By Douglas W. Motley – Senior Writer
Last weekend’s Water Lantern Festival, a two-day affair at Lake Gregory, lured nearly 2000 celebrants from throughout Southern California and from as far as Utah to celebrate the renewal of life associated with the return of spring. The tradition, which originated during the Han Dynasty in China, was designed to worship the gods, send away the disasters and problems of life, and to welcome peace and happiness instead.
Cloudy skies and light rain failed to discourage the 1200 or more persons who began showing up at Lake Gregory’s north and south shore beaches in the early afternoon on Saturday, nor the 800 ticketholders who came on Sunday to set up their beach blankets and folding chairs in anticipation of launching their water lanterns at dusk. Many families brought picnic baskets with sandwiches and snacks, while others dined on fried chicken, wood-fired pizza, tacos, lobster, fruit, corn, baked goods, ice cream, snow cones and beverages from over a dozen food vendors in the nearby north shore parking lot. Dozens more vendors featured trinkets and jewelry, colorful flashing-light headbands, light sticks and bubble-blowing devices.
Upon arrival, each ticketholder was provided with a water lantern kit containing a wood platform and frame, paper for the sides and a battery-operated light. Wishes written on the lanterns were as unique as the individuals writing them. Many wished for good fortunes, while others wished for good health, peace and happiness.
Most attendees said they had learned about the event on social media or word-of-mouth. Andrew from Montclair said he had heard about it on the Internet. When asked what inspired him to attend with his family, he said, “To have fun with my family. So far, it’s pretty awesome.” Tu, who brought his family from Chino Hills, said it was their first time at the Crestline event, although they had attended one in El Centro last year where they launched flying lanterns with lit candles. “It was in a desert area, so there was no threat of starting a fire like would be here.”
As the sun was setting, songs emphasizing peace and love and making the world a better place were played on the PA system, while families put the finishing touches on their water lanterns, many writing messages of peace and love on them, while others wrote thoughtful messages to deceased friends and relatives.
When the sun disappeared in the west and darkness set in, families and individuals gathered at the shoreline and began launching their water lanterns into the cool water. As the wind was blowing gently from the east, most of the lanterns drifted westward, adjacent to the shoreline, unlike last year’s festival where the entire lake was filled with the battery-lit lanterns.
When event coordinator Sam Bakker from North Utah, who has organized the Water Lantern Festival for the past three years, was asked what inspired him to choose Crestline for the event, he responded, “We are grateful for this small community. Crestline has a lot of natural beauty and it’s close to Los Angeles. People love it and come here year-after-year.”