Rise Festival 2014
Go. Experience this event.
Tickets go on sale today at 9am Pacific time for the Rise Festival. I went last October with some friends, and it was truly the most magical — and then one of the most challenging — experiences of my life. But let's focus on the magical. They've implemented changes this year, and they moved locations from the Jean Roach Dry Lake Bed to the Moapa River Reservation, which sounds more promising. They are also hosting it in Pheonix if you can't make it to Nevada.
Find out more about the event and buy your tickets here. Seriously, this is an event you would not want to miss if you have the opportunity to go.
Read on to get my personal experience of the event, and to see photos, and a video. Also, look out this week for the road trip there and back. I mean, might as well make the journey fun too, right?
Our experience started at the Gold Strike Casino — the closest location to catching the shuttles, and also where we were residing that night. We were running late, but so was everyone else. The line for the shuttle looped and wound through the parking lot. The last shuttle was supposed to leave around the time we got in line, but obviously, there were more latecomers than anticipated.
We saw a double rainbow though, and a fiery sunset, and figured it would all work out.
After getting on the shuttle, it was a short drive to the Jean Roach Dry Lake Bed. I estimated about four miles — I found out firsthand later that that estimate was completely off — from the hotel before we got to the drop-off point. And then it was about another half mile walk to the actual site.
When they say "dry" lake bed, they mean dry. It felt like we were on another planet. With the lighting and the vast land outside, it was as if we were the only ones in this isolated middle-of-nowhere desert point. Which was kind of the point. We were all in it together. Dusty air and all.
Once we got there, we found our section and selected the spots we wanted. It was closer to the outer circle and entrance. We got a yoga mat, a candle, and two lanterns per person. (Although, it ended up being more per person because of the leftover ones not in use next to us.)
We were also provided a pen to write our secret message we wanted to send to the sky. Mine was about letting go of things, and being more loving. It was a deep time.
(Note: they made changes this year in location and how they are shuttling people – you can now drive to the site itself which wasn't an option before.)
Because we got there so late, we weren't able to enjoy the concert music as much, but they also had a soundtrack for when you lit the lanterns and let them go. It was the perfect playlist. Whoever created that — kudos to you.
When we did light them and let them go, it was one of the absolute most beautiful and uplifting things I have ever experienced. I actually have seen something similar when I was in Thailand for New Year's Eve some years ago, but this had a different feeling. Especially when we started counting down, and you could see a few that had already been let go, and as we all released most of them together and watched them lift up into the night, it was like we were creating stars.
This video is how it was seen from my perspective (maybe silence it and put some calming background music on instead because it gets loud):
Beautiful, right? I hadn't seen this video in so long, and it's made me really emotional to watch it each time.
And to top it all off — after most of the lanterns had been lit and you could see the trail of fire in the air, they put on a firework show! So you had all these fireworks with the lanterns in the background. So many lights, but in the best way.
I'd like to keep it at that uplifting moment, but that's not the whole story. And the way back is actually a pretty funny tale.
So all those people — I believe it was at least a thousand — that had come intermittently on the shuttles (which was the only way out) now were all tired and wanted to get home. And I'm not blaming them — I was tired too, and there were families with little kids.
My friend Emily, who was there with us, wasn't feeling well so she actually went to the shuttle during the firework show. She didn't wait until it was all over like the rest of us did and then become part of the larger herd. That's what it felt like anyways — we all became a cattle herd. After the half mile walk to the shuttle, you could start to see huge groups of people gathering together near the shuttles and the Rise volunteers attempting to give instructions as to what line everyone was supposed to go to (there was a shuttle line for Las Vegas and one for the Gold Strike — of course the Gold Strike one was the really long one.) There was so much anger and tension from the crowd that I knew I couldn't stay there. And if we waited for the crowds to subside I figured we'd be there for a good two to three more hours. So I suggested we walk. It was "only" four miles, right? (Also, there was no cell service out there on the middle-of-nowhere lake bed, so my maps app was calculating the distance from where we turned off the road into the lake bed.)
And so we geniuses walked. People were yelling at us thinking we were cutting them in shuttle line or something. What happened to that magical world we were all part of just twenty minutes before? It was gone.
People started to follow. Originally the volunteers were saying we weren't allowed to walk, but um, I was not going to be thee when the angry herd turned into an angry mob. So we just bypassed the shuttles and started to go down the long road.
People were using their cell phones for flashlights, and we all respectfully walked in a single file line, trying to bring the joy we felt from the event back into our minds. My uggs were not a suitable shoe choice for walking long distances, which I discovered more later when I really I got massive bleeding blisters from all the walking.
Because guess what? That four miles was actually 7 miles. It was three miles just from the shuttle drop off to the main road. Plus the half mile from the event to the shuttle.
We tried to call Emily when we got some cell phone service, but she had taken NyQuil and was barely coherent when I talked to her. So she fell back asleep.
And as we became more tired and delirious, walking on the side of the road with no food or water, my massive headache and bleeding feet, and all just trying to keep our spirits up so we could just make it another mile, another step, the Gold Strike — our destination — came into view, but it was like a mirage. So close, but still two miles away.
At one point, Krystal was really at her point of giving up. I mean, we didn't have that many choices, but I guess we could just sleep on the side of the road for awhile. We had been walking for probably about two and a half hours at that point? About 5.5 miles? Just as we got the resolve to push forward the last mile and a half, Krystal, who was a little ahead of me, signaled to me and our other friend Kaye (who was wearing heels) to hurry because some person in a white van had pulled over and was picking up people to take back. This may sound suspicious, like maybe I should remember the lessons learned from the witch in the house of candy who ate the children who trusted her so easily, or all those stories of white vans and like, maybe you should stay away from strangers who want to pick you up in them. But whatever. We welcomed the food and water and the relief that felt like we had really just been rescued.
We got back to the hotel and just crashed. It was around 12:30am or so. The event had ended around 9:30/10pm, and we had a semi-early start the next morning home. I found out the next day that I believe the last shuttle to go back was around 2 or 3 in the morning. So I can't tell if it was a bad decision to walk or not. I was just thankful to be back at our hotel.
Now, looking back, that whole walking back part is sort of funny. All part of the adventure. And since it was their first event, I don't blame them completely for missing the whole trying to get a thousand people back at one time. They've changed things up this year, and I really wish I could go again, but at least I have this experience to remember. And although that last part was sort of a disaster, I do remember the magic. And that's what we all held onto after, and what we still talk about now.