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Piece out: Art by day, Lantern Festival nears the end, but also new beginnings

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 14, 2012 - After a summer of light at night at the Missouri Botanical Garden, everything will go dark for good on Sunday, Aug. 19. But lovers of theLantern Festival can take the light home with them, at least pieces of it, with an upcoming sale, just announced today.

“We are pretty excited to announce that we are going to sell components of the exhibits to the public,” said Lynn Kerkemeyer, senior manager, exhibits and events, on Tuesday morning. 

Details are still coming together, she said, and whole sets won’t be sold, but people who loved the flower balls, the cranes, the butterflies and the lotuses can purchase them at the end of the month. 

“Anything that is easily detached we will be putting in the sale,” Kerkemeyer said. 

The sale, which will be as-is, won’t include the lighting for safety reasons. Kerkemeyer planned on walking through the garden today to begin pricing the pieces and thought they could go from $1,000 down to $5. 

The sale is planned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 and Sunday, Aug. 26. Kerkemeyer expects a good crowd.

“We have been peppered with questions throughout about people wanting something from Lantern, so we’re going to open it up and let people have a piece of the history here,” she said.

The Lantern Festival, which opened Memorial Day weekend, took 40 artisans from China two months to create on site. It has attracted more than 100,000 people since opening. 

Even the pieces that won’t be sold may be remaining in St. Louis in one form or another. 

Deb Frank, vice president of sustainability, says that the Lantern Festival is mostly made up of metal, silk, electrical wiring and lamps, plywood and concrete.

The metal will all be recycled. The silk will be collected and taken to Remains, Inc.,in St. Louis, which manages large-scale clothing and fiber reuse and recycling. 

Frank says the silk of the Lantern Festival will be shredded down and using for padding inside archery targets.

“I thought, who would have guessed there’s a market for that,” she said.

The incandescent lights, wiring and electric components will be taken toMRC Recycling, which will also help the garden find new homes around St. Louis to donate the fluorescent lights.

The garden is working to find ways the plywood can be reused and recycled, and the concrete blocks will remain at the garden and be reused. 

Frank is still looking for a good solution for the fiberglass that will remain, and for pieces that don’t sell in the upcoming sale, she hopes to find theater groups or other organizations that can use them.

Those things will only be available for a limited time, she adds, and will be announced on the garden’s web site. 

“A lot of this is going to unfold in the next week,” she said.

Overall, Frank hopes that 90 percent of materials from the festival will be reused and recycled. Waste from the food available from the festival also reached 90 percent recycling and compost, she says, thanks to working with vendors that promote the greenest methods available. It takes about three to six months for those pieces to be composted into dirt, and often, the garden buys that dirt back. 

For those who loved what the festival added to the garden, it won’t take long for another festival to pop up in its place, with the taiko drumming, sumo wrestling and anime-watching of the Japanese Festival, which takes place September 1 through September 3. 

Frank is working now on the sustainability plan for that festival, followed by the Best of Missouri Market in October.

“It has been an exciting summer,” she says. “It surely has.”