Last November, Ventura County skies were lit up by the Hill and Woolsey Fires. This Saturday, an elaborate new event will offer attendees the chance to reclaim and relight the night sky, as the Lantern Street Festival provides participants with eco-friendly lanterns that they can decorate and hang with thousands of others along a 700-foot art installation.
Once these lanterns are hung, attendees can then embark on a tunnel walk through the system of trellises, enjoying the light display while listening to some of the best bands the area has to offer. According to the festival’s chief marketing officer, Jonathan Payne, Ventura marks the launch of a 12-city tour that combines interactivity with an eco-friendly message that’s both artistic and fun for the whole family.
“We wanted to make a statement starting in Ventura and not use fire or dangerous, non-eco-friendly lanterns after all the fires,” says Payne. “We chose the date last fall amid all the fires. We thought a few months would pass and Ventura would be a lot happier. These are all bamboo and paper lanterns with LED lights inside them, so they’re totally fire-free and completely safe.”
While Payne and his partners hope to do up to 25 Lantern Festivals nationwide this year, so far a dozen have been booked, with the next one taking place in March in San Diego before spreading to five other cities in California throughout the spring.
The route that the lanterns will line is actually composed of two tunnels that are each 350 feet long, a space that’s larger than a football field. People can start buying, personalizing and hanging their lanterns at 5 p.m.; tunnel walks start at 8 p.m. and music and lights will continue until 10 p.m. Tickets are $34 and include lanterns, with children under 12 free with lanterns available for $7 online or $10 at the door.
In Ventura, female-fronted bands Cardioid, Nightgown and Pretty Polly will create tunes that are “not heavy metal and not soft rock, but just good alternative synth rock that grooves with the festival’s aesthetic and are family friendly.”
The LED alternative is a smart move away from past lantern events: These lamps avoid being fire hazards and have the added bonus of being safe to take home afterward. Fire-based lanterns have become such a dangerous nuisance that 31 states have currently outlawed them.
“Ventura will be the first city to experience a new type of eco-friendly, fire-safe lantern festival,” says Richard Wood, CFO of Lantern Street Festival. “We can’t wait to see the community show up and hang their lanterns together. There is something special about seeing people come together and building a huge piece of art together.”
“The idea came from wanting to do something very positive and bring together every aspect of the five senses,” adds Payne. “The lantern is beautiful and you can see and decorate and people will decorate them how they want, plus we’ll give them a light and hang it. You can hear great bands onstage so it’s an audio experience, plus there’s food trucks for taste and smell, with lots of good street art and acrobatic performers in the street as well. And of course, it’s a very tactile experience, so you can have a really good time with every possible sensation you have.”
The event will also include vendors that have appeared on popular TV shows, including ABC’s Shark Tank and The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. Payne’s past background as an ad agency owner and publicist for giant street events have given him experience with crowds of up to 20,000 people, so he feels more than up to the challenge here.
“Our goal is to provide high-quality experiences in each part of the festival,” says Payne. “We have high expectations of our food trucks and hope the guests experience something great that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
“I’m from L.A., so I’m eco-friendly and everyone involved is too, and we thought one aspect of the festival is to teach people to be eco-friendly,” he adds. “Lots of fests create waste but we’re trying to come up with a healthy alternative for the Earth. We have a big ‘leave no trace’ policy so our volunteers will clean it overnight and make it look like nobody was ever there.”
The Lantern Street Festival 2019 takes place 5-10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, on Main Street, between Figueroa Street and California Street, in Ventura. For tickets and more information, visit lanternstreet.com or www.eventbrite.com/o/magnetic-events-18118204813.