The Comeback of the Rise Lantern Festival

The only thing you’d typically see on the dry lakebed in Jean is an endless abyss. On one fall night last October, thousands of glowing lanterns filled the sky. If any of this reminds you of that near-iconic scene in Disney’s Tangled, don’t let the romantic image fool you: hours later, the lanterns fell to the desert floor, and 10,000 disgruntled attendees at last year’s Rise Lantern Festival waited until the early morning for a bus back to the city.

The logistics fallout spawned uproar over the biodegradable lanterns (which Rise cleaned up within 48 hours), a boycotting Facebook page and customers who demanded refunds over transportation, seating issues and lack of crowd control.

Although last year’s event ended in a transportation fiasco, festival founder Dan Hill says they’re doing things differently this year. “This year, we’re hyper-focused on the transportation,” he says. “But we also want to fine-tune smaller issues, like our seating and lantern distribution, which we improved after we surveyed our participants.”

This time, Rise will be on the Moapa River Reservation, just behind the Moapa Travel Plaza off exit 75, with three-times as much parking as the number of attendees. To provide more support for transportation, Hill, a long-time producer, took it one step further by partnering with Caesars Entertainment, Paris, Rio and Delano to give out-of-town festivalgoers, which made up 75 percent of the festival last year, a good deal on rooms and a shuttle to the festival.

In addition to these changes, the lantern release will now be two hours instead of just 45 minutes, and there will be fireworks, bands performing on the 360-degree main stage and a family area with extra staff to light lanterns. However, Hill still wants to keep the focus on the lanterns, which were inspired by festivals he visited in Asia.

“We try to provide good services, but we don’t want to give participants a lot of distractions,” Hill says. “It really speaks to the quality of the event that last year people came who went through really tough ordeals, but we also met others celebrating great times.”

It’s clear that some festival-goers agree. Last month, Rise sold out of regular tickets in just six minutes. Of those who went last year, 20 percent chose to attend a second time and as of July, there are currently less than 1,500 tickets left up for grabs.

In the future, Hill sees Rise expanding into a multiple-night event and wellness weekend, which he would like to become a destination event for tourists.

“We feel like we’re part of this community and we want to make Rise all that it can be,” Hill says. “Rise is pretty unique. There’s really nothing like it.”