Lantern Festival at Colorado National Speedway sends thousands of wishes into the sky

The Colorado National Speedway was transformed into a dreamy landscape of glowing lanterns Saturday night.

The Lantern Fest is a traveling festival that hosts events all across the country. The festival added dates to the northern Colorado area earlier this year and has been a huge success, with all the dates being sold out.

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Thousands of people join together to dance, eat s’mores and light up the sky “with our highest hopes, deepest regrets and fondest dreams,” according to the Lantern Fest’s official website.

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The Lantern Fest mascot Photo credit: Sarah Ehrlich

There were plenty of fun booths that offered face painting, airbrush tattoos, group photos and official Lantern Fest attire. Disney characters such as Minnie Mouse, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and the cast of Frozen danced around. Needless to say, plenty of children were completely starstruck.

Each participant receives a lantern, a s’mores kit, a lighter and a marker to decorate their lantern upon entrance of the festival. The festival prides themselves on sustainability, which is why the lanterns are 100% biodegradable.

Children scribbled their own creations on their lanterns, while some people dedicated their lanterns to loved ones who have passed.

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Thousands of lanterns in the sky Photo credit: Sarah Ehrlich

“You are all here for a reason, whatever it is,” said the emcee on stage. “Who’s ready to light up the sky?”

Fire pits surrounded the speedway, and participants were encouraged to invite strangers to share their fire, which was a perfect opportunity to make new friends.

I joined a group of friends who came from all walks of life. Three were nursing students at Regis University, one moved here from Los Angeles, and the others were from every part of Colorado. One even flew out from California to experience the festival with his girlfriend.

As the sun went down, two music artists entertained the crowd with acoustic covers of popular songs and original songs they had written. Once it finally got dark, people began prepping to let their lantern go. As everyone counted down, Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve began playing, and 6,000 people began releasing their lanterns. The beauty of it all was indescribable.

Lanterns of all shapes and sizes were released. People were cheering, laughing and crying. This was a moment to honor passed loved ones, to let go of regrets and to send wishes and hopes into the atmosphere.

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After about 30 minutes of the lanterns floating into the night sky, everyone was invited back to the main stage to watch impressive fire dancers, called some of the best in North America. These dancers were seen earlier in the evening dancing, juggling and doing hoola-hoop tricks in shiny gold costumes.

Historically, lanterns symbolize good weather and good fortune, and to celebrate life, according to the Lantern Fest website. This festival did a fantastic job of bringing together the Colorado community in a breathtaking display of lights.

The next festival will be in Colorado Springs on November 5, 2016. For more information, visit www.thelanternfest.com.