I love birthdays. To me, they’re better than holidays where everyone gets celebrated, and I love the opportunity to celebrate the special people in my life!
When my friend Melanie’s birthday popped up on the calendar in February, I wanted to do something fun to celebrate her special day, and Lantern Fest seemed like the best idea ever! Not only would we have an opportunity to go to a super cool event, but we’d also be able to do it together!
So, I bought us tickets! Because everyone needs a present to open, I bought her a little lantern to open as her “gift”, with a note inside telling her that we had an adventure ahead! And what an adventure it was!
The Lantern Fest is hosted in cities throughout the country. It’s a super fun, family-friendly event with music, dancing, and s’mores! The event culminates after the sun goes down when everyone releases their lanterns into the sky, filling it with a beautiful spectacle of light.
The event was originally scheduled on a Saturday in April… but April in Colorado can be, well, unpredictable. A snow storm pushed the event out to Friday, May 20th. There were two events in Colorado, and I booked us at the Colorado Springs event (which actually ended up being further south in Pueblo.) Lots of changes, lots of unpredictability… it became a bit of a theme.
On Friday afternoon after work, Melanie and I set out for Pueblo (about a 2 hour drive from Denver.) The car ride down gave us the opportunity to catch up and, unfortunately, for me to take some last-minute Friday afternoon work calls – – Sorry, Mel!!!
Originally, when the event was on a Saturday I had full intention of putting together a picnic for us to take, but I just really didn’t have time to pull it together on a school night. So, when we arrived in Pueblo, we needed some dinner before heading to the venue. While I’m sure that Pueblo has some great places to eat, we had no idea where to go. Chain restaurants lined the interstate and I’m pretty sure our choice was the best choice.
Yep, we had dinner at Cracker Barrel. Little known fact, I worked at Cracker Barrel in college so it has a special place in my heart. And, Cracker Barrel is a QUICK place to dine. We knew we would be in and out in about 30 minutes, and I had my heart set on their Grilled Chicken Tenderloin – – Yum!
Here’s the crazy part: On the way out of the “store”, we decided to shop around to see if there were any things we needed. Um, Cracker Barrel had a TON of cute stuff. Melanie and I can always find things that we love, but I really didn’t expect to buy a top at a restaurant… but yes, I did (on clearance.) I don’t know how I left this “yoga frog” behind. I still kind of want him.
When we finally made ourselves leave the Cracker Barrel, we headed to the I-25 Speedway for the big event. We checked in for the festival, and each received a lantern, a s’mores kit, and sticks to cook our marshmallows on.
We found a cozy spot near edge of the track, and set up our chairs. It was SUCH a beautiful night to be outside. My favorite part of the night may have been sitting outside, catching up with my dear friend, and just enjoying the weather. So often, I feel like I’m running from place to place… it was beautiful to just kick back and chat.
We also had lanterns to decorate. Inside the s’more kit, there was an orange marker that we could use to write something on our lanterns to be released into the sky. Intentions, artwork, dreams, quotes… each lantern was completely different. Here’s what Melanie and I put together.
As the sun began to set, the Lantern Fest team distributed firewood and chocolate bars… for s’mores!
I posted it on Instagram, but true story: I had never had a s’more until last Friday night! Yes, I had been offered them many, many times… but never thought marshmallows were my thing. Considering that this was an experience, I decided to jump in and try them. Um, mind blown!
The night settled in, and there was a musician singing classic songs… but the crowd you could tell was starting to get a little antsy. We had eaten our s’mores, colored on our lanterns, and it was time to let these bad boys fly!
Something that wasn’t planned: It was a fairly windy night, and the fire marshall was monitoring the weather situation and not quite comfortable with us releasing all of these lanterns into the night sky. We couldn’t possibly have traveled all the way to Pueblo not to see these lanterns fly???
At about 9:30 pm, we had clearance to begin lighting the lanterns. You guys, truth be told… it got a little crazy. The lanterns had a wax square in them that you lit, and once your lantern ballooned up, it was time to release it into the air. Imagine this happening about 1000 times and on a windy night… a little chaotic to say the least, but still fun!
I’d bet at a typical Lantern Fest, the lanterns float above you in the sky in a big cluster. Because it was so windy, these lanterns lifted and then flew toward the west quickly… It was still beautiful, but I’d love to see the magic on a non-windy night.
As I mentioned, the lanterns quickly left the speedway… here they are flying away. Now, if you watch this video all the way to the end, you’ll see the chaos I mentioned earlier. When the lanterns sort of take flight and then they come back down, it’s not fun at all for the people who it runs into.
The good news is that “Embrace Happy” and Melanie’s beautiful mountain image took flight and a good time was had by all. I would definitely do this again, would make time to bring a lovely picnic, and pray for a calm night.