By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY
Last weekend’s Water Lantern Festival, a two-day affair at Lake Gregory, lured nearly 2,000 celebrants from throughout Southern California and from as far as Utah to celebrate the renewal of life associated 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 450 or more persons who began showing up at Lake Gregory’s North Shore beach in the early afternoon on Saturday, Sept. 30, the first day of the two-day event, nor the 1,350 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, tacos, burritos, nachos, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, deli sandwiches, 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.
Throughout the entire four-hour-long festival each evening, soft music featuring songs of peace, love and healing, wafted gently across the lake, along with the battery-lit water lanterns.
Most attendees said they had learned about the event on social media, such as TikTok, or by word of mouth. One couple from Riverside, there for the first time, said on Saturday they had heard about it on TikTok. When asked what inspired them to attend, the husband said, “Even with the weather, it’s exciting. It’s an opportunity to show our love for each other.” Brianna Duran, also from Riverside, who brought her family of five persons, said, “We saw it on TikTok and wanted to have fun and share our memories with our kids.
“This is our first time here,” said Anthony Camacho from Rancho Cucamonga. When asked what inspired them to attend the festival, Anthony’s friend, Karissa, said, “I’ve always liked lanterns. This reminds me of a Disney film called Tangled.” Also attending the festival for the first time were Jerimiah and Ariana from Temecula. “We came here because it’s fun and sentimental,” Ariana said.
As the sun was setting, songs emphasizing peace and love and making the world a better place were wafting softly across the lake from 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 it, families and individuals gathered at the shoreline and began launching their battery-lit water lanterns into the cool water. As the wind was blowing gently from the north, most of the lanterns drifted southward, across the lake.
Event organizer Logan Buchanan from Utah told the Alpine Mountaineer, “We do this all over the country to spread joy and hope for a better future. I think this is the third time that we’ve come to Crestline.”