The Weekender: All Tangled Up in the Pennsylvania Lantern Fest

This past weekend, Tie and I went to Pennsylvania with our friends to check out the annual Lantern Festival. We’ve seen others post their pictures and videos of the event from previous years and it looked beautiful. Props to Winnie for organizing!

We bought our tickets from Eventbrite months in advance. I didn’t realize just how popular the Lantern Fest was, but it was completely sold out in the few weeks leading up to it. Some friends had to turn to social media to ask for additional tix. Early bird gets the worm! Tickets were $37 and includes one lantern and a smores kit. Kind of pricey, but someone’s gotta clean everything up.

The Lantern Fest is located in Reading, Pennsylvania on an open lawn next to a sports field. We drove about 3 hours and stayed at the Fairfield Inn nearby. I highly recommend this hotel if you’re in the area – very clean and spacious, courteous staff, and includes breakfast. There were thousands of people at the festival and it gets real crowded right before sundown. We arrived about two hours before sunset and set up our lawn chairs and picnic blanket. There was ample parking in the lot. The volunteers handed us a card with directions on how to leave the lot at the end of the festival and avoid a huge traffic jam. Too bad we totally forgot about it and got stuck anyway. Whoops.

The crew decorating lanterns!

I strongly recommend eating beforehand, even though we brought light snacks and drinks. I don’t believe they allow hot food and Tie and I wasted an hour and a half just waiting in line to get pizza, chicken strips and fries. Children were crying on the line and people were hungry and complaining. The food stands there are very inefficient. Unfortunately this terribly marred our overall experience. As Tie said, “These people are sitting on a gold mine and they still don’t know how to make money!”

Long ass food lines

There were live performers and a bit of a mosh pit going on. We stayed away from the stage so our ears wouldn’t be ringing at the end of the night. There were multiple fire pits on the lawn for folks to roast their marshmallows. The smores kit came with a lighter, which we would later use to fire up the lanterns, and a marker to decorate them with. We each wrote our dreams and wishes for the new year (money was a common denominator).

Wishes made!
Burn baby burn
Smores kit inside
I dig this logo

About an hour after sundown at 9:45PM, the fire department gave us the go-ahead and we counted down to release our lanterns simultaneously. Holding onto the top, we used the lighter provided to fire up the bottom and fill it with air before letting it soar upwards in the direction of the wind. It all happened so quickly and chaotically. Many people (myself included!) struggled to get the lantern to float and they knocked into people with the flames blazing! I’m surprised no one’s hair got singed. Some lanterns got stuck in trees and yet we miraculously avoided a forest fire.

But most importantly, when we looked up at the sky filled with thousands of lanterns, it was absolutely magical. Like a scene out of the animated movie Tangled (there was a couple cosplaying as the main characters). I can definitely understand why someone would be so moved to propose at this event. The sight simply takes your breath away. I knew right away that I would attend the Lantern Fest again in the future just for that moment.

As the event concluded, fire dancers came on for a final performance and people started ushering out. The air thickened with smoke from the fire pits as we watched the last straggler lanterns make their way up into the night sky. I hear there are also lantern fests in the Mohave Desert and in the Poconos, so we might check those out, too. We look forward to returning next year!