Madison garden hosts symbol of Thai and American friendship - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

Madison garden hosts symbol of Thai and American friendship

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MADISON (WAOW) -

The striking contrasts between simple continuity and delicate detail compose the commanding presence of the Thai pavilion at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., Madison.

"It really is a piece of art," Sharon Cybart told Newsline 9.

Cybart works at the gardens and says the structure, known as a sala is special. They're used as a refuge from the rain and heat of southeast Asia's climate.

"There are pavilions or salas like this all over Thailand, but this is a royal style pavilion. So even people in Thailand often wouldn't see one this elaborate," Cybart continued.

In fact, Wisconsin is one of the only places you can see one in person. Just four have been built outside of Thailand's borders. Authentic salas have been constructed in Norway, Germany, Hawaii, and standing since June 2002, the pavilion in Dane County.

"UW-Madison has a close relationship with Thailand because over the years there are many Thai students who went to UW-Madison and the alumni in Thailand had strong feelings about Madison," Cybart said.

In appreciation, the Thai government commissioned its construction as a gift. Accompanying the pavilion includes a set of elephant statues courtesy of the Thai royal family.

The statues are displayed near the pavilion, along with an array of vegetation akin to the lush tropical forests of Thailand.

The pavilion, reassembled by Thai artisans in Madison is constructed without nails and screws. It's 30-foot tall frame is adorned nearly entirely with intricate paintings done using gold leaf.

The final result is a solid feature able to withstand the harshest of Wisconsin winters, but highly susceptible to the touch of human hands.

"The beautiful gold leaf is very delicate and actually the oil on your hand is more harmful than all that snow and ice," Cybart said.

The pavilion is open to guests April through September 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with reduced hours during the late fall and winter months. Admission to the outdoor gardens, including the Thai pavilion is free, though donations are accepted.

The pavilion is one of numerous speciality areas amid the sprawling gardens that often hosts interactive exhibits and special events.

A live butterfly exhibit opens July 17 where visitors can walk through the gardens's conservatory tracking exotic butterflies. The event runs until August 11.

Additionally, an outdoor concert series runs through July every Tuesday evening. Admission to the concert is $1.

For a complete list of events, directions and details on other projects with the gardens, visit their web site here.

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