5/52: Attend LANTERNS! Outdoor Winter Festival

I lived out-of-state during last year's Wildwood Park for the Arts' annual lantern festival, so I was excited when my friend Whitney suggested a double date to this year's event. Tickets were purchased and a plan was made to attend on Saturday night.

Mexico--Wildwood style!

Mexico--Wildwood style!

The festival celebrates the first full moon of the lunar year and showcases several geographical locations around the planet with food, beverages and live entertainment.

The event started at 6 p.m. and we arrived about an hour later. Wildwood Park was packed full of couples and families, all strolling around the property which was decorated with thousands of luminaries and decor inspired by each of the represented countries. At check-in, we reviewed the menu of offerings from each station and each couple decided to purchase $30 in Wildbucks.

First stop: Asia. The menu looked tasty -- hot and sour soup, honey sesame chicken, vegetable fried rice, and red curry chicken. We waited in line for about 15 minutes and were surprised to find that the only food offered was sushi from Kroger (at $1/roll) and miso soup ($3). Hmmm. Well, it was the first station so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. We passed on the sushi, but enjoyed the warm goodness of the soup and watched a young guy do a cool taekwondo routine with nunchucks (nunchucks, y'all!).

Next up: New Orleans. We were pretty hungry by this point so we immediately got in line for red beans and rice ($4). The person right before us literally got the last bean in sight. The volunteer manning the station was unsure if there would be more beans coming, so we forewent the option of having our palms read and moved on.

Our spirits were lifted by the site of giant turkey legs. We located Shakespeare's England and got in line. A little worried we'd wait in another long line only to find out there was no food left, I snuck toward the servers just in time to hear that they had three turkey legs left. Since we were about 45 people back, we abandoned post.

Well, surely Mexico would not disappoint! We headed toward the lively sounds of Mariachi music and eagerly anticipated the chips, salsa, guacamole we were sure to enjoy shortly. We danced the cha-cha in line and looked forward to finally enjoying some food. Sadly, they were out of chips, so we drowned our sorrows in Dos Equis ($3) and tequila shots ($4). 

I'm not going to lie, at this point we were pretty disgruntled with the entire thing. We had pre-purchased tickets, so surely the event planners had a general idea of how many people would be in attendance. I worked in non-profit marketing/event planning for the first three years of my Big Girl Career (and know what a difficult and sometimes thankless job it can be), so I tried to be lenient. 

Whitney in stocks = totally worth the $10 price of admission.

Whitney in stocks = totally worth the $10 price of admission.

After a brief trip to the moon, we saw a few carnivores with turkey legs in hand. Maybe they had restocked?? We high-tailed it back to England and finally got our paws on a turkey leg ($8). We stuck around for a few minutes to watch some performers engage the crowd in a round of Shakespearean Mad Libs, and I grabbed the last bag of shortbread cookies ($2 for 3) in the building. 

At 8:45 p.m., we decided to skip Jamaica and Rome, handed our remaining $4 in Wildbucks to some kid, and made the decision to head to Local Lime for an actual dinner (which was fantastic). 

Let me just say that I love Wildwood Park and the wonderful programs and services it provides to our community. The grounds are beautiful and I would highly encourage you to tour them during the day. Admission is free during non-events and is open daily until 5 p.m. 

As for the LANTERNS! event, maybe we'll give it another shot next year, BUT! we'll be sure not to arrive hungry.

Regardless, it was a fun night out with good friends--and good friends can save almost any questionable situation.

LANTERNS! OUTDOOR WINTER FESTIVAL | WILDWOOD PARK FOR THE ARTS | 20919 DENNY ROAD, LITTLE ROCK, AR 72223 | WILDWOODPARK.ORG