I had heard of this festival and thought it might be interesting to go check out. Demonstrations, booths with japanese wares to buy, and japanese food to try. They light 300 lanterns at dusk and float them in the pond. What could be more beautiful, serene, and peaceful?
Beautiful. Serene. Peaceful.
Those were 3 things that were not exactly part of the evening.
We arrived at Como Park to find that there wasn't a parking spot to be had in what seemed like a 5 mile radius of the festival. Apparently, I had not done my due diligence and done some homework. There were shuttle busses everywhere and the place was crawling with people. After some very slow moving traffic, we settled on parking around the lake and walking. The gps said it was a 17 minute walk just to get there.
We hoofed it with Hattie in the stroller and Cora piggybacking on Jason. We had to do a little off-roading so poor Hattie probably felt like a can of paint in the paint mixer machine at Menards by the time we got there. Much to our surprise, there were about 30,000 more people there than we anticipated. And clearly, we weren't the only ones. Even the organizers hadn't anticipated such a crowd. They had 1 line for cash and 1 line for credit. When I tell you that these lines wound around every sidewalk, tree, and building around this place...uff-da. It was just ridiculous. We really should have cut our losses at that point, but we had driven all the way there so we thought we should at least try and get it.
Once in, our first order of business was to find some food!! We were all starving and Japanese food sounded pretty tasty! We wound our way around the crowds and throngs of people and had to cut through this huge line that people were in waiting for ice cream. Ice cream?! Yeah, ice cream. Why is that so crazy, you ask? Because the weather was cold. Unseasonably cold for August. I was dressed in 3 layers and jeans, Hattie had a long sleeve shirt and two sweatshirts on, Cora the same. And Jason...well, he was in shorts...cause that's what he wears year round. Anyway...it was windy and cold...and here stood over 200 people in line for ice cream. Crazy.
As we rounded the bend to the row of food tents, it suddenly became very clear why everyone was waiting for ice cream. There were only two tents that hadn't sold out of food yet. One was mini donuts and brats/cheeseburgers. Whaaaaaat? Sigh.
To top that, the brats/cheeseburgers were closed for 30 minutes while they prepped more food. You see, that wasn't their original menu. They had *ahem* SOLD OUT of everything already and had someone make a run to get more food. What they got? Brats and cheeseburgers with waffle fries. Jason and Cora promptly got in line knowing that was our only food option. $33 later and freezing, we sat down to eat on the grass. Our sad "Japanese meal" consisted of overpriced cheeseburgers, coke, and fries. Not exactly what we had hoped for.
After our meal was finished, we thought we better take the girls to the bathroom before we searched out a spot around the pond to watch the lanterns. Upon investigation of said porta-pottys, we noticed a rather long line winding up the hill and around and around and around and...you get the picture. No lie, it was the line to use the "facilities". All 6 of the porta-pottys. 6 of them. For 30,000+ people. I was ready to scream.
We decided we were just going to have to chance it, because there was no way Hattie was going to wait in that long of a line and not pee herself even if we stayed there. We regrouped and walked towards the pond where the lantern lighting would be taking place. To say there wasn't a spot on the grass is an understatement. There wouldn't have been a spot for a bird....even a really tiny bird. We stood. On the path. For 55 minutes. All while listening to Cora say over and over:
I'm so bored.
I'm so sick of standing here.
When can we go home?
This is so boring, Mom. Isn't there something else we can do?!?
I don't like this.
This is no fun.
I'm hungry again.
and then..from Hattie:
I have to go potty.
Shoot me. Just shoot me.
Jason scooped up Hattie and left the festival all together in search of a toilet. I didn't see him for the next 30 minutes.
The time finally arrived for the lighting of the lanterns. Each one was very slowly (*very* slowly) placed on top of the water. And after about 15 minutes, we sighed, admitted defeat, and started our walk back to the van.
I got up this morning, Cora came downstairs and said:
Mom...I had soooo much fun at the lantern festival yesterday!