BLM: Cleanup on track after RiSE Festival

Two days after the RiSE festival near Jean, the event’s organizers are finishing cleanup.

Meanwhile, the transportation company that event organizers threw under the bus Sunday after widespread complaints from participants, is defending itself.

The festival, which involved nearly 10,000 people paying to release 20,000 flaming paper lanterns into the sky Saturday night from a dry lake bed, debuted to mixed reviews. The atmosphere was wonderful, attendees seemed to agree on social media sites and in calls to the Review-Journal, but a transportation debacle that left people waiting for hours for a bus ride back to civilization caused frustration and hard feelings for many.

On Monday, the event organizers also came under fire after a video posted on Las Vegas residents’ Facebook pages showed countless spent paper lanterns littering the desert landscape. There was no time stamp on the video, however, and the Bureau of Land Management said that as of Monday morning RiSE workers had picked up about 75 percent of the trash and were still working on cleanup, which is required under a BLM use permit allowing 48 to finish the work.

Dan Hill, a RiSE founder and owner, said Monday evening that cleanup was close to being done, and that it took less work than expected.

RiSE on Sunday blamed transportation problems on a bus company hired to move people to and from parking areas in Jean and the release site, about eight miles. Hill said 88 buses were hired, but that Las Vegas-based AWG Destination Services used out-of-state buses whose contracts “timed out” at 11 p.m., so the drivers left empty as frustrated crowds watched.

But AWG Destination Services on Monday was having none of it.

“AWG Destination Services has been in business in Las Vegas for nearly 25 years working with experienced professionals in promoting large scale events. It was the decision of the promoters to go with less than the recommended number of coaches due to budget constraints,” bus company president Alan Waxler said in a written statement Monday. “Unfortunately, the good that was intended by the Rise Festival was overshadowed by a failure on the part of the organizers in the planning, and execution of an event of this size.”

Contact reporter Annalise Little at or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @annalisemlittle.

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