition of what could be done with silk, wire, and lighting. It includes everything from the childlike (a landscape of cartoonish pandas playing and ambling through the undergrowth) to the surreal (a gigantic dragon composed of porcelain plates and cups, outlined in neon). A high point, and the festival is nothing but highlights, is the tremendous lotus in the middle of Leonhardt Lagoon, which opens and closes slowly while frogs on lily pads slowly rotate around it.

Chinese Lantern Festival - Lotus and Frogs

Chinese Lantern Festival - Kirin

Chinese Lantern Festival - landscape

More to follow…

The Chinese Lantern Festival at Fair Park – 1

Texas Star ferris wheel

This time of the year gives plenty of reasons to visit the State Fair of Texas, and the Czarina and I finally got out there the Thursday before its closing on October 21. Those who haven’t attended before can’t understand the sheer joy of wandering through Fair Park this time of the year, especially at night. By the end of October, the skies are as clear as they’re ever going to get, adding a particular clarity to everything outside. Neon doesn’t just glow: it snaps. With the air quality comes a certain crispness to both vision and hearing, and it’s perfectly reasonable to just stand in one spot, watching people and events, without ever visiting a single event. I was first exposed to this when I lived across the street in Exposition Park two decades ago, and the sight of the Texas Star ferris wheel in full neon still thrills me to no end.

Big Tex burning up

“I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE, AND I GIVE YOU FIRE!” (photographer unknown)

This year, it was eventful, too. The news of Big Tex, the mascot and symbol of the State Fair, catching fire on October 19 reached an international audience. Some people cried. Others told dark jokes, such as the tale of two fellow Texas icons being caught fleeing the scene and giving their only statement to the police. In my case, thanks to the batteries in my camera dying at the worst possible time, I told myself “Oh, I’ll get a photo of Big Tex at night next year.” Now my biggest regret is that we’ll never see the ultimate in Lone Star daikaiju, with Big Tex going into battle against the Sinclair dinosaurs in Glen Rose.

The real reason to go to the Fair this year, though, was to see the Chinese Lantern Festival, wrapping around both sides of the old Museum of Nature & Science and taking over Leonhardt Lagoon. Let’s just say that anybody seeing the Festival during the day was definitely missing out.

Chinese Lantern Festival gate

Leonhardt Lagoon at Dallas’s Fair Park

Leonhardt Lagoon at Fair Park

I’m regularly asked why I stay in Dallas, all by people who have never so much as visited. Yes, it’s hot during our seemingly never-ending summers. Yes, Highland Park produces people so plastic and artificial that they’re just waiting to declare war upon the Daleks. Yes, we’re not known as a haven for artists, writers, or musicians, or at least the work ethic-challenged wannabes waiting for their first million-dollar contract, no matter how hard some city leaders try to turn us into another Portland or Austin. Sometimes that’s the biggest appeal, though, because Dallas forces you to appreciate the little bits of beauty and protect them. Such is the case of the Leonhardt Lagoon in the middle of Fair Park, just south of downtown.

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon sculpture

Lagoon lilypads

Leonhardt Lagoon

Lagoon sculpture

No, the previous photos aren’t left over from a celebration of the life of H.P. Lovecraft. The singular lagoon sculptures therein were created by Dallas artist Patricia Johanson, who wanted to renovate the lagoon with structures evocative of ferns and duck-potato. Not only are they open to the public (in fact, the park encourages people to climb onboard and view the indigenous plant and animal life close-up), but the portions not easily reached by humans are full of basking turtles on most sunny days.

Lagoon turtle

The vast majority of the turtles in the lagoon are the native red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), which feed on insects, fish, carrion, and water plants. Get up high, though, and be surprised at the mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum) staying out toward the center. The real fun, though, comes in winter, where walking out onto the platforms might startle a still-active snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) into ducking back under a platform.

Lagoon turtle

Rameses the Great commemorative stone

Not all of the wonders around the lagoon are natural. Half my life ago, Fair Park hosted the “Rameses the Great” exhibition of Rameses II artwork and artifacts, and the biggest trace was this commemorative stone left behind in 1989.

Rameses the Great commemorative stone

Jumbo

Likewise, the former Dallas Museum of Natural History building adds a bit to the lagoon’s feel. Back in 1986, construction in downtown uncovered the nearly complete remains of a Columbian mammoth, and volunteers restored and assembled the skeleton at the Museum. (Until the recent move to the new Perot Museum in downtown, that skeleton was one of the highlights of the Texas Giants Hall on the second floor of the old museum.) “Jumbo” is a bronze sculpture intended to give a life-sized view of how the mammoth appeared in life, perpetually overlooking the lagoon but not quite able to get over there for a drink.

Lagoon cypress

And since the main draw of the lagoon is the flora, it’s hard not to notice the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum var. distichum) growing along the banks. T. distichum is a native Texas tree, if not necessarily a native Dallas one: it’s usually found to the east and the south, where wetlands tend to stay wet in the summer. Thanks to the shape of the area, though, the lagoon has a humid microclimate that sustains and encourages the cypress, and it tends to grow much larger here than in most places in Dallas where it’s been introduced.

cypress cones

Cypress knees

The famed “knees” of bald cypress are more formally known as pneumatophores or aerial roots, which allow the roots to absorb oxygen in otherwise completely anaerobic conditions. These are also seen in mangroves and other mud-loving trees, but they’re not quite as impressive. The knees in the Lagoon’s cypresses range in size depending both upon their proximity to the lagoon and their proximity to the rest of the landscape: lawn mowers tend to keep them trimmed before they get too tall.

Cypress roots

Cypress knees

Cypress knees

Honey mesquite

Across from the bald cypresses, off Jumbo’s left shoulder, is this little garden space, featuring a real Dallas native. Mesquite is so common as a shrubby tree in the Dallas area, especially in overgrazed former cattle land, that even many natives don’t know how big it can get given half a chance. Most guides go on about the medicinal uses of mesquite, and you can’t talk about barbecue in Texas without someone talking about getting a cord of well-seasoned mesquite for the grille or smoker. Me, though, I just appreciate the big trees for what they are, and appreciate the shade they offer in the middle of summer.

Petrified log at the Lagoon

Finally, here’s a mystery right on the edge of the lagoon. As mentioned before, the whole of Fair Park was constructed as a World’s Fair exposition ground for the Texas state centennial in 1936, but a lot of history disappeared in the years after the city of Dallas took over the fairgrounds for the State Fair of Texas. Of particular note was this petrified log. Some stories relate that the north entrance to the fairgrounds featured an arch made of petrified wood, and this log has a concrete peg at one end that supports the idea (pun intended) of it being part of a larger monument. At the same time, though, nobody can find any definitive proof that any such structure existed. Yet the log exists, and it’s been sitting in that same space by the lagoon for the last quarter-century as proof. Anybody up for borrowing a time machine for a little while to take pictures of it in its old location? Or is it some silent sentinel from an unknown civilization in Texas’s distant past, just waiting for the right event to wake it up?