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September 20, 2017

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Yilan festival will be the last

The Yilan County government announced yesterday that this year's 12th annual Yilan International Children's Folklore & Folkgame Festival will be the last one to be held.

Organized by the Lanyang Educational and Cultural Foundation, the festival currently runs through August 26. The foundation encouraged the public to attend the festival for this will be their last chance to do so.

Yilan County Chief Lu Guo-hwa cited "the influence of outside circumstances" which have exerted financial pressures as the reason for bringing the event to an end.

The organizer of the event has in recent years incurred great losses from putting together the festival and thus can no longer support it, said Lu during a "festival farewell" press conference.

In the past couple of years, the festival has lost about NT$50 million per year, he noted.

Lu also said other factors that have affected the livelihood of the festival are the rising cost of gasoline, which has decreased the public's willingness to travel, increased competition, lack of publicity from local media, and the lack of support from the central government.

The county chief added that announcing the end of such an internationally-renowned, national tourist landmark was an "extremely difficult task."

The end of the event, however, is "only to make way for a new beginning," he said, adding that the eastern county's government will work hard to find other ways to continue developing the region's vacation activities.

In response to the festival's untimely end, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chen Ching-der called for the county chief to meet with county tourism offices and county resident representatives within a week to discuss the fate of the event and reconsider the decision to end it.

If Lu does not do so, Chen threatened to start a petition to depose the county chief.

Reacting to Chen's words, Lu said that the legislator had in the past "nothing but bad things to say about the festival" and added that he would not acknowledge his request.

Former Yilan County Chief and current DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, who started the festival during his term as county chief, accused Lu of ending the festival for selfish reasons and in complete disregard for public opinion in a media statement released yesterday.

Yu went on to say that the festival had previously been a major attraction and source of pride and income for the county; only after Lu took over office two years ago did its quality dwindle and financial problems began to appear.

Established in 1996, the festival was the largest local tourist event of its kind and a major tourist draw for the county. In 2002, the festival attracted a record-high of 970,000 visitors.

The festival opened every year on the first weekend of July at Cinshuei Water Park with varied performances, themed exhibits, water activities, and cultural exchange opportunities. Performing groups from all over the world are also invited to display folk dances and share games from different cultures.

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