Looking for something different? Try a Water Lantern Festival

Lanterns float in foreground of pavilion

Photo by Jen Connic.

For hundreds of years, there have been lantern festivals in Thailand. There are two, but the one that features krathongs (water lanterns)—is called Loi Krathong, which in 2019 will take place November 13. There are many stories behind the centuries-old festival’s origins, but it’s meant to thank the Water Goddess for a successful rice harvest (read more about that here: https://www.discoverydcode.com/dcode/articles/how-to-enjoy-thailand-water-latern-festival/)

Lanterns around the lake

Just so you can get an idea of how many lanterns were around the edge of the lake. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

Here in the US, many set water lanterns afloat for personal reasons: make a wish, say a prayer, honor a loved one. In response, water lantern festival companies produce events across the country—and they are happening everywhere throughout the year. To see a video of what it’s like, you can watch Water Lantern Festival’s promotional film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLaJA7xAFtg

You can find an event near you, order tickets and more at the website here: https://www.waterlanternfestival.com/ You can also see if the company 1000 Lights is presenting one nearby: https://www.1000lights.com/

In February, I found out about an event on the other side of town, happening in May. I corralled some friends, and made the plans! All in all, it was a lovely evening.

There were games set up for people to play, food trucks and a drink tent, music, and Rapunzel showed up for photo opportunities (if you know the movie Tangled, then you’ll understand why she was there). There was a guided meditation over the loudspeakers for those who wanted to participate as we got closer to launch hour. There were also some vendors selling jewelry and the like, and the Water Lantern Festival store kiosk was selling cool blankets, hoodies, bags, and an assortment of glowing things, like flower crowns (my friend Jen and I couldn’t resist those). In the interests of promoting togetherness and peace, there was a scavanger hunt which encouraged people to talk to strangers and ask them questions (which was really cool, but not too many knew about it–they should have put the slips in the bags with the lanterns). Although it was kind of late for young children, the spirit of the crowd was genuinely friendly and courteous.

Here’s a photo tour of our evening.

Water Lantern Welcome Banner

This banner marked the entrance to Ives Concert Park, which is located on WestConn’s Westside Campus.

DECORATING OUR LANTERNS

THE LANTERN LAUNCH

If you go…

1 Buy your tickets online in advance—preferably right when they are released, about three to four months ahead of the festival date. They are the least expensive at this time (they go up in price as the event approaches). Also, buying them at the door is a serious hassle and a time-waster—I saw the cluster that was in the line the next to me. Having the pre-printed tickets in your hand makes your check-in efficient.

2 Treat this event like you would any outdoor concert. Depending on your venue, I’d make sure you’d bring the following:

Lawn chairs/blankets to sit on

Trash Bags

Bug Spray

Flashlights

Wet Ones/Wipes

3 You’re only given one small marker in your kit. If you want to go nuts, bring medium-point Sharpies so everyone has a choice of colors. I will say, though, that the colors don’t really matter. Once the things are lit up and on the water, everything looks black anyway.

4 Arrive early, and stake out a spot large enough for your party to have breathing room. We really got crammed in because we didn’t reserve enough space. It was shoulder to shoulder, we could barely balance anything, and drinks and food got spilled everywhere. Again, arrive right as the doors open and spread out.

5 Lots of special things happened during our event. There was an engagement, a graduation celebration and the commemoration of an anniversary. Consider celebrating something magical!

ENJOY THE WATER LANTERN FESTIVAL!

View from our camp.

Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

PS…If you’re in Danbury: Ives Concert Park Tips

I firmly believe the if you’re prepared, small hiccups won’t ruin your good time, so here goes. There were some venue-specific issues with this event (I’ve been to Ives Concert Park in Danbury before, and honestly, these are problems I see over and over again. Every time I go there, it’s like the first time they’ve ever done anything. I don’t get it). If you’re in Danbury and do this next year, then this part of the post is for you.

1 There are nowhere near enough trash cans, so people leave garbage everywhere. Bring trash bags.

2 The pathways to get around the lake are completely in the dark—this particular venue has lovely paths, but they are full of roots and vines and uneven ground, as well as mud (this is Connecticut. It’s a muddy hole). Bring a flashlight, or use a cell phone flashlight.

3 There was only one spot, it seemed (if there were more, I didn’t see them), to launch the lanterns, and it wasn’t very large, nor was it convenient. I hope they will choose other spots along the lake so people aren’t bottle-necking all at one spot. Advice: either try to be near the placement location so that you can set your lantern at the top of the hour, then head back and enjoy watching the rest of the process, OR, wait until the bottom of the hour, so you can sit and enjoy the sight of all the lanterns and then have barely any competition for a spot to set your lantern in the water. However, it was EXCELLENT that they had at least one volunteer at the spot to help those who couldn’t make it to the waterline (it was muddy, on a slope, and slick) put their lanterns in, and also, it was great that she had a pole and could push the lanterns out into the lake.

4 The line at the alcohol tent took forever, and this was because they were, simply, offering too many pours they had to make by hand: mimosas, gin and tonics, whiskey sours. Honestly, at an event like this with only one tent, the only booze that should be served is ready-made, hand-out-quickly type stuff: small wine bottles that don’t need to be poured, beers in cans, and perhaps wine coolers or pre-made mixed drinks. I’d suggest you drink before you leave your house or just skip the drinking unless you want to wait for almost 40 minutes for a glass of wine.

5 Because there is no picnicking allowed, if you’re hungry, you’re forced to deal with the food trucks–and the lines are ridiculous. No, this isn’t because of tons of people. This is because there are too few food trucks to handle the number of people, and these food trucks offer, again, way too much variety with specialized cooking times for such a large event (each truck should offer one or two items at a huge event like this, max, but then again, we’re not in a city like Austin or Miami here, so I guess these trucks don’t know any better). I’d suggest eating dinner before you leave your house so you can simply enjoy your night.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, served as a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, has judged both writing and grant competitions and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on May 26, 2019, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, Events and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It looks like so much fun. Long food truck lines are okay if you’re with a sweetie or a BFF.

    • It WAS totally fun! I wouldn’t have minded the lines, but it really was just such a cluster that it wasn’t enjoyable. And people were grumpy because the lines were long, which made it worse. Big cities that do a lot of things with food trucks kind of know what they’re doing (keeping the offerings to two or three per truck). Up here it’s like they have no clue.

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