People 'painting the sky gold with their hopes and dreams'


Would you drive 1.5 hours to release lanterns into the air? What if there were thousands of people doing it with you? And there were s’mores involved?

The Lantern Fest is a traveling all-ages party from the folks behind Slide the City. (Yes, that giant water slide that almost came to Philly…but then didn’t, due to miscommunication between organizers and elected officials. Spokespeople from the mayor’s administration and City Council said the announcement of the water slide was premature and came before permits and sponsors were lined up; organizers claimed that was “typical.”)

This festival, which takes place on Saturday, Jun. 25, is also not in the city proper. Though billed as such — “Philadelphia is an exciting addition to our 2016 schedule,” says Lantern Fest co-owner John Malfatto in a press release — it actually takes place at the Maple Grove Raceway in Berks County.

Still, it’s apparently a total blast and would probably make for a great summer day-trip with the family.

Admission ($40 in advance; $7 for kids 4 to 12) includes a lantern, a marker, a s’mores kit and a lighter. The fest begins at 3 p.m. with a stage show featuring dancers and live music and activities like face-painting, balloons and “princesses.” That’s also when you get to decorate your lantern and melt marshmallows and chocolate onto graham crackers.

At sunset, everyone gathers and releases the lanterns into the air, “painting the sky gold with their hopes and dreams.”

The catch to the fun is the possible environmental impact. Although organizers claim to pick up 90 to 95 percent of the debris after the fest is over, there are still some sky lanterns left strewn around the area, and while the paper is biodegradable, the wire that holds it together is not. Then there’s the risk of fire. In 2014, the National Park Service issued a statement “strongly discourag[ing]” their use, calling them “fire balloons” and imploring: “Do not use sky lanterns in areas with burnable vegetation. Misuse in this manner has resulted in many wildland fires.”

Still sound like it’s worth the drive? Sign up here.

Danya Henninger is a Philadelphia-based journalist who believes local news is essential for thriving communities, and that its format will continue to evolve. She spent six years overseeing both editorial...