On Thursday night, a day before leaving, we gave Craig his early Father's day present, which had been hiding in my trunk for a couple weeks. He got a collapsible wagon that is a staple of tournament life! No joke, 90% of parents appear to have one of these. You load it with chairs, coolers, equipment, and whatever else so you're not looking like a pack mule walking from the minivan to the tournament tent. He'd been asking for one, and while I wasn't sure it was necessary, it turns out it is!
Even though one of our later trips is going to be our "vacation" this summer, we still managed to tack on a couple additional activities to this trip. I'd had my eye on the Chinese Lantern Festival at the state fairgrounds for a couple months, and once we found out a Saturday tournament had been added on top of the Sunday one that's been on the schedule for months--and confirmed an early start on Saturday--we opted to get a hotel for two nights to eliminate endless driving and early (earlier) mornings. I did my best to keep it cheap, but stopped short of the cheapest one because some reviews were a little too sketchy. We ended up with a decent one--pretty updated, basic free breakfast, and in a convenient enough spot. Not bad for the last minute!
I took a half day from work on Friday so we could get on the road sooner. Due to a few circumstances we ended up on the road around dinnertime, which was actually fine because we could eat a little something at home and still get to Syracuse in the early evening. We quickly checked into the hotel and arrived at the festival right at sunset. It was great timing because you could see the creations in daylight but also see the effect of the lights inside them, then enjoy it all in the dark. They were definitely easier to photograph in daylight, but being there at night was wonderful, too.
|The sky was really pretty as we arrived!|
|Even in daylight the entry gate was gorgeous!|
|A canopy of lanterns as we entered the grounds|
|The dragon was so cool! It was so long!|
|The moon rose and it was pink!|
|Guessing these are lotus flowers? The colors were so pretty!|
|I liked the flamingos' reflection more than the real things, I think!|
|Silliness with the giraffes! Jacob is feeding one...|
|More pretty stuff in the pond|
|What would a Chinese festival be without pandas?|
|Loved the colors on these|
|Lion on the lake|
|Jacob getting silly with a lantern|
|The dragons' bodies were jeweled and I was shocked I could get a close-up like this!|
|Sea life! The shark reminded me of Bruce from "Finding Nemo"...|
|They had ones like this for all of the Chinese zodiac. I liked the dragon best.|
|Full view of the entry gate and lantern canopy|
|The dragon in the dark|
|These lanterns were even more breathtaking on the way out!|
|The gate was so pretty...so colorful and grand!|
There were some other animals, lots of flowers, and some other artistic forms, and there was also a cultural performance with music, dance, and other special talents. We only saw that from afar as we wandered around the grounds. Keeping the kids in check wasn't easy, and dealing with the begging for kettle corn and slushies wasn't ideal, either, but it was a nice walk. I'm sure the kids didn't appreciate it as much as I did (although I know Carter liked it), but t's not like you get to do something like this every day, so I'm happy we did it.
We got back to the hotel later than I would have liked for our wake-up time, but not terribly late. The kids are always completely wound up at hotels, so I knew it would take a while to settle them down. We watched a little basketball on TV while Craig and I checked email and social media, and then it was off to sleep...sort of. Craig never sleeps well in hotels when he has to wake up early (paranoia from one time he missed his flight), and I was sleeping next to Carter, who decided to be an acrobat in his sleep. He flipped and kicked and made me generally nervous, particularly because we were in a double bed--rather than a queen--and things were tight. And of course he seemed to finally settle a bit more by about 5am, so I think I got one decent hour of sleep before I started anticipating my alarm. We still ended up rushing through getting ready and barely had time for breakfast before we feared we'd be late for the strongly suggested arrival time at Jacob's first tournament. We probably didn't plan as well as we should have, but at least we got there mostly on time (an hour before game time).
That marked the beginning of a very long day...and an exhausting--but generally good--weekend! More tomorrow...