A beautiful festival that can serve as the basis for a celebration, a memorial, wishes, and a multitude of other symbolic gestures returns to Des Moines, IA this summer.

The annual Water Lantern Festival will take place at Riverview Park in Des Moines on Saturday, July 20th, 2024. As fun and fascinating as the festival itself is the fact that water lanterns themselves can be used for a plethora of different things, be it for amusement or something larger than one's self.

For starters, a water lantern is a special type of lamp that floats on a body of water, with the light shining brighter thanks to the thin, cubic casing around it (which also helps keep it buoyant). In some cultures, setting a water lantern loose is a way to worship gods, "send away disasters," and welcome happiness into one's life.

As you can see from the video embedded above, taken from the 2019 Des Moines Water Lantern Festival, many of the lanterns themselves have writing on them. Some are lit in memory of a lost loved one. Some have the scribblings of a student hoping for good grades, health, and happiness. Some describe a bond between a spouse or significant other. There are no shortage of ways that one can "use" a water lantern, so to speak.

Photo Credit: Anagha Kothare Funventures, YouTube
Photo Credit: Anagha Kothare Funventures, YouTube

Thousands will gather in Des Moines for the 2024 Water Lantern Festival, although it's not the only one taking place around the world. Hundreds of these fests will pop up all over the country throughout the summer, per the Water Lantern Festival's website.

On July 20th in Des Moines, Riverview Park gates will open at 6pm for the festival to begin. Each adult ticket comes with the following:

  • Wristband for entry into the festival area with access to food trucks
  • Floating lantern kit
  • LED candle
  • Commemorative drawstring bag
  • Conversation cards
  • Playing cards
  • Marker
  • Lantern retrieval and water clean up
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The lanterns will be released onto the water at 9pm, when it's dark enough that their luminance will be appreciated. The event is set to conclude at 10pm. For more information, you can visit the 2024 Des Moines Water Lantern Festival's official website and Facebook event page.

The Buddy Holly Crash-Site and Legendary Surf Ballroom

Views from the Buddy Holly Crash-Site and the legendary venue known as the Surf Ballroom, both located in Clear Lake, IA

Gallery Credit: Steve Pulaski

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