Weeks ago I remembered that there was a Lantern Fest event coming here to Cincinnati and I really wanted to go. I thought it would be a fun family outing and that the girls would especially love it--hello Tangled! (I cry almost every time I watch that scene). This activity was a rare opportunity that had magical childhood memory written all over it. I was so game.
On the other hand, it could be a total bust.
As the frequent head fun-family-outing-planner of the family I feel this pressure when deciding on an outing like this. If it's great well then fantastic! Everyone wins. But if it stinks then not only do you waste family resources like money, time, gas and patience, it makes it that much harder to get everyone on board the next time you have a wacky idea. So immediately I was feeling the pressure. On top of that, there are so many variables. Is it family friendly? What if we're having a bad weekend and just want to relax? What if it rains? And then there's the effort. Fun family outings are effort and work. Staying home with a bowl of ice cream and watching TV is always an appealing plan B.
The other huge variable with this particular event was other people. This would only be a cool experience if lots of other people came. Like hundreds of people. So there was that.
In the end I followed my gut and bought the tickets, and invited some friends to come along as well.
There was a threat of rain the entire weekend and when we got there Saturday evening around 5:30, it was chilly. Like we should have brought more than just a sweater chilly. We checked in and got our lanterns and s'mores kit, but as we walked in it was looking a little sparse.
There were also supposed to be plenty of vendors in the form of food trucks, games, kid friendly booths, etc. Turns out there weren't food trucks. There was A food stand with hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and the like. I think there was also a snow cone truck? As far as all the booths and games there was a face painting booth, a balloon animal booth, spin art and a that was about it. GULP. Our friends got there and I immediately felt a little sheepish... Hey guys! Thanks for spending way too much money and driving way too far to hang out in a muddy field with a couple hundred other people and 3 booths. To be fair, they did have some games going on up front, a nice little stage where they played some music but it felt like there should be more.
Inevitably the lines to each booth were super long, so us adults split up and each took a line and stood in place for the better portion of an hour. The girls made some spin art, got a balloon wand, and finally got their faces painted.
But the kids were having a good time. They weren't whining or complaining. The sun came out and get this, as the evening wore on, it actually got warmer. The bon fires were lit and the making of the s'mores commenced. Finally the live music started and Lamp said she wanted to go watch. And by live music I mean a girl with a guitar. She was good, but once again I had anticipated more. Maybe a band, maybe more acts... I don't know. But as we made our way to the front led by our fearless power chair driving girl, we did what we do best in these situations: we danced. By this point I stopped feeling the pressure to make sure everyone had a good time and I just started to have a good time. The kids had on face paint, they had balloon wands and it didn't matter one wit to them if we had to wait in an hour long line--what else did we have to do?
Dancing to live music with my family during the golden hour? That's never a bad way to spend a Saturday evening. We hung out with our friends and talked about kids and music and sports and nothing-that-important but good stuff all the same and we waited.
And finally it was time....
With lanterns lighting up and sailing away all around us as John Lennon's Imagine was piping through the speakers I realized, this was worth it. The girls were giggling and twirling around the way they do when the magic hits them and saying things like I love this! and This is awesome! We watched and took pictures and looked up at the thousands of lanterns floating in the sky at once and I remembered that this was the moment I was hoping for. Magical moments are rarely effortless affairs. They take a lot of work and sometimes a lot of patience, and letting go of expectations and giving into the moment. But in my book barely worth it, is still really worth it. As cliche as it is, sometimes you have to carpe the freaking diem. Because we only have so many diems left! Especially while our littles are little. All in all it was a 7 hour experience with good friends, good conversation, not great food, long lines and a little dance and about 30 minutes of pure magic.
Barely worth it, but also really worth it.
So high-fives to us and a great weekend.
Anyone else do anything particularly memorable or fun this weekend? Anyone else ever been to Lantern Fest? There are quite a few of them going on throughout the summer and even Fall around the US. You can check dates and locations here. Also, I should mention that I'm sure each event probably varies greatly depending on local interest and vendors... I'd love to know how your Lantern Fest experience went and if you'd go again. I think we'd go again, but maybe not so early this time.