Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lantern Fest

One of my gifts to Brandon for his birthday (in January) was tickets for the Lantern Fest in Salt Lake City (Tooele, actually). In May. It's one of those gifts that comes with a delay. But we'd seen it come and go in earlier years and we wanted to give it a go. So we did!

We drove out around 4:00 PM, wanting to get a decent spot and enjoy some of the festivities. As we neared the event location, there seemed to be a long line of cars turning left into a warehouse parking lot a little ways away from the event. We waited in this line for a few minutes and then decided to go on and see what was further ahead. It turned out that that business had had the bright idea to charge slightly less for parking - and they were the first parking option that most people coming from Salt Lake would see - thus the long line. We pulled into the "correct" parking lot and took our gear into the venue area. It took us a little while to find a fire pit to set up at, but we ended up beside a younger couple (that turned out to be very neutral on the friendliness scale, despite our efforts). After we'd set up and looked through our festival gear (lanterns, lighters, markers, s'more kit), played some Idiom Addict, and then wandered off to check out the food trucks. Long lines everywhere! That's what you get when there are (eventually) about 15,000 people. I waited in a line for a potato tornado (by some other name), meeting Brandon at the R&R BBQ place. However, while I was waiting in line, I was surprised by an old college friend coming up to me and saying hello! Turns out she'd been back in Utah almost as long as I had! We agreed to get together at a later date and went our separate ways for the evening.

Back at our fire pit, enjoying our festival food, we found that we had about eight additions to our fire pit (I think they were aiming for 20-30 people at each pit). As we waited though, Brandon spotted a familiar face walking by - Dallin and Eleni! They'd just arrived and were looking for a fire pit - so we of course invited them to join us! And it was one of the best additions to the evening. We'd talked to many friends over the months leading up to the event - inviting them to join us, but with no success, so to have Dallin and Eleni show up was perfect. We spent the rest of the evening with them, chatting and enjoying our time until sunset. S'mores, conversation, and music.

Close(ish) to sunset, a small handful of people juuuuust couldn't wait to release their lanterns before we had the green light. There was much booing from the crowd each time this happened, and warnings from the organizers that they might not "let" us do it if this kept happening. (As if they could have stopped us.) Most impressive, actually, was watching a drone ground one early release lantern by simply hovering above it and creating a downdraft.

At the appropriate time, we were given our green light and thousands of lanterns lit the sky. For the record, they are not easy to light. The torches and lighters we were supposed to use often blew out before we could light the lamps, or the lanterns took a great deal of time to become fully lit. Many lanterns didn't make it very high into the sky. But there were so many that did make it up, that the sight was simply stunning.

We lit our lanterns, hung out for a little bit longer to enjoy the sky, and then headed for the car. And this is where the fun mostly ended. Because, as we pulled out in our car, we then essentially waited an hour+ parked in that exact same spot in the road. Whoever was in charge of traffic control at the event was completely clueless. So there were lots of frustrated people and very little organization. But we did finally make it out, and we did finally make it home, around 12:30 AM.

It was a completely magical event while it was taking place, but the car situation afterwards definitely put a damper on the possibility of us ever doing it again. 

Ironically, we had some friends from church who also attended. They showed up late, got a parking spot at the back of the lot, found a fire pit that would let them in, and hung out until they had to leave. And, as a result, by the time they left, the parking lot had mostly emptied, and their parking lot was close to the exit anyway. 

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