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Fire code forces indefinite postponement of Lantern Fest in Goldsboro

November 12, 2017

A lantern festival that upset ticket holders when it was unexpectedly moved from Fayetteville to Goldsboro has been postponed indefinitely, according to a post on the event’s Facebook page.

The Lantern Fest was originally scheduled to be held Oct. 7 in Fayetteville, but ticket holders were notified on Sept. 26 that the event had been moved to Nov. 11 and would be held more than an hour away in Goldsboro.

In a Facebook post Friday afternoon, Lantern Fest organizers said the event has been postponed as a result of the city canceling a contractual agreement.

In a subsequent post, organizers say they had received written confirmation and a signed contract from city officials that would allow the event to take place, but were later told the event would have to be canceled because the fire department withdrew its authorization.

“After assuring the Lantern Fest on multiple occasions that Lantern Fest could legally be held in Goldsboro, the city decided to unilaterally cancel the agreed upon event. The cancellation is premised upon the regulations of the State of North Carolina and the fire department’s authorization to hold the event being withdrawn,” the post said.

The Fayetteville fire marshal said last month that the North Carolina Fire Prevention Code added a ban on sky lanterns on January 1. The code reads, “A person shall not release or cause to be released an untethered sky lantern.” That means sky lanterns would not be permitted anywhere in the state, not just Fayetteville.

In a Facebook post, Chief Gary Whaley explained that his approval of the event was based on the 2012 fire code, which did not address sky lanterns.

“After Fayetteville canceled their Lantern Fest event, I asked my Inspections Department to obtain clarification from the state regarding the code. In doing so, we found out that the Building Code Board had gone back and amended the 2012 code to be effective in 2017, which prohibits the use of sky lanters,” Whaley said in a statement. “After receiving this information, I immediately contacted city officials and advised we would have to cancel the event based on state code.”

Despite the announcement, many people were unaware the event had been canceled and showed up Saturday evening only to be turned away.

City officials said ticket holders seeking a refund must contact Lantern Fest organizers.

When the event was initially moved from Fayetteville to Goldsboro, many ticket holders requested their money back, but Sack Lunch Productions, which runs the event, wouldn’t budge on its “no refund” policy. Organizers did not say if refunds would be issued now that the event has been postponed, but Goldsboro city officials said on Facebook that they were informed that Lantern Fest organizers would “work with their customers to rectify any issues caused by cancelation.”

“They have not responded to the email I sent them yesterday. I also sent a direct message via Instagram, so there’s just so far not been any communication,” said one woman who planned on attending the event.

No future date or location for the event has been announced.

“We have hope that this event will still take place and be resolved respectfully,” the Facebook post said. “We will continue to update our Lantern Fest participants with pertinent developments as we resolutely work with the State of North Carolina.”

Lantern Fest was held in 2015 and 2016 at Fayetteville Motor Speedway. The event was also held in Gaston in May 2015 at Carolina Speedway, but caused a reported $500,000 in damage when several lanterns got wedged in a nearby cell tower causing wiring and insulation to ignite, according to the Gaston Gazette. No one was injured, and organizers told the newspaper the event was an overall success.

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