The golden dome of burning lanterns shifted over me as they passed through the black velvet sky. My lantern never made it more than a few feet above the desert sand: hands shaking, my eyes suspended upwards as I dropped my lantern to the desert floor. I was finally discovering what I’d come to the Rise Lantern Festival to see.
This was my first time attending Rise, but, based on a previous interview I had with the festival founder, many of the logistical issues with traffic that tarnished last year’s inaugural event improved. It took place at the Moapa River Reservation, which offered parking that wasn’t available at the dry lakebed in Jean that hosted last year’s festival, where only shuttles could bring attendees back to the city.
Traffic and food were the main problems of this year’s festival. Attendees who left early in the afternoon faced light traffic, but for those, like me, who reached the Moapa Travel Plaza around 5:45pm, there was a two hour long halt outside Exit 75 due to an accident. Thankfully, festival organizers pushed back the lantern release about an hour to accommodate.
While I was fortunate enough to both enjoy the lantern release and get on the road with no issues, others weren’t so lucky. Also, lines were so long at the food trucks after dark that many people, myself included, gave up and got food after the event.
However, other aspects of Rise were well organized. Magic Giant, the band that played leading up to the lantern release, provided a fun and folksy sound that brilliantly complimented the vibe of Rise, and many enjoyed the fireworks at the end of the night.
While there were ups and downs, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Rise or the scintillating glow of the Mojave sky burning with the brilliance of biodegradable lanterns (which were picked up in the following days by the cleaning crew). I hope that Rise will iron out the problems for next year and make the third time its best yet. Meanwhile, I’ll be stalking the #risefestival for more beautiful photos of the dozens of proposals, memorials to loved ones and friendships celebrated this year.