Questions continue after lantern festival is rescheduled again, ticket holders upset

Lantern follow up

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A lantern festival scheduled for Saturday has been rescheduled again.

As of Tuesday, the Tucson Fire Department and the City of Tucson said the Light the Night Sky Lantern Festival that is supposed to be at Christopher Columbus Park did not have an approved permit.

Light the Night’s Event manager, who goes by the name Dalton, said he submitted a permit back on Aug. 9.

Last week, Dalton said they were notified by Tucson Fire that they still needed to submit a fire operational permit.

“That is when we reached out to our attendees for comment regarding this and the vast majority (all but five) wanted us to go for a variance to have a non-tethered event," Dalton said via email. “We did not submit the fire operational permit as we are rescheduling the event to apply for a variance.”

Dalton said that Saturday’s event is canceled but that the festival itself may still go on. They are still hoping to reschedule at a later date.

Dalton did not provide a last name in his emails.

Andy Squire with the City of Tucson said this festival has tried to happen in the past, but the owner has continued to cancel and reschedule.

It has ticket holders upset and on a roller coaster ride since June, when it was first announced.

“I thought this would be a great idea," said festival hopeful, Robert May.

May is one of the people who purchased tickets the first time he heard about the event. He purchased 4 tickets, racking up a total of $288.

To him, it seemed like a reasonable price for what he was promised: A fun night with family. That is, until he found out it would be canceled and rescheduled for Aug. 31. But, he received an email from EventBrite, the site he purchased the tickets through.

“There was some concerns about this event and how it was organized.” May said, reciting part of the email. "You may need some sort of legal counsel. ... it raised a question as if it’s a legitimate organized event.”

May provided a copy of that email:

EventBright Email
EventBright Email (Source: Robert May)

May provided the email Dalton, the event’s manager, sent in response, saying:

Dear ticket holder,
Dalton, Event Manager

At this point, May wanted to be done with it. He filed a fraud alert with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office back in August who said they would look into it, however he did not hear back.

May then challenged the charge through American Express, but later discovered that when he purchased the tickets he agreed to the conditions that stated there are no refunds for cancellations or rescheduling.

For him, eating the charge is not the worst-case scenario.

“Just rack it up as a lesson learned at a price," May said.

But he worries for those who came to town specifically for it, or for those who spent maybe a little more than their means.

“They put out $58 dollars per person, that’s a lot of money for some people,” May said.

Dalton said the company did notify all Tucson contacts on Monday, Oct. 14, via email of the decision to change the date and apply for a variance. Ticket sales were also halted and attendees notified of this decision last week.

May said he did not receive the email.

Another KOLD viewer sent a copy of the email to us and said they had bought tickets for when the event was supposed to happen in August.

Light the Night Email
Light the Night Email (Source: N/A)

There are some rules when it comes to having a lantern festival of any kind. Jessica Nolte with the Tucson Fire Department said the whole caveat to this is that they need to be on a tether.

Nolte said, even then, the festival still sparks some concern.

“Even with them being tethered, these things are at the whim of the wind they go wherever the wind takes them so it is a concern because you don’t know where they’re going to land what fuel bed they might land on if that’s brush or in somebody’s yard,” Nolte said.

Read more of Light the Night’s statement:

The park was reserved and permit applications were submitted to the Special Events office for the event a long time ago. However, this event is being moved to a new date at the request of our attendees who would prefer to see a non-tethered release in Tucson. As I am sure you already know a Sky Lantern must be tethered within the city of Tucson. After applying for our festival to take place at Columbus Park (Silverbell Lake) In August we were asked by Glenn T. D’Auria at Tucson Fire Department’s (Business Assistance Unit) to modify our event setup to use tethered lanterns in accordance with the City of Tucson fire code. We did modify this event to use tethered lanterns instead of the traditional non-tethered lanterns that people in the area love to see and modify our applications to reflect this change. However, after asking our attendees if they would prefer we to continue with the tethered lantern set-up or move to gain permission to host a traditional lantern festival attendees stated that they would prefer to move the date and gain permission to host a traditional non-tethered festival. In order for a non-tethered event to take place in the city of Tucson, we will be required to get a variance permitting the event to take place in the city without the use of a tethered lantern setup or change to a venue outside of the city of Tucson. In respect of our attendee’s wishes, we have halted sales for this weekend’s event date and are currently working on the variance request and new permit applications as we are not continuing the application for the 19th.
Dalton Event Management Director Light The Night Events

Squire said they want to emphasize that even if the event does not happen Saturday, no one should go to the park and light off their own. Lighting the lanterns is still illegal.

Dalton said at festival, attendees are given lanterns at check-in and that outside lanterns are not allowed. He said they do not recommend that anyone goes out and buy their own.

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