It's a sight which can only be fully appreciated at dusk.

The Hastings Lantern Festival is set in the Osmanthus Gardens, a traditional Chinese garden established at Cornwall Park.

The garden was built in honour of the sister city relationship between Hastings and Guilin in China, the first sister city relationship between the two countries.

Hastings District Councillor Kevin Watkins said the festival was about showing the potential of the garden.


"Everybody sees it in the daytime, drives past it – it's very beautiful," he said.

"But at five o'clock the gates are locked, so at night time it has never been able to reach the potential of a Chinese garden.

"So this Lantern Festival, which is now in its tenth year, brings all that potential to the fore, and the people are coming in here by the thousands. They just love it.

"They all come here and it is just a beautiful, peaceful, colourful environment and it touches a chord, right across our community."

Chinese musicians played traditional instruments throughout the festival, but on Sunday, the final night of the festival, the gardens were filled with song from a Solomon Islands choir, made up from men and women currently working in Hawke's Bay orchards.

"As everyone knows we have hundreds and hundreds of RSE workers here, picking and packing," Watkins said.

"I'm a member of St Matthew's congregation and on a Sunday morning many of those workers come to St Matthew's and they sing. And their harmonies are absolutely stunning. Beautiful.

"So I said to them one Sunday morning 'Would you be interested in coming and singing at out Lantern Festival' and they jumped at the opportunity."


Many of the seasonal workers spend as much time in Hawke's Bay as they do in their home country, returning year after year.

"It's a great way of just embracing them and saying, 'You're in Hastings, you are part of us, we love you'," said Watkins. "Wonderful."

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