On your mark, get set, go! That’s what I did this week as my children Josh and Elizabeth opened the World’s Fare tent at the Hello Panda Festival, the largest light festival in North America.
For the last few years, we have run the LIC Flea and Food Market on summer weekends. That led to the World’s Fare that my son Josh conceived to present food, wines and beers from around the world and locally.
Now running each evening until Jan. 26 in the parking lot of Citi Field from 5 to 10 p.m., the Hello Panda Festival is an extraordinary event.
We have a heated tent in the middle of the jaw-dropping, unique, and sparkling 120 lantern exhibits. These are part of the traditional Chinese art of lantern making.
There is a magical three-story-high Christmas tree, a menorah with dreidels, enormous pandas, dinosaurs and even a castle! I felt I was in a magical place as I walked around the massive festival space, which covers 700,000 square feet!
The night of the press conference, I experienced a delectable tasting from the artisan doughnut maker Steven Klein, CEO of Dough. He excitedly brought me to the front of a long line to sample one of the dozens of unique doughnuts he creates. Forget the plain chocolate ones — I bit into a cheesecake doughnut, igniting my taste buds!
In the World’s Fare tent, there are 40 unique food vendors surrounding an enormous bar that offers local wines, liquor and beer.
There are also entertainment tents with performers and art exhibits, a holiday market and even a ball pit for kids to jump into! What fun!
So head over to Citi Field and you, too, will find the Hello Panda light festival a unique and magical place!
A date with my granddaughters
Months ago, I bought tickets for the legendary Radio City Christmas Spectacular and planned on bringing my oldest granddaughters to see my favorite dancers in the world: the Rockettes.
My 10-year-old Morgan, 8-year-old Addy and I began our “date” at the Sea Grill restaurant overlooking The Rink at Rockefeller Center. We ate looking through huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows watching the skaters, mostly novices, flopping on the ice, though one professional twirling her heart out. The real star on ice was Santa Claus, who skated with many children around the rink with a smile as big as a full moon. When he waved to us, the girls giggled with joy!
We reluctantly left our lunch ringside seats to venture over to the girls’ “pig heaven” place, better known as American Girl Place. The store moved to a location just around the corner from where the famous Christmas tree overlooks the ice rink.
With Hanukkah approaching, we negotiated for the girls to pick a doll, but I would put it away until the holiday. However, we found some accessories that I allowed them to open when they got home. Mission accomplished!
Both my granddaughters are dancers who perform their hearts out every year in dazzling costumes, so I thought they would adore meeting one of the Rockettes up close.
I had bought tickets to the Backstage Tour of the historic Radio City Music Hall, the largest performing space in the world that was built in 1932 and recently renovated. We found our way to the Backdoor Entrance and began our remarkable visit with Timothy, our passionate, knowledgeable guide.
No matter how many times I’ve been there and seen the show, I am still in awe of the dancers and their stamina, talent and flair, as well as the massive choreographed dances.
We met on the tour one of the 36 iconic Rockettes, who told us each girl must be between 5’6” and 5’10” and rehearse endlessly — six hours a day for six weeks — to prepare.
Two numbers have been part of the show since 1933: “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Living Nativity,” where real camels and donkeys walk across the stage.
We also learned that the tap dancers have microphones in their heels to pick up the sounds of the taps.
I was stunned by the digital technology the company uses as the 3D glasses I wore made me feel like Santa was coming over my head in his sled!
The show never gets old because the performers put their professionalism on full display. It’s a performance (seen after the tour) that I will never forget — nor will I forget the joy on the faces of my girls!