Chinese luminaries light up Louisville

| November 23, 2011

KaLightoscope.The breathtaking 16,000-square-foot display of Chinese lanterns and luminaries known as KaLightoscope is a Christmas spectacular unlike any you’ll find across the U.S. – but, you’ll find it here for the second year at the Galt House Hotel.

The colossal attraction took about nine months to build and 200 people to create, including 20 Chinese artisans from Zigong, China.

Andy An and Yang Songlin, lead project manager.

Andy An and Yang Songlin, lead project manager.

Since the middle of October, the artisans have been living in Louisville, spending much of their time sketching, sculpting and sewing the immense, lighted decorations that comprise the extravaganza.
Inspired by Chinese folk art, the craftsmen have westernized their designs to fit the Christmas spirit, with enormous luminary sculptures that include a 15-foot Santa, seven ice-skating snowmen and five elf marionettes, each 8-feet tall and 3-feet wide.

“This was Mary Moseley’s vision,” Galt House spokesperson Michelle Moore said of Moseley, who is president and CEO of the Galt House Hotel’s parent company, the Al J. Schneider Company.

“She wanted to create something for people to come downtown and see and have a really great Christmas experience with memories to share and something to make into a tradition,” said Moore, marketing manager for Al J. Schneider Company.

Moseley sought inspiration from Gaylord Opryland and hired consultants who thought up the idea to feature the vivid artwork of China but customized for the Christmas holiday.

Pepper Twist and Holly KaLightly.

Pepper Twist and Holly KaLightly.

A group of Chinese artisans in conjunction with New York based Hotopp Associates and International Special Attractions then brought to life the vibrant collection of Christmas-themed characters and interactive exhibits that now populate the Galt House Hotel.

“There’s 39,000 feet of wire, lots of string, satin light bulbs and power cables,” Moore said. “This year we added new luminaries. and kind of re-concepted and rebuilt.”

When visiting Kalightoscope, guests can stop by the Learning Center to watch an artisan at work and learn about the labor that went into the incredible spectacle, as well as the history of the ancient tradition of Chinese lanterns.

“Some of the artists learned from the school,” said Yang Songlin, the lead artisan, via translator. “I then got a job and started a career. Some artists learn from parents because in Zigong there are over 10,000 people that do that as their job.”

In order to build each luminary, the artisans took an illustration from a design book and sketched it onto a wooden floor. From the sketch, they created a cast of the sculpture and covered it with material sewn by one of the female artisans.

KaLightoscope.“We know Christmas,” said Andy An, a Chinese interpreter for the artisans.  “We have a festival in China and know Santa and that culture. Some designs they cannot do because they don’t really understand it, so they learn from American designers.”

The task of building the gigantic display appears daunting, but Yang assured that compared to the exhibits built in China, KaLightoscope is actually a fairly simple enterprise.

“This is the first time I have been a leader,” Yang said. “I lost a lot of sleep and am tired but here, this is small.”

It’s hard to imagine something bigger than KaLightoscope. You’ll get the opposite feeling, however, when you visit this year’s new addition to Christmas at the Galt House, the Christmas Village with Snow Fairy Castle.

KaLightoscope.Located to the side of KaLightoscope, the elf-sized village features 30 homes and shops constructed out of cobblestone, brick, stucco and wood. The village was created and assembled by local design and construction firm, the Weber Group, who have helped build attractions for Sea World, Great Wolf Lodge, and the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

“With the Christmas Village it’s all kid-size or elf-size,” Moore said. “In here we’re tall and its small. But in KaLightoscope it’s big and we’re small, so it’s kind of a neat juxtaposition.”

KaLightoscope and the Christmas Village are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Tickets are $9.99 for children. Adults pay $15.99 on weekdays and $17.99 on weekends. Seniors pay $13.99 on weekdays and $15.99 on weekends.

Christmas at the Galt House closes January 2, 2012.

For more information, visit or call 502.569.4475.

Galt House Holiday Attractions

“Help Santa Find His Key” Children’s Adventure Scratch-Off Game inside the Christmas Village
Help Santa find the key to his workshop so he and his elves can make toys for all the children before Christmas! Kids will look behind seven shop doors to unlock the secret code  written on their scratch-off card. Once they’ve found the code, they may select a special Christmas gift of their own in the Magic Toy Shop.  The game is geared toward kids ages three to 12 and cost $10.

“Colors of the Season” Show

The interactive show features a gourmet three-course meal designed by a team of Galt House executive chefs, as well as a holiday story, live music, classical Christmas songs, and dancing. Lunch and dinner shows are available Nov. 17 to Dec. 24 and will be held in the Galt House’s Archibald Cochran Ballroom. Tickets are $60 for evening showings and $45 for matinee.

Gingerbread House Building Contest

Ten professional, 10 local school, and 10 amateur entries were chosen from submitted applications. The gingerbread creations will be displayed in the Christmas Village alongside The Galt House’s own Gingerbread House created by Galt House executive chef Brian Riddle.

Santa and the Gingerbread Castle

The entirely edible, world’s largest, life-size hand-crafted gingerbread castle was built by Chef Riddle. On display in the hotel conservatory this year with Santa awaiting inside to take pictures with visitors.

Pictures with Santa will be held:

Friday, Nov. 25, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, from noon to 3 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 4, 11, and 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Breakfast with Santa

Children are invited to join Santa in the Galt House Conservatory for a Christmas-themed breakfast buffet and other beloved Christmas characters on Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.  Story time with Santa will also be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Cost is $30 for children 12 and under. Adult chaperones are $15. Reservations required.

Santa’s Story Time

Children can hear stories and sing along with Santa.  Milk and gingerbread cookies will be served.  Cost is $15 for children 10 and under.  Reservations required.

Mistletoe Marketplace

A variety of specialty holiday items and food and drink from Santa’s Snack Shop and Candy Store will be available for purchase at the Mistletoe Marketplace on the second floor of RIVUE.

For more information on  these attractions, visit

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at

photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | Voice-Tribune

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Ashley Anderson

Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).

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