Last Saturday, June 1st, hundreds of people gathered in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the Water Lantern Festival! I was excited to learn that this festival was coming to Queens and that I could partake in it. This festival brings people together to create art, listen to music, eat food, and donate to water.org, which helps people gain access to safe water and sanitation. Honestly, when I first heard of the event, I was a bit hesitant about it because I thought, “yeah, it would be cool to decorate lanterns and it would be beautiful to watch them float in the water, but is it really worth the pollution just for a nice picture?” I did a little bit more research and discovered that the Water Lantern Festival Committee cleans up after the event, cleans up any other trash left behind on the premises, and that the lanterns are made out of rice paper and wood, making them eco-friendly. Once I knew that this was something positive for the environment and for people in need, I was on board.
We got to the park around 6pm, and the lines for everything were really long, especially the check-in line! If I remember correctly, we waited on line for about 30 minutes before we got to the front for the staff to check our tickets. Once we got through, we received wristbands and cute little pull-string backpacks which came in an assortment of colors. We had forgotten to bring a blanket, but luckily there was a store tent where we could buy Water Lantern Merch. Amanda bought this beautiful blue mandala spread for us to sit on. I didn’t get a proper picture of it, but it’s seen in the background of most of the following pictures.
Inside each backpack were a lantern, a scavenger hunt list, a tealight, and a marker. We all got a different colored markers that we shared to decorate our lanterns.
Now it was time to decorate! We all sat down and let our inner artists come out. We all wanted to decorate our lanterns as something that represented us. This is where we all had major identity crises and began to wonder, “Who the hell am I???”
Some of us (AKA Me) struggled deeply in the drawing department. I started off doing okay, then the more I did, the worse it got. I really did try my best though! Drawing just isn’t my thing. I mean I’m okay, but Renny and Karen hit it out the park. Amanda and I, we specialize more in writing. Renny and Karen had really awesome artwork on their lanterns, it blew me away. Amanda opted to write words that meant something to her, like quotes or her tattoos. I tried to draw, but I think mine came out so bad it’s extremely laughable. I tried to draw Baby Groot and asked Amanda if she could tell what it was, and she thought it was one of those inflatable dancing things outside of the car washes. Overall, it was still fun to sit down and get creative with some of my best pals.
After I decorated my lantern, I got a little hungry so I decided to check out some of the food trucks that were around. There was a wide variety to choose from: Soul food, Mediterranean food, Greek food, American food, and Asian food. There was also a truck that sold food with cheese on everything and an ice cream truck. I wanted to get something small to eat because we planned on getting dinner after the festival, so I decided to get seasoned fries from one of the soul food trucks. I never got my fries because the line was way too long and was moving too slow, so I got off of it. Renny went to one of the Asian food stands and shared his buffalo chicken won-tons with me though. It was the first time I’d ever had won-tons! It was really delicious, and extremely filling.
After we ate, we gathered our things, and went to sit closer to the water. Amanda had some friends from college that were there so we went to go sit with them. Around 8pm, the sun was setting, so we were allowed to finally put our lanterns in the water! The water was in an enclosed gate, so there were ramps that we had to use for our lanterns to slide down into the water. But before we get to that, let’s see how our lanterns came out!
In the short two hours that we had our lanterns, it was hard to let them go. They represented who we were in some way, so we were kind of attached to them. Nonetheless, it was beautiful to see them all lit up in the water among all the other lanterns.
We didn’t stay until the end because we were all too hungry. But it was really beautiful to look at. Even if you don’t want to make a lantern yourself, you’re still welcome to go and watch. It was a great first-time experience and I definitely plan on going every year. I can’t wait!