In the late afternoon through early evening on September 17, 2022, in the afternoon, hundreds of folks gathered at the Sparks Marina to decorate paper lanterns. The sky was finally mostly clear of smoke. The sun glowed its normal gold instead of red.
Parking filled up quickly at the marina. Despite people having to park at nearby casinos, the lines to check tickets and pick up materials moved quickly. Couples and families carried blankets and chairs to the grass and down to the shoreline.
Ticketholders received a drawstring bag with a mandala design and the words “spread joy, give hope, enjoy life, be kind, create light, Water Lantern Festival” on its side.
Before the end of the evening, some of the food trucks had sold out of all menu items. Latin fare, popcorn, coffee, barbecue.
Guests purchased the balsa wood and rice paper lanterns with battery-powered candles. There was also a merchandise table with glowing flower crowns, light-up balloons, tapestries, sweatshirts, and more.
Guests were encouraged to leave the grounds better than how they found them. The website states “Our team cleans up all the lanterns following the event. In addition, we also pick up any existing trash that may have previously been in or around the water. Lastly, the lanterns are made from rice paper and wood so they are as eco-friendly as possible. We also reuse and recycle the LED candles when possible.”
As I was reaching to pick up a piece of plastic from the grass, a young boy did a somersault to it and snatched it up.
Music carried through the crowd with the occasional announcement. Children chased each other through the food truck parking lots.
There was a guided meditation before the launch. People took videos on their phones as they sent their lanterns out on the water. They embraced one another or took selfies. Once the sun had disappeared people noticed the lanterns were clustering in the same spot. Some were disappointed while others crouched or raised their phones to photograph the glowing mass.
Dani DeRosa is the Sierra Nevada Ally’s Civic Action Coordinator. She is a multimedia journalist from Sparks, Nevada driven to serve stigmatized and underserved populations and has done so in both healthcare and as a grassroots events coordinator. She’s led entrepreneurial workshops with both The Holland Project and Reno Bike Project.
Founded in 2020, the Sierra Nevada Ally is a self-reliant 501c3 nonprofit publication with no paywall, a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, offering unique, differentiated reporting, factual news, and explanatory journalism on the environment, conservation, and public policy, while giving voice to writers, filmmakers, visual artists, and performers. We rely on the generosity of our readers and aligned partners.