IMPERIAL – The black desert sky Saturday night was filled with glowing lights near Superstition Mountain as thousands of paper lanterns were released during the Lights Fest, an event that brought a huge crowd out to participate in the spectacular occasion. The Southern California desert was just one stop in the Lights Fest program, as the company tours the country through next June, hosting events in New Orleans, Dallas, Orlando, and several other cities across the nation.
The family-friendly event provided food and live entertainment for guests to enjoy until the main event of lantern lighting. Jarred Roberts of Wood and Stone, a collaboration of artists from Hawaii, performed his blues and soul music for the crowd of 6,000.
Upon arrival at the event, employees encouraged guests to follow the tiki torches, taking them on a short walk to reveal hundreds of fiery torches with participants clustered together to await the lantern lighting.
Jasmine Junk, an employee for Lights Fest, said the organization provides a great family event.
“Some people just come for fun. The kids love it, because the lanterns in the sky look like a scene from the ‘Rapunzel’ movie. A lot of people come out for this event to light lanterns for lost loved ones,” said Junk.
Guests were encouraged to write on their lanterns before releasing, with many children drawing pictures, while adults wrote meaningful messages. Among the messages were Bible verses, prayers, wishes, and names of loved ones.
One lantern read, “Wishing for… love, happiness, hope, health, courage, strength, and patience,” followed by the names of several people.
Daniel Rosa, a Lights Fest attendee, said each of those releasing lanterns had his or her own purpose for attending the event. Rosa explained that he knew someone in an abusive relationship who attended the event and sent off a lantern with the names of her children, hoping it might begin to heal their troubles.
“The majority of it is to let go of grieving, but it’s mostly just a step forward for people,” Rosa said.
Despite organizing the lighting of thousands of paper lanterns and letting them drift off into the night sky, the Lights Fest company is also dedicated to leaving a positive impact on the environment, organizers said. The lanterns are completely biodegradable and specially designed to fly low and land predictably. Following the event, a clean-up crew worked diligently to gather and properly dispose of all the paper lanterns and trash.
Many of those attending cried at the sight of all the lanterns in the sky. Tears were also shed at the chance to light a meaningful lantern and release it into the sky along with any worries, troubles, or grief, some said, and many expressed hope after the release.