Big holiday display to light up Cal Expo with oversized Chinese lanterns

An Eiffel Tower in bright LED lights is one of the wonderland’s attractions.
An Eiffel Tower in bright LED lights is one of the wonderland’s attractions. Global Winter Wonderland

A Bay Area company plans to make the holiday season a lot brighter – literally – when it lights up 17 acres of Cal Expo with glowing depictions of sites such as the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Promoters Thursday said the lantern and multicultural theme park, called Global Winter Wonderland, will be built using millions of LED lights, 100 tons of steel framing and 200,000 feet of colorful Chinese silk. The display will run Nov. 22 through Jan. 4. Tickets are on sale at www.globalwonderland.com and cost $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and children ages 3 to 12. Children under 3 get in free.

Workers already are welding steel and cutting patterns of silk to be attached to metal frames at Cal Expo in preparation.

The display will light up the western end of the fairground and be visible to motorists on the Capital City Freeway. In addition to the lantern displays, there will be a dinosaur maze, holiday village and acrobats performing on two stages.

“You will definitely notice that something is different,” said Cal Expo CEO Rick Pickering. “There will be more than 70 displays, and some of the taller ones will be upwards to 50 feet tall.”

Global Winter Wonderland was held at Great America in Santa Clara in 2011 and 2012 and at Turner Field in Atlanta last year.

“We look forward to welcoming people of all ages,” said Lulu Huang, event founder.

Pickering said Sacramento was chosen because of the region’s cultural diversity.

“We are excited,” he said. “After almost a year of negotiations, we are able to put a contract together for them to be at Cal Expo.”

Pickering said the event’s promoters anticipate that people from the Bay Area, Lake Tahoe and perhaps even Southern California will visit the attraction. He said the company has brought in nearly 60 Chinese artisans to work with the silk and metal framing.

About a half-dozen years ago, Cal Expo had a holiday drive-through display of lights, but nothing of the magnitude of the walkable Global Winter Wonderland, according to Pickering.

“This a completely different league when you start thinking of the size of these lanterns and the festival activity that will be taking place,” Pickering said.

Promoters said nearly 100 people will be hired to staff the temporary theme park. Job-seekers who want to work the lantern festival and theme park can attend a job fair at Cal Expo’s West Gate Oct. 27-28 from 4:30 7 p.m.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.