Community-created lanterns will light up The Square to herald the start of the 2020 Palmerston North Festival of Cultures on February 29.

Live music and food will be available at the Lantern Parade from 7pm before the lantern parade at 8.30pm.

Throughout February workshops will be run by Bridgette Murphy and Jim Richards of the Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Centre at a pop-up workshop in King St near the Regent Arcade.

Murphy and Richards are the creative drivers of REACT and festival stalwarts who have fostered the development of the Lantern Parade.

We are now in the Lunar Year of the Rat, and this year REACT will add a 4.5m rat to its lantern collection.

Next year will the Ox will be added, which will compete REACT's set of 12 centrepiece Chinese zodiac lanterns.

For the couple, the free workshops are as important as the parade itself.

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Anyone can come and make a lantern, take it home, and bring it into The Square for the parade, they say.

Bring your imagination and those new to lantern-making are encouraged to start simple and concentrate on decoration.

Those with experience can tackle more complex projects.

"There are two basic types of lantern forms and the decoration can be what you'd like – so any creature, any television show, anything at all.

"We can cut out stencils to fit onto lanterns, so we can adapt them to accommodate people's imagination – we had a T-Rex last year," Richards said.

"We've had people progress over three or four years from making the most basic pyramid shape to making very complex lanterns.

"Some people think it's a kids thing, but we prefer whānau involvement, teenagers, kids, elderly – it's the intergenerational thing that makes these events special," Murphy says.

People work side-by-side in the workshops where art is the medium for people to collaborate in a community-minded space.

"We encourage people to talk with each other and to make connections, to help people feel part of a community and break down barriers.

"We have a very diverse set of nationalities coming to make lanterns – we really love to see the interactions, the learning and talking, the friendships made."

REACT is proud of its sustainable practices and grows its own resources, with willow and specialist bamboo used in their creations grown at Rangiwahia.

They also use pest bamboo which is locally sourced from people who want to remove it from their gardens.

It is expected hundreds of lanterns will be in the parade with people bringing back lanterns made in previous years.

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Some at the workshops will redecorate previously used lanterns.

"It's a really nice sense of reusing and supports the sustainability message," Richards says.

People bringing lanterns to the parade will need to note a couple of safety points – no candles, and no flying lanterns.

Suggestions for lighting lanterns include $2 shop torches, bike torches and solar string lights and last year people used their phones to light their lanterns.

Lantern lighting is covered in the workshops.

Knowledge and lantern materials are provided at no cost to participants through support from the Palmerston North City Council.

To take part in one or more workshops (no booking needed), head along to 106 King St on the following days.

Friday February 14– 3pm to 8pm; Saturday February 15 – 11am to 4pm; Tuesday February 18 – 3pm to 8pm; Friday February 21 – 3pm to 8pm; Saturday February 22 11am to 4pm; Sunday February 23 – 11am to 4pm; Wednesday February 26 – 3pm to 7pm.