Image watching thousands of glowing lanterns slowly rise into a black, star-speckled sky, covering the vast darkness with flickering golden globes of light while you stand in the middle of a hushed crowd filled with gently smiling faces. Sound overly dramatic? It should – I wrote it like that because using an overt amount of elaborate language is the best way I can convey to you how it felt to witness the RiSE Festival firsthand. Simply put, it’s one of the most magical (man-made) scenes I’ve ever witnessed. It honestly brought tears to my eyes.
Located on the Moapa River Indian Reservation an hour outside of Las Vegas, promoters of the RiSE Festival say the event was created to bring light into the darkness, both literally and metaphorically. The idea is to take a lantern, write your desires on it and then send it floating into the ether while you let go of whatever’s been holding you back from realizing your dreams. It’s a beautiful concept and another reason why I got a bit teary watching it happen: what’s not to love about so many people coming together in the spirit of creating more positive lives for themselves?
Here’s how it works: your ticket gets you two paper lanterns, a bamboo mat with a black marker, and a book of matches. For lighting purposes, the organizers have planted tiki torches throughout the area. Set up camp near one of them, then write your hopes, dreams, wishes, or resolutions on your lantern. There are two official launches with a countdown by the DJ and while the sight and comradery of those are impressive, you can also just let yours go whenever you’re ready.
A tip: when you’re checking in, ask the people handing out the packages for the best way to light your lantern. There’s a bit of a science to it – you receive two lanterns just in case your first one decides to sail into a nearby crowd of people and get dragged down in the dirt instead of flying into the sky. Here’s video of me successfully launching my second lantern because, well, see previous sentence.
I’ve been to plenty of festivals, concerts, and lots-of-people-everywhere types of gatherings in my life and RiSE is one of my favorites. Besides the obvious, “look how pretty the desert sky is all lit up with a bunch of lanterns,” photo-op attraction of the festival, what really makes this one worth attending is the overall vibe of the place. I’ve never been to an event selling alcohol to hundreds of people without witnessing a few fights, harsh words, or at least a little bit of attitude. You won’t find that at RiSE: it was remarkable how peaceful and happy the crowd stayed throughout the entire night. And quiet. Seriously, for an event involving open flames, live music, fireworks, food trucks, and booze it was incredible how silent it remained.
For those of you wondering if this event is environmentally sound, the short answer is yes: the lanterns are biodegradable, have a short burn/flight time, and their website insists they recover 100% of the lanterns along with any additional litter left behind.
This fall, the RiSE Festival will take over the desert once again. Tickets for Saturday, October 7th already sold out, but a few tickets remain for Friday’s launch, so if you’re interested in attending buy yours now before they’re gone. If you’d like to take part of a truly powerful event or perhaps just want to hang out with a bunch of peaceful, groovy people in the middle of the desert while Instagramming awesome photos, then this event is a must.