A gigantic rodent will take pride of place in Palmerston North's Lantern Parade on Saturday night, marking the Year of the Rat.

It is the culmination of weeks of lantern-making workshops, run by Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Centre's Bridgette Murphy and Jim Richards, which have brought the community together.

This year's 4.5m rat is the penultimate full-scale lantern – next year's Ox will complete REACT's set of 12 centrepiece Chinese zodiac lanterns.

Hundreds of community-made lanterns are expected at the Lantern Parade.

Those bringing their own lanterns should ensure no candles, and no flying lanterns.


Suggestions for lighting lanterns include $2 shop torches, bike torches and solar string lights.

"Last year some people used their phones to light them up," Jim says.

Council International Relations Manager Toni Grace says this year's parade is an opportunity to show support and solidarity to Palmerston North's friends in China, including sister cities Guiyang and Kunshan, in the wake of the Covid-2019 outbreak.

The community can show kindness towards local people who may have been affected by the virus response and are worried about friends and family overseas.

Youth volunteers from the Palmy Global Ambassadors have been encouraging making lanterns with messages of support.

Mayor Grant Smith has sent letters of solidarity to the Mayors of Guiyang and Kunshan who commends the determination of the Chinese people in response to the difficult situation.

"I would like to say 'Kia Kaha' to you and all of the people in (Guiyang/Kunshan) as you continue to navigate this difficult time."

The parade will have live music and food available from 7pm, with the parade itself from 8.30pm.

Other events on the first day of the Festival of Cultures include EthKick at Central Energy Trust Arena, and a Carrom Making Workshop at the Library Makerspace.

There are activities planned for every day of the festival week, with highlight events including the Holi Festival of Colours on Friday, March 6, and the World Fair Day in The Square on Saturday, March 7.

For more information, head to the website festivalofcultures.co.nz, or Facebook pages @PNcityofcultures or @PNCityCouncil.