The Lights Fest: A Journey Through The Stars

Candles burning fires in the sky; lanterns riding the swirly winds high. This is all I have ever wanted... 


For those who have seen the movie, "Tangled," you will recall how Princess Rapunzel witnessed the floating lanterns with Flynn in a romantic, dreamy scene. With flowers in her hair and sparkles in the calm water before her, this part of the movie was always inspiring to me. Last summer, I was lucky enough to experience something similar to this, with my close friends and my significant other. It was the best part of my summer, and it went like this:

I was scrolling through social media one day when I saw an ad for "The Lights Fest" in Chicago. Initially, I knew it was something I’d be interested in, but I never thought I would actually attend, assuming it would be too far or expensive. It turns out that it was located just a couple hours away in Wisconsin and was not too pricey. Before I even knew it, I had my phone in hand when the tickets went on sale, ready for the early bird markdown, like a tiger waiting for its prey.

Fast forward a couple of months and it was a sweet, summer June. Arriving just before sundown, my friends and I parked within the mass of vehicles in the cool, wet grass. After waiting in an entrance line that seemed to swirl on for centuries, we received a composable, paper lantern and a black sharpie (to be used for decorating and writing inspirational messages onto the paper). Holding the lantern in my hands for the first time brought me an anxious joy. 

The scene was packed with excited faces under the sun. Food trucks and merchandise shops lined the outer edges of the area, providing a tastefully alluring scent. Melodies of rhythms and rhymes filled the air as the live bands played their instruments. We scaned the crowd for a vacant spot in the grass, carefully stepping around chairs and blankets. Settling in between families, couples, and friends traveled far, the evening had begun. 

(Photo By Author)

As the sky blended from blue to orange nectarine, the wandering bodies let their feet guide them to their seats. I drew black roses on the skin of my lantern. A young woman climbed the stairs onto the stage before us and thanked the bands who had played that night. She introduced the program, explaining who they are and what the company is about. I could barely hear her voice over the sound of ringing enthusiasm in my ears. 

Soon enough, an hour had passed away and the heavens were painted an obsidian black. Stars were scattered crystals in the night sky. Torches on long sticks made for pathways in between the rows of the crowd, preparing for the ignition of the lanterns. We prepared ourselves for the countdown. “Ten!” The crowd roared in unison. I smiled at my loved ones as the numbers grew smaller. “Five!” They thundered, like a storm on an August night. I shouted with the depths of my lungs. “Three!” My heart beat as fast as a caffeine high. This moment has to be perfect. “One!” My lantern caught aflame upon the fiery torch, taking off into the sky. 

(Photo By Author)

Then, suddenly, my lantern changed directions and headed straight toward someone’s face! There was no stopping it. It knocked over drinks, crossed people’s paths, and hit many heads before flying straight into a tree! The anticipated moment of releasing my lantern into the sea of lights was not only crushed but also somewhat disappointing. I turned back to my friends who were laughing hysterically.

Seeing everyone laughing and having a pleasant experience allowed me to put my mind at ease. We danced under the starlight of the man-made suns. The lanterns floated into the clouds, glowing a subtle yellow. In that moment, there were no worries on my mind. I drained my thoughts and discovered an inner-peace. 

(Photo By Author)