Night Lights Festival

Months ago while I was scrolling through TikTok I came upon a video. It was a beautiful montage of clips from a sky lantern festival. It looked magical so it became my obsession for an hour. In that hour I also sent the video to my friend, Sam, and told her we should go to one. Sam researched and sent me a link about one that was occurring localish to us. They encouraged buying early, so we both bought our tickets. I had to get mine swapped because in my excitement I bought them for the wrong day!

Months later, I hopped into Sam’s car and we were on our way.

But first we had a pitstop. A library, not really in route but close enough for us to justify stopping, was having a bag sale. Bag sales are amazing. In the beginning of book sales they are priced for quality. At the end, they are reduced for quantity. That doesn’t mean that the leftover books are bad. The libraries just need people to make them go away.

Which is where Sam and I came in. Our total haul was ten bags. I’m pretty sure it was ten bags. Either way, it was a bunch of books.

Then we were off! The closer we got to the Pocono Speedway, the more traffic we hit. Cars from New York and New Jersey and other states turned into the Speedway. I hadn’t realized how big of a deal this was.

After parking we went to get signed in, handed in our liability form, and collected our swag.

After locating a spot, we bought food from the food trucks and ate. Then came an important task–decorating our paper lantern lanterns. You could decorate them in whatever fashion you wanted, but we followed drawing things we wanted to manifest. Sam thought about her family,

and I just really wanted to draw a horse skull. Priorities, right?

Then came the waiting. A live band sang and oversaw a push-up contest as the sun set. There weren’t many rules for the lantern festival outside of not lighting your lantern until the fire marshall okayed it.

Once it was dark, then it was time. Every group had a lighter and a boost of confidence. It quickly became apparent why we had to sign wavers. In the videos I watched, lanterns float into the air in a serene and magical experience.

Which was true. Except for the lanterns that didn’t get filled enough to lift. Those we had to dodge. They came for us at head, or knee level. As the band sang “Stand By Me,” so did the calls of “Watch out for your head, my lantern didn’t go!” or “My lantern is stuck on your shirt! Get it off before you catch on fire!” It was a hilarious comparison and I was there for it. After I shot a few photos, it was time to get ours to join the others. We started with Sam’s lantern. After a few tries, because the wind decided to start up, hers lifted into the sky and joined the others.

Mine was the problem. I’d thought it’d gotten enough air to lift off. Instead, the horse skull lantern hit a breeze and shot off. I watched in horror as it began colliding into people as I yelled, “Watch out!” The idea of pretending I hadn’t created the lantern passed briefly through my head before I shot after it. After numerous tries, the cardboard inside was gone and it was clear my lantern would not be joining the others. Which was okay. I enjoyed the experience and watching the sky light up with paper lanterns.

After taking a few more photos, the crowd began peeling off to leave. Sam and I followed. It’d been a fun day. I’d highly recommend if a lantern festival is occurring near you, to give it a try.