‘Fireflies’ dance on the Ben Franklin Parkway

Pedicabs adorned with colorful lanterns danced on the Ben Franklin Parkway Thursday night as “Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies” made its debut.

It was almost three years ago that Philadelphia’s Association for Public Art commissioned the kinetic art piece to celebrate the Parkway’s centennial.

Cai Guo-Qiang, an internationally acclaimed artist from China, said he was inspired by the fireworks of his childhood, creating shapes and symbols from all periods of his life.

“The pedicabs symbolize fireflies, and, together, they form different groups. [They] symbolize the spirit of multiculturalism and coming together. [They] symbolize a dream,” Cai said through his interpreter.

More than 900 lanterns adorned the front and back of 27 pedicabs, as their drivers pedaled and wove in and out in a dance set to music created by Cai Guo-Qiang for the piece. About a thousand spectators lined the street.

The project took took almost a full year to fabricate. The lanterns were crafted in Cai’s hometown of Quanzhou, China; the pedicabs were built in Montana; and everything came together in a workshop in Philadelphia.

Drivers were recruited through online ads such as the one on Facebook that Frann Mawusi answered.

“After the first rehearsal, I was hooked,” remembered Mawusi, a cycling club member and a Philadelphia native. “Being able to be a part of this celebration is just awesome.”

The big dance in the opening ceremony was only Act 1 of ”Fireflies.” Act 2 will take place over the next three weeks as the Fireflies offer free one-way rides between Iroquois Park, at 24th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and Sister Cities Park, at 18th Street and the Parkway.

Rides are offered 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.