The Morton Arboretum’s Destination Asia Festival is back this August, featuring a brand-new nighttime opening ceremony. The festival opens on Friday night with meet-and-greet opportunities with champion sumo wrestlers and Toro Nagashi, a Japanese tradition featuring floating candle-lit lanterns. During Friday’s event, attendees will have the opportunity to release lanterns onto the Arboretum’s Meadow Lake, transforming the water’s surface into an ethereal evening display.
The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Friday, August 4 and will also include a formal welcome and introduction to the Arboretum’s tree-focused research and collaboration with Asian nations, dance, drumming and martial arts performances, including a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, and authentic Asian cuisine.
On Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6, the event will feature athletic demonstrations, including sumo wrestling and a performance by a Mongolian strong man. Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about the Arboretum’s diverse collection of trees from China, Japan, and Korea.
Three performance areas will showcase a range of entertainment, including Malaysian silat and kung fu martial arts, music and dancing from the Philippines, Mongolia, Korea, Indonesia, and India, Japanese shinkendo swordsmanship demonstrations as well as Japanese storytelling.
Additionally, visitors can play games and enjoy activities common in Asian countries, including cricket, badminton, and origami—the metal origami-inspired sculptures of the Arboretum’s current exhibition, Origami in the Garden, will also be on display throughout the weekend. An instructor will lead a demonstration of aerial yoga in a hammock secured from a tree branch and a selection of food trucks will offer Asian menu options to festival-goers throughout the weekend.
Included in the festival is the annual Prairie State Bonsai Society Show, featuring demonstrations and the chance to learn more about the ancient Japanese art of bonsai, sculpting and pruning trees for ornamental purposes, as well as flower arrangement known as ikebana. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite.
“Our Destination Asia Festival has become bigger and better each year,” said Gina Steele, special events coordinator at The Morton Arboretum. “This year’s performances represent nations throughout Asia, introducing people to fascinating cultural traditions and activities. The festival is also a great opportunity to explore the many beautiful trees native to Asia, including our grand ginkgo trees and the endangered paperbark maple from China.”
The Destination Asia Festival runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days, and is free with Arboretum admission.