The Morton Arboretum’s Destination Asia Festival returns this August with live music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and an ethereal opening ceremony featuring meet-and-greet opportunities with champion sumo wrestlers and Toro Nagashi, a Japanese tradition featuring floating candle-lit lanterns. During the event, visitors are invited to release lanterns to drift serenely on the surface of the Arboretum's Meadow Lake, creating a beautiful night time display.
The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Friday, August 3 and will also include a welcome and an opportunity to learn about the Arboretum’s scientific efforts and collaboration with researchers in Asian nations to protect and conserve trees. Visitors can enjoy dance, drumming, a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, and authentic Asian cuisine.
The festival will continue on Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5. The two-day event will feature athletic demonstrations, including sumo wrestling. Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about the Arboretum’s extensive collection of trees from China, Japan, and Korea.
Throughout the weekend, five performance areas will showcase a range of entertainment including new performances featuring Mongolian throat singing, traditional ensemble music from Bali known as gamelan, and an interactive Bollywood dance party. Visitors can also watch demonstrations of Malaysian silat and kung fu martial arts, music and dancing from the Philippines, Korea, and Indonesia, Japanese shinkendo swordsmanship demonstrations and Japanese storytelling.
Additionally, visitors can play games and enjoy activities common in Asian countries, including cricket and badminton. Origami folding will take place in the Arboretum’s Sterling Morton Library on August 4. 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. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite.
“The Destination Asia Festival is a unique chance to experience cultural traditions from 10 countries across Asia, allowing visitors the opportunity to see a wide variety of performance groups, many of whom hail from the area,” said Gina Steele, Special Events Coordinator at The Morton Arboretum. “In addition to the many activities and demonstrations visitors can enjoy, the festival provides an opportunity to learn more about our trees native to Asia, enjoying collections that include magnificent ginkgo trees and the endangered paperbark maple tree from China.”
The Destination Asia Festival runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days, and is free with Arboretum admission.