Festival of Lanterns


Festival of Lanterns at ECU

North Recreational Complex came to life as colorful lanterns promoting luck and prosperity soared into the sky, floating “Make a Wish” lanterns illuminated the water’s surface, and celebratory fireworks lit up the dark night.

Recently, the Student Activities Board (SAB) collaborated with the Asian Student Association (ASA), the Asian Studies program, Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, and Japanese language classes to bring the Festival of Lanterns to ECU.


Krista Wilhelm, assistant director for educational programming in the Office of Student Activities and Organizations, said that the event started with a simple idea of lighting lanterns.

“Once the committee looked at the cultural significance behind lighting the lanterns, the idea grew from there,” she said. “Having the support of the professors we worked with as well as the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center was amazing. It was wonderful that we could all come together, have a fantastic time with our students, and get them interested in this culture.”

East Carolina University is committed to teaching its students to celebrate and appreciate other cultures. The SAB Initiatives Committee achieves this by bringing diverse speakers to campus that inform and empower students, faculty, and staff, as well as sponsoring events that allow students to explore and enhance their cultural awareness.

The festival, which attracted almost 1,000 people, gave students the opportunity to participate in many cultural activities such as sampling Asian cuisine, learning how to use chopsticks, creating origami paper cranes, hearing the tale One Thousand Cranes for Peace, and having their names written in Japanese by the Japanese language arts class, led by Dr. Tricia Wilson-Okamura. Cultural artifacts, relics, resources, department information, and Study Abroad opportunities were also on display.

According to SAB Initiatives Chair Kaytiana Crane, the festival was a success.

“This was such a great event, and everyone was able to learn about the Asian culture,” she said.

Justin Janak, assistant director of student activities in the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership, agreed that the Festival of Lanterns was a high-quality event.

“What was best about the event was that we led with the entertainment aspect and encouraged people to come out for the sky lanterns and fireworks, which were really amazing, but the students also learned something in the process,” said Janak. “When they stopped by the different tents, they could learn anything from using chopsticks, to how to write in Japanese. The students were able to become more involved and engaged in the culture.”

Student Activities and Organizations’ photographer Travis Grissom said that attending the festival was a great experience.


“I was stressed out before the festival, but once I got there, I became immersed in the culture and everything that was happening,” said Grissom. “I took a deep breath and took everything in. Once the sun went down and you could see the different lights, it was all so intriguing.”

Everyone involved in the event agreed that learning about other cultures is an extremely important experience all students should participate in.

“Throughout everyone’s lives, both professional and personal, everyone is going to encounter people of other cultures,” Crane said. “ It’s good now to learn about those other cultures, especially so you won’t offend someone in the future.”

Grissom echoed Crane’s sentiments.

“Cultural events are important because they can bring students together and get rid of stereotypes and any hatred that might exist towards other races or whatnot,” he said. “Everyone should experience other cultures so they have a clue where different people are coming from and are not just in their own little worlds.”

The SAB Initiatives Committee has many exciting, educational events planned in the future and both Crane and Wilhelm encourage students who are interested in planning events like the Festival of Lanterns to join the committee.

“We are looking for students to join this committee next semester who can think outside of the box and be really creative,” said Wilhelm. “This is a committee that works very hard from start to finish. It has been a pleasure working with everyone, and I enjoy seeing what they do next.”

Other upcoming events sponsored by the Initiatives Committee include sushi rolling, Oktoberfest, and the Native American dance group Painted Sky. For more information on these events visit

Written by Meagan Williford, University Marketing and Publications