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March 29, 2016

New at Franklin Square: Cooperage takes over Square Burger, Chinese Lantern Festival on the way

Franklin Square celebrates 10 years since overhaul

The Arts Historic Philadelphia
01-032916_FranklinSquare_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A portion of Franklin Square is currently in the midst of transforming to the site of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival, which will take place in the park from April 22 to June 12, 2016.

Update: Historic Philadelphia has since announced the Dragon Beer Garden, a beer stand and collection of picnic tables situated next to the Chinese dragon lantern (pictured below at a preview event). Beers on tap include Yuengling, Sapporo and Heineken; canned beers on the menu are Tiger,Tsingtao and Crabbie's. A limited selection of wines and cocktails are also served. The garden is accessible with admittance to the Chinese Lantern Festival, which is now open.

Brandon Baker/PhillyVoice

The lit-up Chinese dragon lantern at Franklin Square, erected next to the Dragon Beer Garden. The Chinese Lantern Festival is open as of April 22.

Birthdays are as much about ushering in renewal as celebrating the past. That much doesn't seem lost on Historic Philadelphia, which this year celebrates 10 years as manager of Franklin Square and will mark the anniversary with park improvements and a radiant new festival.

Prime among those changes at the seven-and-a-half-acre square is the announcement that Cooperage, owned by Cescaphe Event Group and based out of the Curtis Center, will be the new operator of the park's casual eatery, SquareBurger.

What that means in a practical sense is you'll see not just the usual lineup of burgers (namely, a beef burger, barbecue burger and rotating burger-of-the-month), but a few carryover items from Cooperage Wine and Whiskey Bar: its pulled pork sandwich ($8), cheesesteak fries ($6.50) and macaroni & cheese ($5). Also new to the kiosk is a breakfast menu that consists of breakfast tacos ($5.50 for two), a breakfast burrito ($6.50) and an assortment of pastries baked at Cooperage. Rounding out those options is a veggie burger ($8) made with seasoned brown rice, wild mushrooms, black beans, cucumber and avocado aioli, sandwiched together between a brioche bun.

The partnership, a Cooperage representative told PhillyVoice, is a product of a years-long relationship between Cooperage and Historic Philadelphia for catering. The two are, notably, located within just a few blocks of each other in Old City. 

SquareBurger, located near the park's fountain, opens Saturday, April 2. It operates 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 

Other additions to the park, announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, include plans for a permanent show at the water fountain (to be installed this fall) and 10 new trees being donated by Tree Philly, a partnership between Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.

In truth, however, the most monumental addition to the park -- albeit a temporary one -- is the Chinese Lantern Festival, which opens April 22 and runs through June 12.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A team from Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., is responsible for constructing the installations and props for the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival which will take place in the Sixth and Race streets square from April 22 to June 12, 2016.

The festival, which has already seen the light of day in Washington, North Carolina and Virginia, consists of about 25 "groups" of Chinese lanterns -- that is, themed pagoda fixtures surrounded by smaller lights and ornaments. The LED light installations range in theme from animals, like pandas and swans, to Chinese figures wearing traditional costumes. The centerpiece of the show, meanwhile, is an illuminated Chinese dragon.

The pieces are built and designed by Tian Yu Arts & Culture, a subsidiary company of light design and manufacturing company Sichuan Tianyu, based in Zigong, China. Twenty artisans from China flew to the U.S. for about six weeks to assemble the pieces.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Pandas of all shapes and sizes wait to be placed throughout the square as part of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival.

"For most people, it's the first time they're seeing [Chinese lanterns], and they're so amazed -- especially families and little kids who get excited," Ai Luo, CEO of Tian Yu Arts & Culture, told PhillyVoice. "It's amazing to see people 'wowed' by this outside of our country."

The lights of the festival will be complemented by two 30-minute performances held every evening and artist vendors who will showcase sugar painting, an art in which melted sugar and a spoon are used to create pictures, and palm leaf weaving, which entails the use of dried palm leaves to make figurines, toys and baskets. 

The festival will be open from 6-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets cost $17 for adults, $12 for children and $15 for seniors and active military members.