Rise Lantern Festival co-founder Dan Hill will be the first to admit that mistakes were made at the inaugural event held at the Jean Dry Lake Bed on Saturday. The festival, the first of its kind to be held in the United States, according to Hill, was meant to be an emotional and surreal experience. Approximately 10,000 attendees wrote their thoughts and wishes on lanterns that they released in unison. The spectacle almost seemed like they were placing a mini-galaxy in the dark desert sky. See the video above of the launch.
The strong communal feeling devolved later when a traffic jam with the shuttles forced thousands of festival goers, some with small children and disabilities, to wait hours for a ride back to their cars. “We meant for the event to be this enjoyable experience, and then to have people try to leave and have such a terrible experience has been eating me up inside,” Hill says. “I’ve gotten emails from all these people telling me how hard it was and I feel like I let them all down.”
Criticism flared up again the following day when someone posted a video on Facebook showing the lanterns scattered across the Mojave. Hill says that amount of fuel the lanterns have only allow them to travel about one mile, and his crew spent the two days after the festival cleaning all of them up. The lanterns are also biodegradable.
Despite the problems, Hill wants to bring the festival back next year with a better plan for transportation. He just hopes the mistakes didn’t tarnish future festivals.