RiSE, a two-day festival that takes place in the Mojave Desert on the Jean Dry Lake Bed, about 30 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada, seeks to provide a cathartic experience that is both deeply personal and firmly rooted in a strong sense of community. Droves of people from all over the world travel to attend the festival (which also hosts events in Dubai and Australia). Attendees write personal messages on the bodies of paper lanterns — goodbyes to late family members or friends, visions of hope, not-yet-realized dreams, confessions, and declarations of love — then, after igniting the small fuel source, set the lanterns free to float through the night sky.
At least that’s what typically happens. This year, RiSE’s second night was abruptly canceled due to high winds and thunderstorms. Flying paper lanterns in rain or wind leaves open the possibility that the fuel source will still be burning when the lantern lands — creating the potential for wildfire. As a result, festival-goers who traveled great distances were left devastated and unsure of how or if they’d be refunded.
At the moment, it looks like there won’t be a full refund, which is relatively understandable since many of the festival’s costs are incurred whether the lanterns actually get to fly or not — staff, clean up crew, pre-planning, etc. RiSE, in a statement posted on their Instagram, addressed the concerns of festival goers.
“Please know that we are aware of how hard you work for your money and how difficult it is not only to purchase tickets, but also to make plans to get away from your busy lives to honor your loved ones and experience the unparalleled feeling of sending messages into a night sky… But your safety is our top priority and we simply could not risk the well-being of thousands of people even though we wanted to release the lanterns, and their messages, with all of you… While we know it doesn’t fix everything today, we will be offering you a 40% discount for next year’s event. We will send an email with details on how to purchase discounted tickets for next year.”
As stated on their website, RiSE’s refund policy in the event of bad weather is only applicable to those who purchase the additional Inclement Weather Insurance when buying their tickets. Still, festival organizers wanted to offer something in an attempt to remedy the unfortunate situation, hence the discount. Festival-goers were upset and generally let down, with many complaining that the festival’s poor planning was really to blame, not the weather.
Meanwhile, for attendees of the first night of the festival, things seemed to go smoothly and without issue. The conversation around that first day remains positive on social media. It’s just unfortunate that better weather conditions didn’t allow those who had purchased tickets for the second day of the festival to experience the same joy.