GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A unique cultural experience is debuting at John Ball Zoo Wednesday night. 

The Grand Rapids Lantern Festival, a partnership between the zoo and Tianyu Arts & Culture, is an immersive experience with hundreds of handcrafted traditional Chinese lanterns. Zoo staff said it’s the first time this festival has ever been in Michigan. 

“Tianyu likes to partner with zoos, botanical gardens, science centers because our missions align really well. So when we saw it, we knew it would be the perfect fit for the zoo, and they do a great job of tying in Asian culture with conservation. So we’ve been the perfect spot for that,” said Darci Napolillo, promotions and events manager for John Ball Zoo.

Guests will walk a mile-long path through the zoo with 55 different groupings of lanterns.

“Being a person that has been to the zoo almost every day for seven years, it’s a totally brand new experience,” Napolillio said. “It really makes you feel like you’re a kid when you walk through the zoo. We have some music going, we have cultural entertainment happening, themed food and beverage, so it really has that festival feel to it.”

Napolillio added that the festival has been nearly two years in the making and staff are excited to see how the zoo has transformed. 

“Tianyu came and visited us a couple of times to really create this unique experience for our site specifically. They brought designers on site, figured out which lanterns went where they even custom made some lanterns for us specifically.”

The festival runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday from April 19 through June 11. Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online in advance.